Low-Fat Reviews: Midnight, Tree, Trip
Three pint-sized reviews after spending a day at the Kendall Square Cinema in Cambridge.
Midnight in Paris, dir. Woody Allen (2011)
I love being pleasantly surprised at 11 in the morning. All in all it had the familiar musk of many Allen films – an ensemble cast of characters oversimplified to the point of absurdity buzz around the shruggish and incredulous New Yorker that Allen unabashedly bases on himself. But Owen Wilson, the actor charged with wearing Mr. Allen’s tweed coat (and his rambling speech patterns), pulls it off relatively well. He stumbles through the magical film with wide eyes and wet lips, never abandoning doubt, and never even entertaining the idea that he may very well be insane. It’s a fun watch, with an all-star cast playing the best-of historical art figures, but there isn’t much hiding underneath the surface.
(The ending, in particular, left me with a strange taste in my mouth. Owen Wilson, who plays a character in his early thirties, ends up meeting a french girl (I’d say no older than 17) at a flea market. At the end of the film, they bump into each other on a bridge, and he “walks her home.” Jeepers creepers, Ms. Previn much?)
The Tree of Life, dir. Terrence Malick (2011)
Giampaolo’s review asks the most important question of this film: Is Bigger Better? I’d even stretch it a little further: How Big is Too Big? This film is. It’s too big. The first 20 minutes are some of the most inspired, emotional and thoughtful filmmaking I have ever seen. Bravo multiplied by a billion, but I don’t give a shit about these dinosaurs. Thank god, now we’re back to the brothers romping around in the unsettling suburbia. But then, the conclusion over inflates itself. First thing that struck home – the ending felt as though it was ripped directly Fellini’s 8 1/2. Not okay with me. And then it takes another 20 minutes for the mother to release her son to the circle of life. I never thought I’d say this about a Malick film, but it’s missing ambiguity. In the theater, I found my own perfect conclusion: Sean Penn walks through the door and the dress rustles in the wind. If that was the ending, I’d have walked out shocked and breathless (but still be like WTF Dinosaurs?)
The Trip, dir. Michael Winterbottom (2011)
What a British film. Two Brit comedians go on a reluctant road trip and snipe away quips at each other to no end. However, among the crackle and pop of dry humor there sprout up the most beautiful moments that are so clearly improvised. For 10-minutes we watch them compare impressions, determine how many octaves they can sing or riff off of war drama cliches. At parts, it is truly hilarious, but I found myself exhausted and offended on their behalves by the end. The constant one-upmanship took a lot to put up with; but it also sheds light on the (depicted) lonely life of Steve Coogan. Mr. Coogan lashes out constantly, beating up on the dopey and wiry Rob Brydon. Mr. Winterbottom strives for some emotional significance towards the end, but I wasn’t feeling much sympathy.