Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Big Block o' Movie Reviews (Part 2)

A Single Man:As gorgeously shot and attired as you've heard. And while I can sympathize with those who found the rest of it empty, I really connected to the sad drifting of it all. And if a camera wants to expend that much time and effort on loving shots of Matthew Goode (Matthew Goode on a beach! Matthew Goode on a couch! Matthew Goode with a book! Matthew Goode in a uniform!), I am pretty much automatically onboard. B/B+

Funny People: Produced a rageful feeling in me I didn't think I was capable of. Every single character is utterly unlikeable, so that spending even six minutes would be unbearable, much less 146 minutes. Two and a half hours (!!) (...!) and the closest thing I had to latch onto were a weak-willed and obsequious Seth Rogen and an Oitraygeous Ozzie Stirryahtoipe Eric Bana. (Actually, in a better movie, Rogen's performance would have been quite good, and Bana needs more opportunities to be funny, because he's almost delightful). Everything else ranged from annoying to mind-boggling misjudged. Adam Sandler is just NOT a good enough actor to pull off a character this hateful; the Leslie Mann subplot would have felt extraneous even if the character wasn't gratuitously sandbagged; Rogen, our alleged protagonist, never once stops being pathetic. If I never again see a story about what sad clowns comedians are, particularly one that feels the need to punish the audience with this much layered-on misanthropy, I will not complain. D+

Paper Heart:
Probably not the best companion to Funny People given the state of mind that movie put me in, especially on the subject of self-indulgent comedians. Maybe Charlyne Yi isn't as altogether annoying as I found her to be in Paper Heart. I could have just been in a bad mood. What I do know is that the movie is never once convincing as a "documentary"; the line between the scenes that are actual interviews and the scenes that are staged could not be more apparent, which destroys any attempt at suspension of disbelief. And the whole "I don't believe in love [at age TWENTY-THREE] until this movie where I fall in love proves me wrong" thing has just been done to death. It was before (500) Days of Summer came out, too, but at least that movie delivered charming performances visual panache. This one gave us mumbly Michael Cera and a fatally disinterested protagonist. D+

Click below for The Lovely Bones, Julia, and Up in the Air...

The Lovely Bones:
I actually don't think it's so much the abomination some are saying it is. It's suspenseful, at times, and the dreamlife of heaven was actually quite pretty, if not very surprising. The problem, actually, is The Lovely Bones. You don't find out what they are -- what that title means; what the movie is purportedly about -- until the final minutes. And once you do, you realize what a total failure of execution the whole film has been. If it's supposed to be about the relationships and odd connections that sprung up surrounding the death of Susie Salmon, the fact that there are almost ZERO resonant, affecting, or even believable relationships between any of the characters becomes a real problem. Wahlberg and Weisz could not have less chemistry together, Susan Sarandon is a hoot but kind of off on an island, as are the goth girl and her vaguely foreign boyfriend, as is Michael Imperioli (who would have worked better as the dad, I think). In fact, the characters feel more disconnected than anything. The problems go down to the bone(s) on this one. (Sorry.) C

This is going to sound weird, but the movie I can best compare Julia to, at least in terms of 2009 movies, is Avatar. Hear me out! Both of the movies are dazzling and filled with impossible sights and sounds; both movies make me feel a little bit stupid for being so caught up in their grandiosity. The difference is that while Julia may ask me to stick with it as the lead character makes one extraordinarily BAD call after another, it's at least grabbing me by the hand and pulling me along with it. (As opposed, to finish the comparison, to Avatar sitting me down with an old copy of Dances with Wolves while it works on some 3D effect in the next room.) Anyway, TILDA SWINTON! No way it should have taken me this long to get to her. She's absolutely amazing, starting at 100mph and never once slowing down. Tilda gives us a woman who's so much of a fuckup she doesn't even realize the choices she's made 'til they're miles behind her in the rearview. And yet when she does have these kind of rolling breakthroughs, they're fairly devastating to her. It's like watching someone get shot from the inside. She's astounding. B/B+

Up in the Air:
Quite enjoyable while it lasts, in no small part due to the very fine trio of actors in Clooney, Kendrick, and especially Vera Farmiga. And yet almost immediately my brain began to pick away at it, as nagging dissatisfactions grew, as the movie settled, into pretty fundamental objections. Mabe if it wasn't getting heaped with all this praise as The Movie of Our Times (tm) I wouldn't feel the need to explore how little it actually has to say about, say, the pain of joblessness. Or the fear of economic collapse both at national and household levels. Or the consequences of recklessness and complacence at the top; or the helplessness felt at the ground level; or ANYTHING that Our Times are actually about. It's not the movie's fault that it can't live up to this standard, I guess, but when you're wrapping yourself in the cloak of recession to give your tale of The Bachelor's Painful Isolation (also tm) some gravitas, maybe you do owe us something. Anyway, the three actors are bril -- and Amy Morton as Clooney's sister, too; she's a gem -- and the middle section where all three get to share screen time is lovely. But I'm left underwhelmed. B-


jessica said...

Thank you for validating my hatred of Funny People.

I actually liked Up in the Air tremendously, and while I agree it's not an Our Times movie, I don't really think it's trying to be. I think that's more other people trying to assign that dubious honor. For what it is, a story about connections and soul, I thought it was marvelous. My favorite of the "awards-bait" films I've seen thus far this season.

Joe Reid said...

I'm not sure the film is as out of that loop as you think. Specifically I'm thinking of Reitman using the real-life downsized workers in those montages.

jessica said...

Hmm, you have a point there, though I didn't really feel he was using them as Grand Statement as much as I felt they were there to lend some authenticity to the emotional conflicts of the film -- how to do this job you have to be detached, but also present as an anchor, a guidepost, for these people, and the struggle of how to balance that with your personal connections and allow yourself some emotional fulfillment. That being said, the inclusion of the song over the end credits -- in particular the song as voice mail -- was the thing I found most exploitive of that Our Times idea. And you're right, if Reitman was really trying to make that film, there's a lot more he could've done to that end.

Carol Elaine said...

I rather liked A Single Man, but then again, I adore Colin Firth and enjoy Julianne Moore. I also connected with it - it had a certain gentle loneliness that pulled me in. And yes: it is a beautifully shot movie, which is what I would expect from Tom Ford.

I didn't like The Lovely Bones. It tried too hard with too little. Moments were lovely, but as a whole, the movie failed. Peter Jacskon fared much better with this sort of thing in Heavenly Creatures.

I haven't seen the other movies, but my boyfriend loved Up In the Air. Every time a commercial pops on TV, he says, "That's a very good movie. Too bad you missed it."

Scott said...

Tilda Tilda Tilda Tilda. How has she not won more critics' prizes for Julia? Best performance of the year to my eyes. And yes, actually the movie is strong too - though obviously she's going to attract all the praise regarding it given how good she is.

Patty M. said...

Paper Hearts was such a tremendous dud! Glad you think so, too.

Rbelle said...

I'm sure some wouldn't agree, but what amazed me about A Single Man was how much tension I felt throughout. Maybe I've just seen too many movies with "twists" lately, but I kept expecting horrible or uncomfortable things to happen each time George interacted with somebody new. It made the ending that much sweeter (or maybe bittersweet) when nothing really awful happened after all. I could have watched the couch flashback over and over. And the scene with Colin Firth getting the news of Jim's accident on the phone - like my friend said, that was real grief, and he deserves every nomination he gets for the role. I hope it's many.

Also, when did the kid from About a Boy get so ... chiseled?

Joe Reid said...

"Skins" is when. Get to rentin'.

Rinaldo said...

I'm eager to see A Single Man as soon as its release pattern will let me. For so long it was THE seminal gay novel, and unique for me at a time when the only choices seemed to be doomed-tragedy or near-porn -- it was just simple and real. I hope the movie is like that.