Saturday, March 20, 2010
FILM #6: "The Hours" (2002)
Based on Michael Cunningham's Pulitzer Prize winning book, the film basically shows the effect of the novel 'Mrs. Dalloway' has on three women (including the author Virginia Woolf). A tremendous task in print but translated succinctly unto screen without as much as a glitch. As Woolf, Nicole Kidman transforms into a dowdy unrecognizable entity and delivers, through a scene at train-side, some stunning work. Julianne Moore's aesthetics works wonderfully as tormented 1950s housewife Laura Brown and then there's the peerless Meryl Streep as the modern woman who keeps everything together as Clarissa Vaughan. The acting is top notch, especially Ed Harris as Richard, a writer dying of AIDS.
Stephen Daldry directs the interconnecting scenes with such mastery and punctuates it all with a thrilling score by Phillip Glass. Armed with this juxtaposition the film demands a sort of intimate attention from viewers. It's all interlinked by several factors but the resonant point is that we all have surges of despair, hopelessness and even self-doubt. The sadness of how all three main characters deal with these personal tragedies can be heartbreaking but also one can choose happiness and carry on. A hard choice to be sure but one that is as vital as breath.
FILM #5: "Pride & Prejudice" (2005)
The film that made Keira Knightley a star and what a revelation she was as Jane Austen's heroine Elizabeth Bennett. Austen's novel has been adapted several times before but what this film manages to juxtapose so superbly is the state of relations in 18th century England to how things are currently. The nuances of the characters are very familiar especially surrounding the issue as marriage. The issue of love and its choice though is wonderfully creased in Knightley's performance and in stark contrast to that of her mother, Mrs Bennet (played with great frivolity by Brenda Blethyn).
The film also shows the awkwardness associated with the stern austerity of the times and how characters steel themselves or rebel against what is expected from them. There is a winning out of the heart and not the strictly sane choices one must make. Beneath its formality and even Judi Dench's awesome and small role as Lady Catherine de Bourgh is a reality that the love of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy (Matthew MacFadyen)must face and overcome. In the end, the story is timeless and a winning formula to make a great film. The adaptation though isn't afraid to shed its starchy inclination to look beneath personalities to reveal the living, breathing thing that is hidden beneath.
FILM Four:Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
The film is pretty much akin to 'American Beauty' in theme and style but 'Sunshine' manages to gather towards a collective likeness of characters and a sympathethic centre. Acceptance here is won the hard way. This is because the Hoover family, despite all their flaws, is pretty damned likable. The scope of the acting brilliantly manages to make this possible. Breslin absolutely shines and there's hardly a female lead that can charge into physical despair as ungainly or quickly as Collette. Kinnear has the look of a man desparately trying to remain calm while his fears slowly consume him.
The most sublime aspect though is the pageant itself. After barely just registering Olive in the show, even Steve realises the error of doing so. The pageant has a talent section but centres mostly on physical beauty. As the decidely imperfect audience claps on their perfect, doll-like girls parading in swim-wear and gowns, "Little Miss Sunshine" hits its darkest cues. When Olive dedicated her dance routine to her grandfather, the emcee asks of his location, Olive matter-of-factly replies that 'he's in the trunk of our car'. Of course grandpa had died the night before of a drug overdose and they had 'kidnapped' the body from the hospital and stored it in the back of the van. Olive hasn't yet learned shrewdness on this level. Sh'e more astute with her competition however: sensing her chance of winning slipping, Olive does an astonishing dance/strip routine to MC Hammer's 'U Can't Touch This' record. The moment, while totally humorous, presents a challenge to so many societal norms and raises impertinent questions but doesnt dwell on them. All these instances involve Olive as the main reason of change but it's a change of idealism for the others, not for her. Her desire to win or at least to be the most competitive she can be finally rips through the crafted fabric of confliction that surrounds her childhood. To this end, all parties directly involved in her life recognise the blame they share and accept it humbly. They realise how confusing their secular actions have been on her all along. The film tries to patch this issue up by having Steve finally choosing to support his kid, and by extension his flawed family unit over his own blinding and selfish ambition. What it isn't able to band aid however is how greatly the damage to Olive has already manifested.