Saturday, January 12, 2008

Brave reviews

Soundtrack: Supertramp - "Even in the quietest moments". This is an attempt of doing something...slightly different. Since I so often write about films here on my Blog, either as reviews or essays or complaints or whatever, listing favourites and praising beloved performers, I do have to vary my style a bit. Thus, today I will alter my take on the medium a little and go for something more...okay, not so different you'll blink twice, but a little more professional perhaps. I've been to the cinema twice this week, catching two excellent, essentially romantic films which I had been looking forward to for ages, and none of them disappointed. I've decided to write two relatively short newspaper-style summaries/paragraphs about each. I find it very fitting to place them below one another, in the same post, seeing that what they have in common is the genuinely great filmgoer experience they provided and the heart glee they induced. For someone who doesn't care too much for fluffy romance flicks, this was a relief and a proper treat. I love both, to bits, and will honour their grandeur as best I can. It may seen rather traditional first, or not, regardless I think you'll find unmistakable traces of Scara all over it that removes the conventional feel pretty soon. Never fails to intervene, my distinctive stamp. For better or worse. I have deliberately given the two reviews similarities in writing, despite the very different themes they depict, but at the same time tried to divide between them in ways of attitude, angle, proof of enthusiasm etc. This is also meant to reflect the tone of the films. They both made me happy-happy, for being utterly brilliant films, but one made me enthusiastically gleefilled and one made me strongly affected on some deeper level that coincides with the core of sadness. Which means I wasn't very gleefilled when I left the room. But happy anyway. It also gave me confirmation of a new favourite actor. He's a Scot, to everyone's massive surprise. Warning to all fangirls: these films are so shippy, it's dangerous. First film has a very merry ending, the other has a more...quiet one. I almost cried at both, for somewhat different reasons; joyous or grief-stricken, I'll cry anyway. Oh, enough inctroductions, here goes:

Enchanted: Fairytale come true

[Image: from that infamous dancing scene...which is so romantic, and yet to sad, one can positively die. Like the happy ending, though! From Imdb's new image site, thanks a bunch(for finally letting me steal your imagery, whey!) and all rights served.]

Finally, the film that has everything. More specifically, it has a bit of everything, which makes it very exciting, but impossible to classify. That, however, is not necessarily a disadvantage. In this case, it simply adds to the quality of the film. Which is traditional; yes, in a sense; but for reasons that just makes it the more appealing. "Enchanted" incorporates all the elements that we have learnt to appreciate about Disney-stories and romantic comedies, but also action flicks and family dramas, sitcoms and adventure tales. If you were to mention one thing that you really adored about a film you'd seen recently, one tiny detail that stood out and instantly made way for growing enthusiasm, be sure this film's got it squeezed in. Probably made better use of it, too. It steals popular culture references from, well, everywhere, snatches twists and lines from other films; constantly, without hesitation; and crosses genres like a mad thing. From action, to romance and musical; and it all works. Even changing format throughout, as it goes from animated to live feature, then back to animated, then skip to a pop-up-book collage clip ending, this doesn't lessen the impact of the film, at all, nor break the viewers concentration. A true achievement from brilliant filmmakers, reassuring us worried fans that the Disney concern is not failing but instead on a raise to "new" heights, meaning heading back to old standards. Fortunately. "Enchanted" is (in short) a hilarious, yet touching depitction of the somewhat unfortunate "forest girl" Giselle (played by Amy Adams) who gets kicked out of a classic Disney fairytale, just before her wedding to the Prince of her dreams, whom she met one day earlier, to end up in the sewers of New York. Well emerged therefrom, she literally dumps into the arms of McDreamy from "Grey's Anatomy" (er, Patrick Dempsey, that is, playing a divorce attourney, but basically the same guy), lucky girl, and carries on to mess up his life big time. Of course, falling desperately in love with him along the way - and he couldn't resist if he tried. What makes it more problematic, though, is McDreamy's business woman fiancé (no other than Idina Menzel!) and young daughter, who is characteristically cute, and who immediately bonds with Giselle - making her the only one believing the "fairytale princess" if for real. McDreamy, on the other hand, takes some time to be convinced she's not a deranged stalker. Still, doesn't keep him from being openly attracted to her. Their love affair is exquisitely portrayed and acted out, for the record; which it must be, considering that it remains the founding brick of the plot; and it holds one of the best build-ups of an on-screen relationship I've seen so far. With a big-bang finale which has been heavily denounced by some, but which I personally found entertaining, albeit slightly surreal. But the final ending is so predictable and fulfilling, anyway; all the loose ends tied up and problems solved in ever-so appropriate ways, one can only bow with amazement; we needed a relieving break of fireworks, dancing and fighting to precede it. Before all this, however, there's plenty of time for other strange occurences; as many as you can possibly mash into a 1 hour and 40 minutes-family flick. It's not easy for a Disney girl to become part of our society, apparently, having to adjust to our bizarre habits of not singing, not loving forever and not always living happily ever after. Okay, perhaps more moderate, it's fair to say they yield the points a little. Whatever would the morale be, if not to have a critical glance at our romance-less society of utter, sincere boredom? Giselle is a breath of fresh air, asserting all the significant causes the rest of us dull figures apparently forget. Why deprive ourselves of possible joy, when we can believe in true love, scuttle about and make dresses of curtains; gentle, mild and kind as can be - that seems to be her ideology. Giselle is, quite possibly, the most likeable person you'll ever come across. Ironically, she's hence judged more harshly by the New Yorkers than you'd ever expect. Eventually, however, she learns to obey some of their rules, whilst keeping her convictions intact, and the New Yorkers learn to respect her views on life and love, whilst giving her the opportunity of a good, if very different future. Also, the poor thing does get to sing a lot. Speaking of which, let me just say: Amy Adams is indeed a multitalented wonder with a beautiful voice. What an actress! And - without intending to spoil anything, but it's rather obvious - loving and living happily sort of comes with the territory here. Luckily enough.

Moreover, and to spice up the cliché tale a bit; insert to the intricate meetings of two rather contrasting worlds, the straying Prince Charming (as played by James Marsden, returning to singing and comedy, for our common pleasure) who eventually jumps after his bride-to-be and arrives in NY in the same fashion, startling a.o. some poor road workers and an angry bus driver, together with his loyal, dancing chipmunk, cutest animal that ever was, and a troubled henchman with conflicting interests (Timothy Spall from the "Harry Potter" films), and - at last - a seriously überevil Stepmother Queen (a superb Susan Sarandon in heavy makeup). It's fun, it's sometimes sad, it's politically uncorrect and it's packed with the most memorable, humorous moments imaginable. The Central Park musical scene is a bliss, as is the Cinderella cleaning sequence. Oh, you have to see it for yourself, but all in all it's a film with true passion, soul and excellent dialogue, fine interaction between all the characters, superb acting overall, and - not to forget - the Oscar-worthy efforts from the stunning Amy Adams. As mentioned above. She clearly resembles Johnny Depp in "Pirates"; without her, this film would have been an entirely different matter. But she glitters like a sharp cut diamond; with her perfect mimicry, naïvité and movement; so in-character you're left dumbfounded and gaping. Patrick Dempsey is also excellent, and - admittedly - nice to look at. (That's putting it mildly.) The chemistry shoot sparkles between the two, almost electric, and they must have had a fantastic time, filming this. Consequently, "Enchanted" becomes this most unique film that's got something for everyone. The children get their traditional Disney turns, and traditional gags, the teenagers get their romance and action, the grown-ups get their subtle jokes (loads of them, and far more adult oriented than the ones in "Shrek"!), social critique, advanced flirting (for Disney, this is taking it to a whole new level), some complex, potentially psychological aspects, identy crises, and even more action. And, to this viewer in particular, that whole pool of various, confusing, overwhelming, joyful factors, appeals in extreme ways of absoluteness.

Atonement: Best filmed War Love Story since Casablanca?

[Image: from that scene, that particular scene at the end of that particular confrontation, which just...breaks you down. I tried so hard not to bawl, by eyes bloody hurt. Thanks to the moderators over at James McAvoy's website for their brilliant gallery.]

Exceptionally good performances from exceptionally good actors in exceptional and beyond good romantic war drama. Based on Ian McEwans bestselling book, by the same title, "Atonement" is the story of young Briony's fateful act of jealousy-related misconceptions, for which she will have to do penance throughout the rest of her life. Not only does she destroy her own future, but also that of sister Cecilia (the gorgeous Keira Knightley) and boyfriend Robbie (the heartbreakingly handsome James McAvoy). They must all suffer the consequences of her betrayal; when she indirectly sends Robbie to jail, after witnessing the growing relationship between him and her sister, and drives Cecilia to break with her family. The film focuses on the terrible truth that Briony must carry with her, bound always to regret her deed, and what effect it has had on the two young lovers, continuously holding on to one another through letters and the memory of a handful of meetings. One scene, in particular, where Cecilia and Robbie meet in a tea house after his stay in prison; him now on his way to fight in the war, her dreading she might never see him again; is extremely powerful and striking. The acting is so superb, the entire scene so perfect, you're left holding your breath, awestruck; nudging it to go on and on; all the while it's of course awfully sad. In fact, the whole story is melancholic and wistful. Director Joe Wright has managed to combine the tales of the various characters and tie them together in a way that is strangely fitting and natural, and at the same time provides a clear contrast. Developing, slowly, from the warm and tender day at the family mansion, where the innocent youngsters have grown up together - to the dark, distressing and horrid incidents taking place in France, during the war, and in the hospital where Briony tries to make repentance for her sins as a soldier's nurse. Here, time and place are set aside, leaving the individuals and the emotive impact as the most significant factors. The many aspects of affection luring constantly in the background; Cecilia waiting for her lost love to come back, and Robbie wandering the fields of the French country side desperate to fulfill her wish; the lines "I love you, I'll wait for you, come back to me" repeated over and over again as their illustrative mantra. Each time bringing tears to your eyes, as you realize; this won't end well. It can't. And, of course, it doesn't. Still you can enjoy the beauty of the film; the excellent directing and photography; like the now infamous 5-minute scene at the Dunkirk beach where Robbie experiences the horrors of World War II first hand; one long take, with the haunting singing following out even as you exit the cinema; or the many close-ups on the incredibly expressive faces of Knightley, McAvoy, the talented Saoirse Ronan and, not to forget, the legendary Vanessa Redgrave. You may also revel in the emotional roller-coaster that is the changing between light humour, dreadful crimes and terrible losses; tumults for a tender soul, but worth it. In fact, "Atonement" is packed with moments like these; not one is needless, pointless - or painless. Arguably on of the best scenes in the film, in addition to the one on the beach, features Robbie, Cecilia and Briony in the apartment of the two former, sometime after the war; a painful confrontation that just becomes even more tragic when fully explained, later on, showing exactly how brilliant the film is. With performances by the three actors that - again - are so utterly striking. James McAvoy delivers one of the finest monologues in history, and one unbelievably well enacted response to such a difficult matter. Everything about this film is stupendously conducted and carried through, nowhere is it lacking in strength. No flaws, either, unless you miss the tiny details and find yourself a little lost at the final twist. Reading the book is therefore highly recommended, if one wishes a more in-depth look at the characters and clearer understanding of the story. The conversion from literary to filmatic medium works on every level, and makes a very poetic, very original experience out of such a classic piece. Ian McEwan should be content, as should the filmmakers. All in all, "Atonement" remains a shocking, tormenting; in the sense of being thoroughly heart-wrenching; yet so intensely lovable story, whose imagery will linger in your mind for months to come, and with young actors whose abilities will blow you away. James McAvoy, for instance, is the new darling of Hollywood; the reason for which becomes quite clear after seeing this film. He is a versatile, handsome, utterly charming and very clever young Scot who - one may hope - has a shiningly bright career ahead of him. Here, he gets to reveal every aspect of his talent. Perfectly cast as the thoughtful, emotional soldier; kept going only by the hope of seeing his dearest Cee again, keeping himself alive only through rereading her letters. No doubt a man we will se much, much more of in the coming years. (And did I mention, he's Scottish?) Keira Knightley, on the other hand, has suffered much critique in the latter years, because of her allegedly "skinny frame" and "flat acting". This film gives proof to the contrary, helped by her giving her undoubtedly best performance so far. She has also stated, herself, that she found Cecilia the most interesting of the female characters and could identify with her; which becomes quite clear from her portrayal. Moreover, of course, she may lean heeavily on the assistance from a fabulous co-cast and some envy-causing costumes. With her old style Hollywood glamour and moving take on every scene, every piece of the puzzle that is her Cecilia comes together and seems to fit. Yes, she is awfully thin, but she most certainly isn't flat. Add some perfect music, perfect scenery, perfect colouring, extremely perfect editing and - can't say that too many times - perfectly enacted emotions, and you've got the perfect romantic war drama. Simply powerful, and will remain forever in the memory of those fortunate enough to go see it. In the same way that "Casablanca" once did. Same class of utter quality, for sure.


Randi said...

Alle som vil la seg berøre - gå på kino. Filmen sitter i kroppen lenge - og det er slike filmer vi vil ha...Det er bra vi har slike filmanmeldere og kinopådrivere som Scara

elgen said...

jeg ville gjerne gå på kino når jeg leser dine tekster!jeg hater dårlig økonomi!