REVIEW: By the Sea

28 11 2015

By the SeaAngelina Jolie Pitt’s third film, “By the Sea,” feels like a bloated student thesis project. And, for once, I do not use that term in a completely pejorative manner.

Jolie Pitt’s last directorial outing, “Unbroken,” was such a formulaic piece of studio entertainment that it felt depressingly soulless in its mediocrity. (Her deeply misguided mess of a debut, “In the Land of Blood and Honey,” is best left forgotten.) Here, she seems to be grappling with some fundamentals of cinema: editing, shot choice, shot duration, camera movement. Since Jolie Pitt holds such a position of power in Hollywood that she will likely see many opportunities to step behind the camera again, watching her grow is inarguably a positive thing.

Admittedly, there are far more qualified directors – female or male – deserving of eight-figure budgets to make a personal project. It’s frustrating to think on who lost out on their chance because Jolie Pitt got this one. Still, if she ever wants to take the reins of “Cleopatra” herself, everyone should be thankful she got to make “By the Sea” as a stylistic exercise.

The film is almost pure style, like a sleek perfume or cologne ad drawn out to feature length. Jolie Pitt and her husband, Brad Pitt, play the bitter married couple Vanessa and Roland, estranged practically to the point of their union dissolving. “By the Sea” follows their trip to the luxurious beaches of France from arrival to departure, chronicling their manifold frustrations in languorously broad strokes. Roland galavants off attempting to write his next novel, while Vanessa mostly just lingers around their hotel room smoking cigarettes and throwing shade through her Yves Saint Laurent sunglasses.

Read the rest of this entry »

REVIEW: Unbroken

21 12 2014

In terms of below-the-line talent on “Unbroken,” director Angelina Jolie assumes the role of Nick Fury by essentially assembling The Avengers of the cinema.  Every writer credited on “Unbroken” has penned an Oscar-nominated script.  Behind the camera as director of photography is Roger Deakins, cinematographer to great directors like the Coen Brothers as well as franchises like James Bond.

Those images are then spliced and joined together in the editing room by William Goldenberg (Oscar winner for “Argo“) and Tim Squyres (a consistent collaborator of Ang Lee who was Oscar nominated for “Life of Pi“).  And underscoring it all is Alexandre Desplat, the absurdly prolific composer for everything from “Philomena” to the “Harry Potter” series.  Essentially, “Unbroken” boasts what would be the ultimate fantasy squad if such a concept existed in Hollywood.

Rather than exuding passion for the craft, though, everyone phones it in. This dream team works in service of a rather bland and familiar inspirational story, and their respective skills do little to change that.  Instead of elevating the material, they are complicit with Jolie in playing it safe to ensure “Unbroken” plays to the least common denominator of audiences. They color by numbers when they could have been painting something truly inspiring and extraordinary.

The incredible true-life heroism and survival of Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell) has all the makings of a truly rousing film.  He had to triumph in the face adversity and anti-immigrant taunts as a child.  He funneled all that into the sport of track, which eventually took him to the Berlin Olympics in 1936.  Then, he survived for months at sea in WWII before getting captured as a POW by the Japanese.  These events give “Unbroken” quite a story to work with, yet the extraordinary feels rather ordinary.

Read the rest of this entry »

REVIEW: In the Land of Blood and Honey

7 12 2014

Blood HONEYWhen it comes to civically-minded celebrities these days, Angelina Jolie is probably one of the first people that comes to mind.  She’s well-known as a Goodwill ambassador for the United Nations, and her recent efforts to combat sexual violence in wartime earned her an honorary title of Dame from Queen Elizabeth II.

It follows that her debut behind the camera as a director, “In the Land of Blood and Honey,” would be closely intertwined with her humanitarian efforts.  But while locked in the grips of the seemingly interminable picture, I couldn’t help but feel like her time and my time would be better spent elsewhere.  Jolie’s time would go, of course, to saving the world (while mine would most likely be put towards shrinking the size of my Netflix queue).

Jolie makes a rather color-by-numbers war film, one that never manages to excite or enrage.  Though it’s clear that she’s stridently railing against the use of war to justify sexual assault against women, “In the Land of Blood and Honey” lacks a call to action into which all that anger can be channeled.

The film drags along for over two hours, giving us little history or commentary on the Bosnian War of the 1990s.  All we’re really told is that there was peace, then – BANG! – it’s gone.  The one element that should have been able to gin up some intensity, a forbidden romance between the opposing sides, is never as frightening or dangerous as it should be.

The $13 million it cost to make “In the Land of Blood and Honey” could, quite frankly, have been put to better use.  The film has noble intentions, but Jolie’s failure to capitalize on any of them makes the enterprise a colossal waste.  C2stars

REVIEW: Maleficent

1 06 2014

What’s old must become new again in order to keep movie studios’ back catalogues fresh so they can earn money; thus, we end up with “Maleficent,” a reimagining of their “Sleeping Beauty” tale.  It’s a film that uses the same formula as “Oz the Great and Powerful” and then splashes it with flourishes from Tim Burton’s 2010 revisionist “Alice in Wonderland.”  It trots out the familiar mythology – only now in sleek CGI! – and then puts a few twists on it to justify the remake.

Analyzed in tandem with the Mouse House’s 2013 megahit “Frozen,” the film yields interesting insights into the psyche of Disney.  This marks their second straight tentpole that does not give the audience the expected male-female romantic ending, leaving them to ponder the many different forms love can take.  One can only wonder where these progressive messages will ultimately end.

But that’s about all the intellectual discussion I can pull out of “Maleficent.”  It’s a sloppily written film filled with feckless characters whose discernible motivations are few and far between.  The movie needlessly complicates the simple 1959 classic story, making it a slow plod.  And, from a perspective likely only depressing to me, it reduces great actors like Imelda Staunton and Lesley Manville to playing cartoonish fairies in a failed comic relief subplot.

What should be the star in absence of these elements, the visual effects, are even quite confused.  Scenes designed to showcase the work of artists who work in the medium of pixels are cluttered with details that don’t cohere for a unified look.  At times, the film resembles the Pandora of James Cameron’s “Avatar;” at others, Burton’s “Alice.”  The opening scenes resemble an illustrated children’s storybook … and then, there are 3 mo-cap fairies.  The whole collective vibe recalls a 2002 video game like “Kingdom Hearts.”

Read the rest of this entry »

REVIEW: Kung Fu Panda 2

5 06 2011

Is it so wrong that I love “Kung Fu Panda 2” in spite of all of its unoriginality and lack of creativity?  Is it so terrible that I’m totally won over by an overweight panda who can do kung fu as well as he can eat?  Is it so strange that a village of adorable pigs and bunnies makes me feel like I’m five years old again?

While the sequel is hardly as entertaining and funny as the original “Kung Fu Panda,” Po and the rest of the Furious Five are still a joy to watch.  The movie still possesses that charm that made me watch the first installment countless times on HBO while eating dinner, and it proves once again to be infectious as it melts down whatever barriers are hardening your heart.  It’s also a movie that’s easy on the eyes with appealing action and fun graphics, evincing the slow closing of the gap between Pixar and everyone else with a computer.

This “Kung Fu Panda” is all about daddy issues as the movie’s two storylines both deal with characters coming to grips with decisions made by their parents.  The evil peacock Shen (voiced by the always creepy Gary Oldman) orders a genocide of pandas to prevent the fulfilling of a prophecy that one would defeat him, thus leaving his parents with no choice but to exile him.  When Shen returns to power, the Dragon Warrior Po (Jack Black) starts to question where he really came from.  His goose father, Mr. Ping, has few answers, so Po is largely on his own.  However, his kung fu companions, known as the Furious Five (and featuring the voices of Angelina Jolie, Seth Rogen, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu, and David Cross) have big issues that they have to deal with, namely Shen’s reappearance which threatens to dismantle the art of kung fu.  But as their journey progresses, Po finds that the questions about his parents may relate to Shen’s avarice and malice in shocking ways.

That summary probably makes the plot sound more glorious and intricate than it actually unfolds in the movie.  On the other hand, sometimes glory isn’t found in the story (despite the majority of my reviews saying just the opposite).  Sometimes it’s just the rush of joy that can be found in juvenility that makes something fun.  Sometimes we can have a perfectly gratifying experience just looking at a cute and cuddly panda cub playing in a bucket of radishes.  Sometimes it’s nice to be reminded of what it’s like to be a kid watching a movie again.  B+ / 

REVIEW: The Tourist

20 12 2010

There could be worse things to watch for an hour and 45 minutes than a cinematic worshipping and idolization of the physique of Angelina Jolie.  As if “Salt” wasn’t enough for 2010, Sony takes her out of action figure mode and gives us “The Tourist,” a whole movie of Jolie in red carpet mode.  She elegantly struts across the scene in beautiful gown after dazzling dress, all accentuating her best features: her eyes, her lips, and her figure.  If you aren’t floored by her beauty by the end of the movie, go get your eyes checked.

But as your mom taught you in middle school, looks aren’t all that matter; you have to have a good personality to be truly attractive.  Inspect anything other than Jolie in “The Tourist” and you will find one snooze of a movie.  Half-heartedly a romantic comedy and half-heartedly an action thriller, it fails to satisfy as anything more than eye candy.

As the lover of con man Alexander Pearce, Elise (Jolie) finds herself tracked heavily by the police and the mob.  He tells her to find a man of similar build to him and masquerade around Venice as if he were the elusive Pearce.  On a train, she nabs Frank Tupelo (Johnny Depp), a math teacher at a Wisconsin community college headed to Italy on vacation.  She entices him by a tease act and then manages to rope him into following her around by money and luxury.

From there, it’s a game of mismatched expectations as she sees him as expendable while he thinks she is romantically interested in him.  In his mind, the movie is a classic romance in Italy, and he proceeds as such.  Yet in her mind, it’s like a James Bond movie where he’s a pawn.  The two visions clumsily intermingle, resulting in one very uncomfortable blend to digest.  Jolie and Depp have zero chemistry, and even though it’s not necessarily required for the movie, neither have any sort of a game face for it.  The action sequences are slow and boring, failing to breath any sort of life into “The Tourist” which flails for its duration in desperate need of a respirator.

Director/writer Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck strangely follows up the sublime German thriller “The Lives of Others” with this confused, uninteresting popcorn flick.  Even with a few fairly predictable plot twists to keep us mildly engaged, nothing can save this awkwardly comedic and dully action-packed movie from being one of the least exciting movies to grace the silver screen this year.  Sure, thanks to Angelina Jolie, it’s easy to watch.  But as a movie, it’s hard to bear.  C

F.I.L.M. of the Week (September 24, 2010)

24 09 2010

This week’s “F.I.L.M.” is “A Mighty Heart,” the movie that chronicles the 2002 search for kidnapped Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in Pakistan.  Running parallel to the hunt is the story of his pregnant wife, Mariane (Angelina Jolie), as she deals with his disappearance – and ultimately, his death.

(I think the story of Pearl’s captivity and beheading is well-known enough that I didn’t need to preface that with a spoiler alert, but if anyone thinks I’m ruining the surprise, let me know and I’ll take out that last part.)

On his last day on assignment on Pakistan, Daniel ventures into some sketchy areas to interview a very mysterious but powerful figure.  When he doesn’t come home that night, Mariane instantly fears that his disappearance was a kidnapping.  And as the days go by without word from him, the investigation takes on a graver importance.  The Department of Justice takes over the search; the CIA releases a report denouncing allegations that Daniel was an agent for them; even Colin Powell acknowledges the situation.

While the hunt for the kidnappers is mostly gripping, it doesn’t feel like anything we haven’t seen before.  “A Mighty Heart” works best when Angelina Jolie is on camera giving her tour-de-force performance as Mariane Pearl.  Clearly people that dismiss her celebrity as due to her beauty clearly haven’t seen “A Mighty Heart” (or, for that matter, any of her Oscar-nominated and -winning roles).

Jolie has a pitch-perfect range and totally nails Pearl’s every move.  While at the beginning she doesn’t show much emotion, we don’t feel distant at all.  In fact, it only draws us in more.  When we reach the tragic end, it’s absolutely heartbreaking to watch her let it all out.  It’s Angelina’s movie, and she owns every moment of it with as much grace as she has on the red carpet.


22 07 2010

“Salt” is all about Angelina Jolie.  Forget the character, the movie is about making her look like a goddess.  It’s about how she can pull off being blonde and brunette.  It’s about how she can look good with long or short hair.  It’s about how she can still manage to look gorgeous after scaling a building or taking a punch.  It’s about how she can walk away from explosions and jumping on cars without ever looking unattractive.  No matter how much blood coats her face, Angelina Jolie can still look hot.

The movie is one made of surprises and twists, and Angelina Jolie’s never failing good looks are not one of them.  The movie throws us into disarray as we try to figure out what side Jolie’s Evelyn Salt is really on: Russia or America.  What we think we know is never certain, and subject to change at the drop of a hat.  It takes everything we’ve hated about summer 2010, the predictability and the banality, and gives us an entire movie jam-packed with the exact opposite.  Between this and “Inception,” the season is covered for plot twists.

For all of you who got a giddy rush from the mention of “Inception,” no, “Salt” is not in the same ballpark as Nolan’s latest and greatest.  It has the adrenaline kick of “Wanted” with the espionage intrigue of a Bourne movie.  We are always kept engaged by this combination, no matter how far the boundaries of plausibility are pushed.  It’s most like “Wanted,” though, with some similar action sequences that stay more tightly bound to the laws of physics.  Although that’s not to say they aren’t entertaining; they just lack the extra sucker-punch energy.  Salt has to be resourceful and kick butt in more human ways, which makes our jaws drop in an entirely different fashion.  It’s complication without sophistication, and there’s no shortage of fun to be had.

As for Jolie’s acting, it’s a combination of her smugly cool assassin in “Wanted” with her compellingly hysterical family woman in “Changeling.”  She’s mastered both of these character types, and while Evelyn Salt is a far cry from her award-winning roles, it’s a further reminder that she can sell us anything.  I think I can only be entertained by “Salt” once because so much of the movie is in the reversals, but I can watch Angelina Jolie many, many times.  B+ /

Random Factoid #358

21 07 2010

Last night, I added a new moviewatching experience to my extensive collection.  But it wasn’t one I wanted to add.

I was fortunate enough to receive passes to an advanced screening of “Salt” last night (review coming tomorrow), but I made the mistake of not reading the time of the screening on the pass.  I assumed it would be 7:30 like every other screening I go to, yet for some reason, this one was at 7:00.  My friend and I got there a little before 6:30 and stuck it out in the standby line until showtime.  We were two of the last three people let in and thus had to sit on … the front row.

I had sat up close before, as I described in Random Factoid #66:

I really like to get to movies early because I prefer sitting in the middle and towards the top.  Usually, I am able to get a reasonable seat.  I can, however, think of two horrible moviegoing experiences that were strongly affected by my seat.

  1. I have described this experience in a previous factoid, but for my 8th birthday party, the theater reserved us a row right behind the railing for “The Grinch.”
  2. I saw “The Reader” from the second row.  I had to crane my neck for two hours to watch a lackluster movie.  Also, Kate Winslet doesn’t look quite as good from such an angle.

But never had I been forced to endure the torture of sitting on the front row.  For those of you with a little bit of geometry under your belt, imagine looking up at the screen at a 60˚ angle of elevation.  Looking straight ahead, I could see the bottom tenth of the screen.  That’s how miserable it was.  It wasn’t watching a movie; it was looking up at a skyscraper that was Angelina Jolie.  It messes with your perception of things too.  People’s heads looked disproportionately small compared to the rest of their body.

Honestly, it makes so mad that theaters put in seats like that.  If I’m going to pay $10 (which I didn’t in this case), I want to be able to actually see the movie.  I feel like the theater should be paying me to sit there – or at the very least not make me pay full tilt.  Or maybe give me a neck massage or something because even today, my neck is SORE!

So has anyone else been the victim of the theater’s front row sadism?

What To Look Forward To in … July 2010

10 06 2010

People are already calling summer 2010 one of the worst seasons in history.  Ouch.  Does July hold anything in store to turn the tide late in the game?  Let’s take a look.

July 2

M. Night Shyamalan give us his most mainstream movie yet with “The Last Airbender.”  Due to James Cameron’s mildly successful film “Avatar,” the Nickelodeon series opted to use only the last part of its name to avoid confusion (although you could make some good money from dumb moviegoers under the impression they’re seeing “Avatar 2”).  It got the quickie 3D conversion slapped on in the past months, which means I’m sticking to 2D here if I even see it at all. I’m worried that some backlash against the conversion could wind up really hurting this movie. But even before I knew about the added dimension, I couldn’t get myself too excited. No matter how extravagant and enormous they make it look, it’s still a Nickelodeon series. I have mixed feelings for Shyamalan; the only movie of his I actually liked was “The Sixth Sense.” I don’t know anyone in the cast save for Dev Patel, better known as Jamal Malik from “Slumdog Millionaire,” and he may end up being what draws me in to see it.

Sometimes I don’t catch everything when it is initially released, particularly indies.  I want to give them their fair shake, so I’m going to feature movies when they open in my hometown if I missed them before.  The first of these movies is “Solitary Man” starring Michael Douglas and thank heavens it’s not Michael Cera (that’s code for Jesse Eisenberg).  In her glowing review of the movie, Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly called this, not “Wall Street 2,” Douglas’ best shot for Oscar glory.  The story seems friendly enough and the character seems an Oscar type.  Rounding out the ensemble are Jenna Fischer (“The Office”), Susan Sarandon, Danny DeVito, and Mary-Louise Parker, so it seems pretty audience friendly too.

July 9

I’ll get to the mainstream fare later.  First, I must cover the indie comedy hit of the summer, “The Kids Are All Right.”  More to come later in an “Oscar Moment,” but expect it to make a splash a la “Little Miss Sunshine” and “(500) Days of Summer.”

Adrien Brody steps back into the horror arena after … let’s just say, going places in “Splice.”  This time, he’s rebooting the “Predator” franchise along with Laurence Fishburne and Topher Grace.  “Predators” proudly flashes the name of producer Robert Rodriguez.  But here’s what I want to know – will sequel/reboot/remake fatigue catch up with moviegoers by July and kill this movie?

I’m so excited for the release of “Despicable Me.”  Not because I want to see it, but because I’m so tired of seeing the stupid trailers with every movie I have seen for the past year.  My guess is families will still be choosing “Toy Story 3” over this.  Not even Julie Andrews can save a movie that proudly boasts the participation of an executive producer from the “Ice Age” series as if they had Steven Spielberg.

If you are looking for some shaky-cam horror, “[Rec] 2” comes out.  Strangely enough, I must have missed “[Rec]” 1.  But I did know about the predecessor to “The Girl Who Played with Fire,” the big indie of 2010 so far, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”

Opening in Houston on July 9 is “Restrepo,” the winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance for documentary features.  It takes a look at the grittiest and most intense location of fighting in Iraq and its effect on the soldiers who fight there.

July 14/16

Inception INCEPTION Inception INCEPTION Inception INCEPTION Inception INCEPTION Inception INCEPTION Inception INCEPTION Inception INCEPTION Inception INCEPTION Inception INCEPTION Inception INCEPTION Inception INCEPTION Inception INCEPTION Inception INCEPTION Inception INCEPTION Inception INCEPTION Inception INCEPTION Inception INCEPTION … AHHHH!!!!!

Meanwhile, opening two days earlier to get out the way is “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” Jerry Bruckheimer’s latest blockbuster.  It starts Nicolas Cage as the sorcerer and Jay Baruchel as his apprentice.  I’ve been saying for quite a while now that Baruchel needs a big breakout; maybe he will get it with this once people match his face to the voice in “How to Train Your Dragon.”  On the Nicolas Cage front, the role seems kind of kooky.  Perhaps this is his Jack Sparrow?  I may end up seeing this solely for villain Alfred Molina, who rocked Doc Ock in “Spider-Man 2.”

Officially released on June 18 but not hitting Houston until July 16 is “The Killer Inside Me,” starring Casey Affleck and Kate Hudson.  Apparently it’s based on one of the most brutally violent and disturbing stories ever.  I’ll trust Kubrick here.

July 23

I’m hoping “Salt” becomes this summer’s “Wanted.”  Just an enjoyable, action-packed movie that doesn’t try to wow you, only entertain you.  Angelina Jolie makes one BA action heroine … or villain, depending on what happens in this movie.

Kiddie fare comes for the third straight weekend with “Ramona and Beezus,” starring Disney Channel sweetheart Selena Gomez.  This could do well because it’s an adaptation of the beloved series that has been around for decades, and it has an impressive adult cast including Sandra Oh, Bridget Moynahan, John Corbett, and Josh Duhamel.  Then again, it could also just fade into the mist of the other kids movies.

Opening on the indie side of things is “Life During Wartime” starring Allison Janney.

July 30

I’m honestly scared of “Dinner for Schmucks.”  I love both Paul Rudd and Steve Carell to death, and the plot here just reeks of a bomb.  My worst fear is that this and “The Other Guys” become the “Land of the Lost”/”Year One” comedy flop combo of 2010.  Maybe Zach Galifianakis can save it…

But what reeks of a stinker even more is “Cats and Dogs: Revenge of Kitty Galore,” a sequel that no one really wants.  And “Charlie St. Cloud” reeks of Zac Efron.

Meanwhile, there’s some good indie drama with “Get Low,” starring Robert Duvall.  See my Oscar Moment for further commentary.

Can July save the summer?  Will “Inception” rule the roost?  What will be the BEST movie of the month?  Let me know by taking the poll … DEADLINE IS JUNE 25.

F.I.L.M. of the Week (May 7, 2010)

7 05 2010

Prepare yourselves emotionally before diving into the “F.I.L.M. of the Week,” Clint Eastwood’s true-life story “Changeling.”  You might remember the movie as a blip on your radar in 2008 for one of two reasons: Angelina Jolie or the Best Actress nomination that Angelina Jolie received for this movie.  If you are one of Angelina’s detractors who argue that she’s good only for adopting babies and saving the world, you need to see this movie.  I have yet to see “A Mighty Heart,” so I’m not in a position to classify it as her best work since “Girl, Interrupted.”  However, it’s a reminder of why she has an Oscar sitting on her mantle.

Jolie takes on the persona of Christine Collins, a woman pushed to the brink in late 1920s Los Angeles. After the kidnapping of her son, the LAPD returns a boy who is supposedly her child in order to produce a positive headline for the department that had been marred by corruption.  Christine knows instantly that the boy is not her son, and she demands that the investigation into her son’s disappearance continue.  The police, not wanting to admit an error, dismisses her as crazy.  She obtains credible letters supporting her story, but the police won’t tolerate her vocal criticism.  They find a silencing method that evokes anger from people in high places, particularly a radio preacher, Gustav Briegleb (John Malkovich).

In the meantime, the police also uncover a series of horrifying acts committed by Gordon Northcott (Jason Butler Harner).  The Northcott storyline may seem like a tangent at first, but it ties into Christine’s story in unexpected and brilliant ways.  It also helps that Harner gives a startling and disturbing performance as the deranged criminal, one that has hauntingly remained with me since I have seen the movie.  It’s unforgettable the way he mixes the calm surface with a tumultuous and unstable mind.

Jolie’s forceful and commanding presence is a major part of the success of “Changeling.”  But it’s also director Clint Eastwood, who portrays these horrifying events with realism mixed with a comforting sensitivity.  A very delicate balance had to be struck to be able to really digest this movie, and Eastwood found it.  However, even with this approach, it doesn’t change the fact that this is an absolutely brutal and heavy movie.  It may not be for you if you cannot handle disturbing depiction of atrocities, including ones committed on children.

Fun fact: this movie isn’t based on a true story.  It is a true story.  Screenwriter J. Michael Straczynski took all of the movie based on evidence that can be corroborated by documents.  Thus, what we see on the screen is as close to what actually happened in “the strange case of Christine Collins” (an original title of the movie) is as close as Hollywood can ever show us.

I’ve heard from many smart movie speculators that “Changeling” is a film that was met with a mild reception but will eventually be embraced as a truly great movie.  I wholeheartedly espouse this belief, and I have been convinced that this is one of the most emotionally powerful movies that I have ever seen since I first saw it in 2008.  As for you, why wait until the rest of the world discovers it?  See it now and say you knew about it before it became so popular.

F.I.L.M. of the Week (October 9, 2009)

9 10 2009

“Girl, Interrupted” has the illustrious honor of being featured as this week’s F.I.L.M. (First-Rate, Independent Little-Known Movie).  The movie has gained some notoriety for establishing the star of Angelina Jolie, winner of the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her performance.  The movie made a small sum at the box office, but it has now been relatively forgotten.  I have seen it sitting in a bargain bin at Blockbuster a fair few times.  But I decided to watch it on HBO during the summer, and the movie definitely does not deserve to be buried in a cardboard box with several installments of “Saw.”  It is a well-thought, provocative study of a woman and the society that may have been the push off the cliff of sanity.  Virtually every element of director James Mangold’s movie is fully realized, unfortunately uncommon among movies nowadays.

The film begins with Susanna Kaysen (Winona Ryder) narrating: “Have you ever confused a dream with life? Or stolen something when you have the cash? Have you ever been blue? Or thought your train moving while sitting still? Maybe I was just crazy. Maybe it was the 60’s. Or maybe I was just a girl… interrupted.”

Her epigraph sets the tone for the whole movie as she is coaxed into entering an asylum with borderline personality disorder.  There, she meets compulsive liar Georgina, anorexic and self-destructive Daisy (Brittany Murphy), the loner and occasional transvestite Cynthia, burn victim Polly A.K.A. “Torch,” and the queen bee, possibly sociopathic Lisa (Jolie).  Susanna’s friendships define her stay at the hospital, especially the alluring Lisa.  As they swap pills, defy authority, gossip, abuse, and betray, Susanna is definitely affected.  But the more time she spends in the hospital, does the pendulum swing towards sanity or insanity?

As far as similar movies go, “Girl, Interrupted” is not a classic in the vein of “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.”  But there is definitely some great stuff at work in this film.  Mangold manages to find humanity and happiness in a place as dark and dreary as an asylum.  The movie, while tough to digest at times, provides some very tender and touching moments as well.  I found my heart completely captured by a scene outside of the solitary confinement room where Lisa and Susanna sing Petula Clark’s “Downtown” to one of their friends to raise her spirits.  But the movie is more than just moments; the whole work gets the brain racing.  Don’t be surprised if the definition of insanity becomes a little hazier for you or if you start to wonder if the “millennial” decade has taken a toll on you.

Random Factoid #12

9 08 2009

I have 2 movie posters hanging in my room.  The first is for “Gone in 60 Seconds,” a movie which I am not too particularly fond of, but it is signed by Nicolas Cage and Angelina Jolie.  The second is for “We Are Marshall,” and you can understand why I want that one hanging, although often times I wonder why on earth I want to walk into my room and look into the face of Matthew McConaughey.

I also pick up smaller posters on giveaway tables at movie theaters and hang them on my bulletin board.  Right now, the only thing hanging is “(500) Days of Summer.”