Thursday, January 15, 2009
MUST-SEE: (John Patrick Shanley) On the surface, Doubt is the story of the warm-hearted Father Flynn (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), accused of child abuse at St. Nicholas Catholic School. The deeper story is that of Sister Aloysius, played remarkably by Meryl Streep, who accuses Flynn without proof, without reason, and only with her certainty that he has done wrong. She has her doubts that Flynn is struggling from his first sermon in the film, announcing often people doubt their faith, but without it we wouldn't respect its strength. Aside from his questionable sermon, he openly practices taboos like long fingernails, lots of drinking and allowing himself pleasures of sugar and tobacco which all give Aloysius a sense of urgency to get rid of him. She all but waits for an excuse to take Flynn down. Therein lies motif number 3, as she is limited by the church's authority. Meshing that into the doubt eating its way through the church guarantees a woven play of dark reality. Aloysius says, "In taking a step towards addressing wrong doing, you are taking a step away from God, but in his service." This quote embodies the film's attempt to constantly force the viewer (and the other characters) to question who is right, what are we certain of, and ultimately, what good does it do to know? Amy Adams does a tremendous job as the innocent Sister James, who is the first to suspect Flynn but unconvinced whether or not his taboo acts actually equal wrong doing. She is quickly caught in the middle of her faith's requirements and her heart's belief, in the end not able to sleep at night again. The finger points back and forth, leaving not one scene slow or tedious. Emotions run on high, and if you're left with tears in your eyes or a breath caught in your chest it is the deep deep pathos within this script and the ability our stars have to capture it so immensely. Truly this deserves Academy recognition.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
QUESTIONABLE: (Gary Winick) Um, I am not really sure where to begin with this one. Aside from the frustration of having to spend that $10 for 2 hours of mindless entertainment on something so mindless (and at the same time ridiculous), there is the question of whether or not it was worth the sacrifice. Would I have missed out on anything? No. Would I be better off having not seen it? Financially, yes, and--I'll go there--wholly, yes. It might be a little harsh, especially for those of you who enjoyed a chuckle or two at Anne Hathaway sitting single at the Strip Club before mounting a knotted rope swing in satin shorts and a top hat all in the name of revenge, so I'll announce some redeeming qualities right off the bat. Humor. It had some. Mostly at the expense of Kristen Johnston's already suffering credibility, but also because who can't help but laugh at two "best" friends who are willing to give up having any friends at all in their wedding party because neither is willing to change wedding locales. There are moments of unique laughter, as Kate Hudson's Liv stalks into her boyfriend's office demanding an engagement only to realize he was planning it that particular night. Yes, I can tell you're dying at the originality and--oh!--the irony! Anne Hathaway plays the understated, second-fiddle friend, almost the protagonist until she chases Hudson down the aisle as her ceremony began. Awkward and dramatic, especially since our protagonist is the one who breaks the cake with her own fiance and wa-LAH, marries the random brother one year later. Happiness is inevitable I guess, and I am sure all those people clapped and cried and were immediately over the shock of seeing Hathaway's Emma humping a high school boy on the table in Mexico, or Liv's bra hanging out of her Vera Wang wedding dress. These are all normal, easy to get over things. Good thing, because I did get over them. I was able to laugh, and I felt the hint at sentimentality... but overall, the utter ridiculousness created more of a distraction than anything. I couldn't get by with telling myself, "it's just a movie," or "it isn't supposed to be real life." I mean, that is why people see movies in the first place, am I right? For an escape from reality? Unfortunately, in today's world, we're looking more for a brighter sense of reality, an encouragement sort of... not a delusional hyped-up netherworld of bridal fantasy and backstabbing best friends. Okay. Whew. Back to redeeming qualities. This little flick fits into the stereotypical night of popcorn, pillow fights and pink pajamas, where conveniently you can watch it on dvd and split a $4 rental fee many ways. You can laugh at a cute girly romantic comedy and brush off bad writing and stooped credibility for much less of your wallet and sanity. But even with that said, what happened to Pretty in Pink?
WORTH-IT: (Philippe Claudel) An delightfully stereotypical French film (limited dialogue... colorless and unassuming), I've Loved You So Long begins as the story of two sisters, separated at a young age by the eldest's incarceration for the murder of her own six-year-old son. Apart for 15 years, the girls, now women, must start again, a journey that illustrates unconditional love at its underestimated best. That sounds wordy, but the only way to accurately describe this movie is through its intense emotional pull. Kristin Scott Thomas plays the newly liberated Juliette Fontaine, sullen, silent, and unsure the world will ever offer happiness again. Elsa Zylberstein plays the younger sister, Lea, optimistically ignorant to anything but the chance to get to know the woman she spent 15 years trying to not forget. Juliette's return brings an instant friend, a needed Auntie and a missing sister to her picture-perfect world, two adopted kids and all. But the road doesn't prove as frilly. Juliette's silence creates threatening tension between Lea and her husband and a brick wall of doubt against a possible acceptance or normality. But, like a great French film, we are forced to rely on our senses to figure out this impossible problem; using facial expression, color scheme and music to replace the dialogue that would have otherwise spelled out this woman's lonely spirit due to a good portion of life behind bars and her constant battle with the memory of her dead son. I am feeling wordy again, but can't bring myself to clean it up; Instead, I simply ask you to see the film. There are no special effects, erotic love scenes or rolling French countryside. Instead, in the monochromatic backdrop and the awkward attempts at conversation, there is realism. And that realism allows your mind to uncover vibrant emotion, poignant morale and one immensely touching story of unconditional love and its promise for a backbone in tragedy. Never before has there been such little dialogue for such tremendous heartache. Claudel's story captures you with the exact amount of explanation and mystery to let this film shape your own heart and color its own story. Bravo to Claudel and to his starring soeurs.