Movies IQueue: Girl, Girl, Girl
I recently took in a group of Swedish films (who knew they produced more than bikini models and gummi fish?) known as “The Millennium Trilogy”, made up of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (based on the posthumously released, worldwide bestsellers by Stieg Larsson). I won’t discuss the movies in specific detail, so you don’t need to worry about spoilers. All I’ll tell you is that the first and last films are fantastic, while the middle installment, though it has a solid story and excellent acting, serves mostly as a setup for the final act. The first film offers a jarring look into a young woman’s life and how it becomes intertwined with the investigation into a murder/disappearance by a defamed journalist. The last movie wraps up every loose end tightly and cleverly with a wry grin (both figuratively and literally, by the title “Girl”, in one moving scene). The entire trilogy peers into the way men treat and mistreat women, but it does so gently rather than beating you over the head with a pointed message.
Something interesting struck me during the viewing of these films: the fact that they handled their plot and characters in a truly realistic manner. Then I did a quick memory search in my brain parts and realized, that’s the case with many European movies… more so than with American films, for sure.
You see, films tend to focus on extraordinary characters dealing with extreme circumstances, y’know, ’cause that’s what makes for an interesting plot. The ‘problem’ is, in reality, stories of extraordinary people dealing with extreme circumstances don’t always end with sunshine and rainbows. Those people are often damaged, so the end of the story doesn’t have a bow wrapped around it… it’s sometimes just a point where the story stops being told. Seems that American audiences, by and large, don’t enjoy this method of conclusion.
Take the finale of The Sopranos, for example. “The Sopranos was a TV show, not a film.” Shut up, LinkInBlog, it’s fine for this type of compare and contrast! Where was I? Oh, the finale of The Sopranos, right… if you haven’t seen it and you don’t want it spoiled, don’t read the rest of this paragraph. So, as we all know the screen goes black and the story stops being told. Some of you Americans were so upset by this conclusion that you’ve gone so far as to develop theories that all sorts of stuff happened to make the screen go black, even going so far as to suggest that Tony got whacked. “I dunno’, this guy presents a pretty good argument.” Listen LinkInBlog, I warned you once; you pop up again and things are gonna’ get ugly! Point is, people were desperate for something more tangible than, “Hey, Tony’s a complicated guy with a complicated life and this ‘story’ was just a glimpse into it for a half dozen years. Now that glimpse is over.”
Or you could look at the 1997 film, The Game. Again, if you want to avoid spoilers, skip this paragraph. We’ve got a fantastic movie, solid acting, interesting premise, tons of suspense and then a finale that’s completely unrealistic. In case you don’t remember, Michael Douglas’ character is pushed so far into the “game” that he believes that it’s real, that his life is in shambles and he has no reason to go on with it. He commits suicide by jumping off of a building and crashing through the glass roof of a building below. Surprise! No, literally… there’s a nice big pad for him to land on because his friends, family and people who were playing parts in his “game” are there waiting to announce the surprise that none of it was real… and yes, they all whoop it up, suicidal Michael Douglas included. You may have never known someone who failed in a suicide attempt, but they aren’t in a celebratory mood soon after… certainly not mere moments afterwards.
Don’t get me wrong, there are certainly plenty of American films that have something other than a “good” or “bad” ending, and there are films where those endings are appropriate and realistic. It just seems to me that our spoiled American culture demands one of those types of endings even if it doesn’t fit, while Europeans are more likely to savor the flavor of an ending that is befitting the events leading up to it, whatever that ending may be. Unfortunately (as far as I’m concerned), Hollywood will be taking a stab at “The Millennium Trilogy” starting next year, so we can see how they handle the same subject matter. With David Fincher at the helm, there’s a chance the movie will be excellent… but with excellent versions already available and recently released, I don’t really see the point.
The Game –
Below you’ll find a bunch of mini-reviews for other movies I’ve watched recently that also have girls in them. “Find me a film that doesn’t have a woman in it?” If you knew anything about cinema, you’d know that one of it’s greatest achievements, Lawrence of Arabia, has a running time of 227 minutes, yet there is not one word spoken by a female. Take that, LinkInBlog!
A film of this type needs to be driven by the idea, and Christopher Nolan made sure that happened. The main characters were only as deep as they needed to be. The periphery characters weren’t forced to take on stereotypical baggage (like witty one-liners, or comedic relief). The story is never bogged down with technical fictitious jargon about to explain how exactly the shared dream works; it’s science-fiction, you just need to suspend disbelief. In fact, the movie never seems to get bogged down at all, which is quite a feat when the running time is nearly 2 and 1/2 hours.
The first few minutes are like a watered down version of Fight Club. The rest of the movie steals ideas from The Matrix, Star Wars… oh why bother naming all of them? If you’ve watched more than 50 movies in your lifetime, chances are you’ve seen everything this one has to offer. Why does James McAvoy need to have an oddly forced American accent… can’t he just be Scottish? Is it really gonna’ throw off the films visionary direction?
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World –
Almost all of the movie is filled with “amusing” comedy. Unfortunately, very little of the movie has any “laugh out loud” comedy. A+ on the premise, C- on the execution.
Jonah Hex –
Certainly not among the worse comic book adaptations, but nowhere near the better ones, either. If you need a good laugh, tune in to hear Megan Fox’s accent flutter in and out mid-sentence, and then stick around for some decent action and visuals.
Note to producers: if you’re putting together a dialogue heavy, character driven ‘thriller’, you might want to consider spending a little money on the acting talent of those playing said characters and delivering said dialogue.
Public Enemies –
Extremely disappointing. Had elements of The Untouchables and Heat… wasn’t nearly as good as either. Not sure what Michael Mann was going for with the over abundance of handheld camera shots, either. Depp was fine as Dillinger, but Bale seemed like an odd choice to play Purvis. This may be a chick flick… the love story WAS crowbarred in, now that I think about it. Hmm…
An interesting way of creating a post-apocalyptic world for people to deal with… fairly predictable other than that. Seemed like there was more potential. It’s one of those movies that makes you want to read the book.
The Young Victoria –
Good movie, overall. A little fast-paced with the politics, but I appreciate that things weren’t dumbed down for mass appeal. Paul Bettany was solid, as usual, but Emily Blunt stole the show. She managed to emote the level of strength, grace and vulnerability needed to pull off the role.
Powder Blue –
Despite what is written in the film’s official synopsis, none of the performances are “gripping”, none of the stories are “gritty”, and this drama’s ensemble is far from “tightly woven”. It’s like someone watched Magnolia and said, “Hey, I can do a crappy version of that!” Move along, there is truly nothing to see here.
An Education –
Carey Mulligan is fantastic, and will continually tug at your heart strings if you are the father of a girl. The movie failed to adequately address the age difference between Jenny and David, specifically how it affected her parents (I’m sure it was covered in great detail in the memoir), but that was the only true flaw in the story. Otherwise, a thoroughly interesting yarn.
Not really a romantic-comedy… a romantic-sports movie? Sort of like Rudy but with sex? No, actually just a movie about a young woman intent on realizing her potential, but she gets sidetracked by an unexpected relationship that puts her plans in jeopardy. If this sounds interesting to you, I recommend that you watch An Education; it’s about 10x better.
The Blind Side –
This is supposed to be Michael Oher’s story, but it seemed to focus more on the people around him. Still a good story, and fairly light on the cheese for an “inspirational, feel good” film. Sandra Bullock’s character is written very well and she does an admirable job with it, but her acting is far from an “outstanding achievement”.
Kate Beckinsale appears in her panties, which is a plus. It only happens once, which is a minus. It is in the first 10 minutes of the movie, which is a plus (’cause you can turn it off after that). She has mom hair in the rest of the movie, which is both odd and a minus. Aside from that, there’s an expected plot and transparent mystery, so what’s not to like?
I’m quite sure the only reason this movie got made was so that Ashton could feel the supple touch of a 20-something year old. Me thinks somebody is growing tired of Aunt Demi’s leathered, fake plastic skin. If you need an actual reason to avoid this movie, search YouTube or some such for a trailer or scene where you get to hear the odd, groaning vocal affect Kutcher sports for the “character”. Acting tip, Ashton… you’re already a douche bag, you don’t need to change a THING in order to play one in the movies.
I had a hankerin’ for a feel good, pick me up movie, so it was either this or Schindler’s List, and this had a shorter run time. I appreciated the realism and unapologetic manner in which the subject matter was conveyed. A story doesn’t need a hero to showcase heroism. And despite my preconceived determination to the contrary, Mo’Nique happens to give a stellar performance. Not just in a “this was a good role for her and she was good in it” way, either… in a “damn, that woman is unquestionably talented” way. Gabourey Sidibe, however… yeah, I don’t expect to see much more from her. I don’t know how to spell her name (had to copy/paste it for the article), but I do know how to spell “one-trick pony”.
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