Weekend Movie Roundup--Yippee!!!
Besides Episode II - Attack of the Clones
and The Cat’s Meow
, I also saw three other films in the theater this weekend, About a Boy
, The Son’s Room
, and Italian for Beginners
I have never read any of Nick Hornsby’s books, but I have loved the movies that have been based on his work, there’s something intuitively appealing to me about this movie and High Fidelity
, which are essentially movies about guys who refuse to grow up, until circumstances cause them to reevaluate their respective lives. I can also see the appeal of the books, since both of these movies preserve large chunks of Hornsby’s dialogue and prose, whether through direct address to the camera in High Fidelity
, or the alternating voice-overs in About a Boy
. And both movies are crucially dependent on the performance of the male lead who has to embody successfully several major contradictions: vulnerability and ironic distance; detachment, bordering on narcissism (if not outright egoism), and concern for others; and being both simultaneously cool and geeky. Oh, yeah, they also have to charming, witty, and funny. A tall order, but aptly done by both John Cusack, and now Hugh Grant, who I think gives one of his most accomplished performances, without either his trademark stammering or hair style (which, depending on the movie, I can find endearing or annoying). In the grand scheme of things, I would probably call About a Boy
the best Hugh Grant movie yet made; joker may prefer Notting Hill
, a film that I thought was marred by the inconsistencies in Julia Robert’s character (her vacillation was never all that convincing to me, especially the scenes during and after Grant’s visit to the set of the Henry James movie) as well as some unnecessarily arty shots (true, Notting Hill
has a better supporting cast overall, but About a Boy
has some wonderful performances by the kid who plays Marcus, eyebrows and all, and Toni Collete). The Weitz’s brothers, on the other hand, pretty much go for a more classical style, unintrusive, allowing the dialogue and characterization to flow out of the movie and wash over the characters; and they make particularly good use of montage, delivering both narrative information economically, as well as many funny jokes, and the voice-over narration.
The Son’s Room
, an Italian film by Nanni Moretti, which won the Palm D’or last year at Cannes, is the third work I’ve seen in recent memory that deals with the effects of grief upon a family, after the death of a loved one (the other two being the slightly overrated In the Bedroom
and the Season 5 Buffy the Vampire Slayer
episode, “The Body,” which, IMO, is the best of the three). The film is a restrained, well-crafted melodrama; with many brilliant scenes, all of which are well acted and written. Moretti plays a psychotherapist with a successful practice, a loving marriage, and two teenage kids, a boy and girl; the family is a realistic portrait of an affluent bourgeois family, and life, while approaching ideal, is far from perfect. Moretti’s character feels a developing sense of distance between himself and his son, and a vague sense of dissatisfaction with his work. One day, Moretti proposes going for a run with his son, but a patients insistent call allows his son to go out with his friends diving, and a tragic accident ensues. Like In the Bedroom
, the majority of the The Son’s Room
is devoted to how the family copes with their loss, and not surprisingly, they don’t cope very well at first. Moretti’s character blames himself, and is wracked by guilt, and feels despondent over his seeming inability to help his patients, many of whom he begins to resent (even before the accident, Moretti’s character daydreams and fantasizes about what he really wants to say to his patients, but won’t); he tries, but he can not escape the guilt, fantasizing about doing things a little differently to save his son’s life. In one memorable scene, Moretti wanders through a carnival, but his attempts to feel anything but grief, fail. His daughter tries to keep a sense of normalcy, but she is also sullen and angry, uncharacteristically causing a brawl at a high school basketball game. At first his wife shuts herself up in her bedroom, only later to emerge, but Moretti’s sense of guilt and inconsolable grief (Moretti rejects the notion that it was God’s will; and he is prone to emotional outbursts) causes a gulf to open up between them. One day a letter arrives from the son’s girlfriend, and Paola latches onto one of the last vestiges of her son; Morretti tries to write back to her but can’t bring himself to do so, and Paola eventually calls her. She wants to meet the girlfriend, Arianna, but at first she refuses, but then one day she shows up. To that point, the once close family was drifting apart, but Arianna’s arrival and a spontaneous decision to help Arianna and a friend reach France, forces the family back together, literally, to help young people with attachments to Andreas just “live.” The surviving family members may not have been healed, but as they walk on the beach together, not alone, the healing can begin.
Italian for Beginners
is my third Dogma film; a bunch of Danes work out their romantic, family, and personal angst on DV, yeah, that pretty much sums it up. Actually, the film gets better as it goes on, but it turns into a rather conventional romantic comedy, and you can see the romantic pairing from miles away. It’s fairly funny, and well acted, with one of the better depictions of a man of the cloth in recent movies (and understanding Lutheran pastor, somewhat akin to Kenneth Lonegran’s priest in You Can Count on Me
), but it’s surely no Celebration
, the Dogme 95 film I’ve seen, that is a fully successful movie.