Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.


BRIDESMAIDS (2011)
Not as annoying as it looks, not as good as I've heard. Harmless mostly, somewhat saved by Melissa McCarthy, who is hilarious (and deserves a vehicle of her own that's better than this), and Chris O'Dowd, who is very good. Jon Hamm has a funny cameo role, too. It comes from the Judd Apatow School of Comedies That Are 30 Minutes Too Long. Also, you know I hate Kristen Wiig, like, a lot, but I realize after watching this movie how much that pales in comparison to how fucking irritating I find Maya Rudolph. ** stars.

LET'S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH (1971)
Unwatchable. * star.

RED RIDING HOOD (2011)
Fucking terrible. * star.

ELEPHANT BOY (1937)
I don't know why, but I didn't expect Sabu to be as young as he is here. I like Sabu, though, and I love elephants, so as typically over-earnest as it is for a movie from this time period and this studio, I thought it was cute. **1/2 stars.

ARTHUR (2011)
Well, I liked it. Not a patch on the original, which is one of the greatest comedies ever made, but I found it mostly sincere rather than just a retread. I like Russell Brand, though. And I don't know who Greta Gerwig is, but I liked her in it, even if they went for a Zooey-esque puppy dog rather than the broad, quirky personality of Liza in the original. Is it necessary? No. But I think people wouldn't be so incensed over it if it weren't a remake. ***1/2 stars. Blow me if you don't like that.

PS I LOVE YOU (2007)
Surprising. Too bad the ads sold this as a silly, tired-looking romp, when it's quite a sincere movie about a young widow (Hilary Swank) who follows a series of letters left by her late husband (Gerard Butler, likable for a change) designed to ease her through her difficult transition. A nice, well-acted movie that had more depth than I was expecting, even if every actor is a noticeable five years older than their characters are supposed to me. Also, Nellie McKay is darling. Also, gratuitous naked Jeffrey Dean Morgan ass is welcome. **** stars.

DAISIES (1966)
Wonderfully bizarre Czechoslovak New Wave film about two teenage girls who engage in strange pranks, childish behavior, and little rebellions. There's really no plot, but like a lot of films from the time period, it's about its style and the state it conveys. It shows two girls caught between childhood and adulthood who live in a surrealistic whirl and butt up against a society that seemingly has little to offer them other than sexualization and creature comfort, and which they find supremely boring. **** stars.

PHOEBE IN WONDERLAND (2009)
Interesting, compelling film about a 9 year-old girl (Elle Fanning) who gets the lead role in her school's production of Alice in Wonderland. There's a lot I identified with in this movie, to a point. Phoebe clearly has a social anxiety that manifests itself as severe OCD (she broke my heart at one point when she broke down and told her teacher "I'm sorry I'm late. I have to wash my hands a certain number of times."), and then turns into Tourette syndrome. I recognized a bit of myself when she talks about always feeling on the edge of something with the urge to jump off, or the way she'll suddenly blurt out words or even defensively spit at people because she feels attacked and doesn't know how to process it. Compounding this, her unfulfilled mother (Felicity Huffman) refuses the idea that something could actually be wrong with Phoebe, unwilling to accept that it's more than just being creative or imaginative. Elle is so very good in this movie, never playing the character as cute or silly, but really giving Phoebe a depth and a sadness and moments of clarity. In the hands of a less talented child, it could have been a disaster. Hard enough to get through as it is; it's well made and ultimately rewarding, but the sense of impending tragedy is overwhelming. It reminds me of how I felt all the time--without realizing--before I got on Lexapro. ***1/2 stars.

MY LITTLE PRINCESS (2011)
A poignant drama based on the relationship between French-Romanian photographer Irina Ionesco and her young daughter Eva, directed by Eva herself. In the 1970s, Irina caused a stir when she began showing and selling erotic photos of her very underage daughter. In the film, we see how the progression of art (or perhaps a mother's amoral opportunism--the film takes a matter-of-fact approach) results in the deterioration of an already-strained mother-daughter relationship. While Hanna (Isabelle Huppert) reveals more and more of her daughter Violetta (Anamaria Vartolomei in a very brave performance), the two become more and more estranged. Though the film raises the issue of boundaries in artistic freedom, it also doesn't pretend that the situation isn't abusive; Eva Ionesco is working out feelings about her mother that are at once very complicated and very clear-cut. Beautifully made. **** stars.

4 comments:

Nathan said...

Does Nellie McKay actually act in the movie, or just sing a song or something? I know she's acted before, but I wasn't aware she'd done movies.

Roger Owen Green said...

I'm convinced that Bridesmaids is 1) better in the theater (I assume you saw it on video or Netflix or something, based on the timing) and 2) most movies that get hyped greatly can't live up to that - I think it got a big boost as a backlash to the "women can't be funny and raunchy" crowd.

SamuraiFrog said...

Nathan: Nellie acts in the movie, but her role is pretty small. She plays Hilary Swank's younger sister. She also has a song on the soundtrack that shows up long after the movie has, sadly, forgotten about her character.

Roger: I assume it benefits from being part of an audience laughing at something. I saw it on video. I didn't even want to see it (like I said, I really hate Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph), but just sort of ended up with it and mostly checked it out for Melissa McCarthy. I remember most of the press being about how amazing it was that women could be funny and raunchy, which annoyed the hell out of me, because of course they can. This isn't necessarily a good example, but of course they can.

Nathan said...

When I need a reminder that women can be funny and raunchy, I usually just check my Tumblr feed. {g}