Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Lev @ TIFF: "What's Wrong With Virginia", "Never Let Me Go"

Lev, checking back in. Early mornings and late nights have prevented me from fulfilling my Film Experience duties, so capsule reviews will serve the purposes best. Starting with . . .

The Illusionist which is an achievement in many ways. What makes it so remarkable is its focus on every day sadness. Whereas most animation relies on comedy to engage, Chomet transmits his ideas through small gestures and simple, delicate drama, foregoing laughs for emotion. Every character, plot point, musical cue and lush painting is working in favour of this sadness without ever forcing it or revelling in it; It's a simple story evoked with impassioned feeling . A-

Dustin Lance Black's What's Wrong With Virginia? attempts numerous forays into the group psyche of town and religion but fails. Inconsistency is the word here; Characters come and go, narration is shoved in from different perspectives for no apparent reason. Jennifer Connelly is stuck doing her best Holly Hunter impression, approximating Wanda Holloway without being realistically nuts or even funny. Black, the Director, seems to have little idea how build through composition or montage, but that doesn't excuse Black, the writer, from starting his film with the end. C-

[Editor's Note: Apparently Virginia? is getting critically knocked around quite a lot at the festival. Movie|Line interviewed Dustin Lance Black about the unpleasant response. Good interview]

Predicated upon the intriguing idea of redheads as a discriminated minority, Romain Gavras' Our Day Will Come is an uneven mixture of bold filmmaking and bad decisions. The film stars Vincent Cassel as a psychologist and Olivier Barthélémy as a bullied teen. Clearly the work of a first time director, Gavras has strong ideas that don't always seem thought out as well one would like. Particular moments seem needlessly mean-spirited giving the film a cruel edge that it isn't always justified. Still, it's heady, compelling filmmaking that shouldn't go unnoticed. B-

Of the films mentioned here, Never Let Me Go surely requires the least introduction. Much has been made about plot particulars but they hardly seem worth noting; The sci-fi elements are rooted to a present reality and explained without much fuss which allows the characters to move to the forefront. There's no dwelling on its high-concept premise so it's just one step away from other high-end British productions (not that this is to its detriment). Romanek's form has improved, but the persistent score and unnecessary narration often feel perfunctory. It's the power of the story and performances, particularly Andrew Garfield who takes every gesture and line and tilts it into something unique and devastating, that make Never Let Me Go so emotionally satisfying. B

I'll be back as soon as possible, hopefully with notes on Of Gods And Men, Meek's Cutoff, Blue Valentine and Uncle Boonmee.


Joseph said...

oscar prospects of the reviewed film?
can Never let me go score nominations?

James T said...

Thank you, Lev, for your thoughts!

I have to say i find it really funny how different people see art in different ways. I know, duh, but this example is really telling.
Some people think Garfield gives the least impressive perf, some others the most. Some say Mulligan is the best, some don't. OK no one (as far as i know) said Keira gave the best performance but it's a fact that almost everyone has a different opinion. Again, duh, but mathamtically, the more performances in a film, the more different views you'll get. said...

lovely review of The Illusionist - couldn't agree more, and hope its sad, slow, delicate melancholy will get a wide audience. I think it really opens up the possibilities for animated films, both in terms of style and content.

Is a `B' for Never Let Me Go good? The review reads better than the grade you give it. Sad to hear about the excessive use of score and voice-over though. So many great movies lessen themselves with those two elements.

RJ said...

Really sad to hear about 'Virginia.'

Oh well ... if The Wrestler taught us anything, it's that sometimes a filmmakers best work comes after his least effective one.

Jeff said...

I've read a couple of reviews that say that Keira gave the best performance.. so everyone has different opinions

Anonymous said...

@James T.

"It is an incredible statement and yet it was conveyed so effortlessly – without so much as a spec of dialogue needed. Keira Knightley’s performance in this is epic in all senses, evoking a spectrum of projections of femininity from Farrah Fawcett to Bette Davis, and giving us an eclipse of a character arc. There is no doubt this will garner her a handful of Supporting Actress nominations and she should clear her mantel in preparation."

"The actors are the reason to see this picture at all. I was amazed at the full range from notably Keira Knightley’s Ruth. Confused, angry, bitter and sometimes crass, Knightley’s Ruth becomes sympathetic and sweet. At times cunning and spiteful, you do feel the full weight of Knightley’s performance as she shines in this supporting role. Mulligan and Garfield show great promise in a bright career and hopefully, Garfield doesn’t get typecast and sidetracked by his next role as Peter Parker in the new Spider-Man films. There is a sense of wonder as these characters are brought into the real world for the first time."

"Speaking of awards, I shouldn’t forget to mention Keira Knightley, who finds a perfect balance in every step of Ruth’s character arc and a gives a fine-tuned performance. Not to say that Mulligan and Garfield are not good, but the screenplay, especially in the case of Kathy’s monotonic character, doesn’t provide as much for them as it does for Knightley. Still, I can’t imagine another actress can do a finer job than Mulligan with this material"

There is a wide RANGE of opinions on this one.

Someone I usually trust said that Garfield was pretty awful.

So I don't know what to think.

Graham Greenlee said...

Saw Never Let Me Go this last weekend... A solid, heartfelt film even if it gets a little heavy-handed with its message towards the end. As for the performances: Mulligan is good here, well-cast, but nothing too exceptional. I thought Garfield was good with a character that's perhaps too awkward for some people's tastes. Having seen him here, I don't see him in Spider-Man, but whatever...

I'm clearly in the Keira Knightley camp though... I thought she was absolutely fantastic, mesmerizing. I couldn't take my eyes off of her. There's one scene in particular towards the end... I can't say any more without spoiling the film. I'd love to see her with a supporting nomination this year.

Alexandra said...

I hope Knightley gets recognition for Never Let Me Go. Critics have often been unfairly harsh on her in the past, and it's clear she's a good actress. She's gotten quite a bit of praise for playing Ruth, the anti-hero, so I really hope she'll get a lot of best supporting actress nominations.