Sunday, August 01, 2010

Rewatchables: Finding Home

It's not always easy to predict which movies will hold up to repeated re-viewings. There's no end to the list of movies I love and respect that have never moved me to watch them again. At the same time, I have little capacity to explain why a movie as obviously flawed as War of the Worlds inspires me to watch every time it's on.

Lately, placement in HBO's monthly rotation has led to many occasions of flipping past Away We Go, and every single time, I've stuck around to the very end. This is a movie I liked when I first saw it, acknowledged that it was flawed, saw it gain a few fans a whole mess of really vocal detractors, but I never felt that deeply attached to it to really stick up for it.

I have to say, after about 5 more (mostly partial) rewatchings -- including two this weekend -- I have to admit, I have fallen totally in love. Not with the whole movie, understand. I get some of the criticisms: it sets up easy targets and knocks them down; the weaker sequences (i.e. the Allison Janney/Jim Gaffigan part) are nearly unwatchable. I'm less on board with charges of smuggery, though, mostly because there plainly is a strong, beating heart at the center of it. John Krasinski plays a delightfully loveable weirdo not possessed of quirks so much as an overall ethos of oddball sincerity and enthusiasm. It never rings hollow for me.

The real revelation through these multiple rewatchings has been Maya Rudolph. It's definitely a low-key performance, I initially took for that comedic actor's strategy of addition-by-subtraction when playing dramatic (i.e. draining all their natural comedic spark rather than bringing anything to the performance. I have to admit, it took a friend pointing it out to me, but there's a narrative going on with Verona's quietness, and Rudolph reveals it in small doses.

By the end, Mendes has stacked the four strongest sequences back-to-back (-to-back-to-back), and the cumulative emotional build-up that felt so slight early on finds a moment of release that I feel fairly deeply. Every time. If it's not my pick for Mendes's best movie, it might end up being my favorite one.


Anonymous said...

I've always enjoyed Maya Rudolph on SNL, but she made a few of guest appearances on Kath & Kim that were a real revelation -- funny, as you'd expect, but also showing a depth that I hadn't expected. I keep waiting for her to have some kind of breakout moment.

DuchessKitty said...

Thanks for this Joe. I too have found myself flipping through cable channels and catching chunks of this quirky, lovable film.
I enjoy Rudolph and Krasinki so much in it - they carry me through any of the lame bits.