Friday, September 30, 2011

Film Friday: September 30, 2011

September 2011 has been a great month for adult movies (perhaps one of the better months in recent memory), with Moneyball, Drive, and somewhat surprisingly for me Contagion all being as good as advertised.  Oh, and don’t forget The Lion King (3D), which was every bit as excellent as when I was 9.  This weekend I hope to finish off the month with 50/50, the Joseph Gordon-Levitt dramedy that should be right up my alley.  I do highly recommend all three (four if you count Lion King) of the above films, but I may save some thoughts for those in their own column. 

Right now, I wanted to write another installment of Film Friday and recommend a couple of off-the-radar types, as well as discuss another film that I’m pretty sure wasn’t good (more on that in a minute).  As always, the order: Good New-ish film, Good Old Film, Not-so-good Film.

Everything Must Go (2011)

After giving an outstanding semi-dramatic performance in Stranger Than Fiction in 2006, I thought Will Ferrell had given up on the genre altogether.  This film proved to me that he still has the chops and is still interested in pursuing more serious work, which does excite me.  Here, he plays Nick, a salesman with a drinking problem who loses his job, wife, house, and car all in a matter of one day.  He comes home after being fired from his job to find the locks on his house changed, and his property strewn across the lawn.  The movie is largely about his decision to live on his lawn and deal with his problems instead of running from them.

The not-so-subtle metaphor that the movie makes is that Nick’s problems are all out in the open for everyone to see, gawk at, and feel pity towards, even though many of those same people have their own set of issues and problems that they hide behind closed doors.  This is played out primarily through Samantha’s character (Rebecca Hall), a new neighbor across the street who has just moved across the country while pregnant. 

I guess the reason that this one worked for me was that even though it bordered on the melodramatic, it had the genuineness to back it up and a healthy dose of comedy (but not much) to balance it out. 7.5/10.

Persona (1966)

I strongly considered dedicating an entire column to this film because it was one of the more interesting displays of artistry that I’ve seen recently, but I figured after writing my last post on Another Woman that I’d really be pushing it with the snobby film discussion.  However, I thought it at least deserved a slot in this column.

Auteur director Ingmar Bergman’s films usually have some component of human psychology or philosophy, and that is no more on display than in this film.  The two main characters (and the only characters, really) are two women with very different life experiences.  The first is Elisabeth, a movie star who recently had a mental breakdown and has been rendered mute, and the second is her nurse, Alma, who comes from a more modest background.  The two retreat to a seaside home to administer therapy on the movie star. 

Things get very interesting at this point.  Due to the Elisabeth's muteness, Alma ends up doing a lot of talking, and soon develops a bond with the movie star because she can so easily and openly discuss her feelings.  It soon becomes evident that Alma has many problems of her own, despite Elisabeth being the mental patient, and Alma's shame and guilt is revealed as she confesses her regrets to the mute confidant she now has.  Alma soon becomes aware of how she is turning out to be just like Elisabeth, which produces contempt in her heart.  The result is sort of an icy psychotic thriller. 

As always with Bergman films, the cinematography is breathtaking, and if nothing else, you should watch it just for that.  This film isn’t quite as good as The Seventh Seal (my favorite Bergman film), but it is darn interesting at the very least.  8.5/10

Last Night (2010)

I should really re-title this last slot from “not-so-good film” to “see it for yourself” film, in this case especially.  The movie stars Keira Knightley and Sam Worthington as a married couple who have a night away from each other in different cities.  There may or may not be some cheating involved, but it’s not really about that as much as the doubt each of them experience in whether or not the other is being faithful to them while away for a night. 

There’s a lot of potential here, but it’s largely wasted due to a bad script, and horrible acting from Eva Mendes and Sam Worthington (although Keira is great, as always).  There is also some directorial flair going on here from Massy Tadjedin, and I hope to see more of her work in the future, hopefully with a good script. 

This may be a film that you enjoy, but for me the script needed a lot of work, and better casting choices would have been good as well.  5.5/10.  

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