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The King's Speech (2010)
What a wonderful performance! Compassion and clarity of vision, side by side. Colin Firth has been a favourite of mine since the e4xtraordinary "Apartment Zero' (1989) His maturity as an actor reflects his maturity as a person and how many times are we able to say that? Very few I'm afraid. What I thought I saw in him as an actor playing the zero of the title in "Apartment Zero" is here in spades. Wow! How rewarding! Here he's not alone. Goeffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter and Guy Pearce are all standouts and the stutter is just a device to show a whole picture. How strange we knew so little about this man. I guess Hitler got all the headlines. So from a historical perspective is also a feast of sorts. Bravo indeed!
Let me say off the bat that seeing Sophia Loren and Sophia Loren singing gave me a chill. That is quite a bit to get from a film. Chills. I knew I had to forget this was a musical adaptation of 81/2, but I couldn't forget the way I forgot that "Sweet Charity" was a musical remake of "The Nights Of Cabiria". Here the score is iffy and scarce and the story, translated into musical numbers is kind of shallow and, quite honestly, not enough. There are, however, moments to enjoy. The look of it is great, and Marion Cotillard makes something enormous from the little she was given. Penelope Cruz dances an erotic dance and Kate Hudson, well I don't quite know what she was doing. Nicole Kidman is starting to look like a wax work, what a pity! And Judi Dench is always fun. I was reminded she was a sublime Sally Bowles in the first London production of "Cabaret" - Daniel Day Lewis has been one of my favourites for a long time now but here he is far too pale, inside and out. I want to repeat that the whole thing is worth it just to have a glimpse of Sophia Loren singing. So, 6.
I was taken by the melancholy and the beauty of the film and if this wasn't enough, Colin Firth's performance! His best since "Apartment Zero" and that is saying something. Not a single false move in a film that could very easily become a simple tearjerker. Colin as a dad who takes care of his young daughters after the tragic death of his wife is simply extraordinary. The humanity of his character, flaws and all, is immediately recognisable. The film is filled with an emotional form of suspense that makes the experience utterly unnerving at times. Genova, the city, is photographed with real gusto. The narrow "vicoli" create a sense of dislocation that underlines in the most poetic way the new roads that Colin and his daughters are, not merely finding, but forging for themselves. A delightful surprise.
Seven Pounds (2008)
The Will To Be Meaningful
Will Smith is a sensational presence on the screen, no question about that. I'm longing to see him in dramatic parts worthy of his talents. "Ali" and most of all "Six Degrees Of Separation" showed what he is capable of. Elegant, ironic, Cary Grantish. Even here in this maudlin "message" movie he manages to inject some kind of truth. But the film is a manipulative, opportunistic (it opens just in time for Oscar consideration)tasteless, silly and confused tale about redemption. If I didn't leave the theatre in the two or three occasions I was about to, is all due to the magnetic power of Will Smith, so much so that I teared up because the sincerity about his sincerity was so amazingly, overwhelmingly sincere. However Oscar is not going to fall for this one, as he did last year with a similar enterprise conducted by the same Italian director. I understand Will Smith's need to be meaningful but somebody should explain clearly the meaning of the word.
Blake Morrison's memories are served for public consumption in a respectful but slightly confused rendition. Jim Broadbent delight us, once more, with his overgrown child of a father that seems a figment of her son's imagination. His childishness seems to be his only flaw. I couldn't help but being reminded of Tim Burton's "Big Fish" this time, with radically different flights of fancy. Colin Firth plays the writer/son as a crashing bore. Was that on purpose? I've been longing to see Firth again in parts like the ones he so amazingly captured - "Apartment Zero" comes to mind. Here earnest or not earnest, loving, selfish and so forth I didn't quite get myself interested enough to care as much as I feel I should have. Matthew Beard, the younger Blake and Juliet Stevens as the mother, manage to create more intriguing characters. The film, however, belongs to Jim Broadbent - His character is a loving mix of assorted British loving eccentrics. The fact that this is the way her son Blakes remembers him, makes the experience worth while.
The Brave One (2007)
Jodie Foster Alone
A genre movie directed by an artist, Neil Jordan in this particular case. That is a formula that sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. This time does, big time and I suspect it has to do with the artist behind the camera leaving the artist in front of the camera to her own devices and we all know that Jodie Foster's devices can be miraculous sometimes. The anguishing feel of solitude permeates Jodie's performance that's why I imagine Neil Jordan leaving her alone. Her decisions, I mean the character's and the actress's, seem to have been taken without consulting anyone. They are as pure as they are insane. I predict Miss Foster will be up for her third Oscar unless a miracle happens in the next three months. Well done!
Where the Truth Lies (2005)
A Question Of Casting
I was engrossed by the premise. Kevin Bacon, Colin Firth and a dead girl in a bathtub. To see Firth and Bacon go through the steps of a sort of Jerry Lewis Dean Martin routine was, in itself, reason enough to see the movie. On top of that, a director like Egoyan. I was hooked but immediately, regrettably unhooked every time Alison Lohman opened her mouth. Who could possibly believe it? That character should exude intelligence other than sensual vibes. Miss Lohman doesn't exude either and makes the whole premise collapse. Imagine a young Jodie Foster or now Natalie Portman or even Rachel McAdams in those shoes. That was a pivotal part The whole believability of the premise depended on her. Because of her performance I saw the cracks in everyone else's performance. So the experience, for me, was a series of exhilarating rushes and disappointing stops. Who said that casting was 90% responsible for the success of a film?. Whoever said it was right. Here the truth lies at the feet of a casting director and of a director for casting.
The Colin Farrell Mystery Is Revealed
What a stunning surprise! A family saga without familiar places or I should say that there are all familiar places but they feel completely new. I'm not one who likes to give away plot points so I won't I just want to say that I loved the loving involved in the unfolding of this realistic fairy tale. Personally, I've been questioning the apparent success of Colin Farrell. In very short years he worked with everybody from Stone to Spielberg, co starred with Pacino, Cruise and Willis but other than a winning pout and a clear willingness to take risks, his appeal eluded me - until last night that is. "A Home At The End Of The World" made me fall in love with him, with his power with his utter fearlessness. He creates a character with his heart in his sleeve and an innocence that it's compelling, aggressively on your face. Sweet and tough, wise and naive. Robin Wright Penn is also a standout. Her truth, unusual as it is, is unmistakable. Sissi Spaceck's suburban mom is an extraordinary creation. Subversive without meaning to, lovingly subversive, that's what she is. The opening with a startling Ryan Donowho grabs you by your heart and your throat and doesn't let you go. Wondering why this film didn't become an instant classic I arrived to the uncomfortable conclusion that it has to do with the casting of Colin's life long friend, Dallas Roberts, a good actor but not charismatic enough to give us a compelling pairing. I agree that he should be awkward and different but there is an element of petulance and physicality who didn't allow me to care for him as much as I wanted, as much as I needed. Sorry I had to mention that. But the experience that this little big film provides is unforgettable and the revelation of Colin Farrell mystique as an actor is nothing short of breathtaking.
Rumor Has It... (2005)
Thank You Shirley
I walked out of "Fun With Dick and Jane" fuming. I went into this other "comedy" and I stayed. I even laughed a couple of times and smiled a great deal, thanks , mostly, to Shirley MacLaine. The idea was fun, to meet the real characters that inspired "The Graduate" and, in fact, the best moment is the confrontation between Mrs. Robinson (Shirley MacLaine) and Benjamin (Kevin Costner) There is a lavish party and some spectacular travelogues of Northern California but Jennifer Aniston, my dear, take a sabbatical. She was so good in "The Good Girl" But here, a sub Rachel infuriating thing. What's with her mouth? She twitches and bites her lips and represses her smiles and it's dizzying and annoying and anti-comedy. Look at Shirley MacLaine for goodness sake! Has Jennifer Aniston seen "The Apartment"? I know I'm not making much sense but it's not my fault. I blame Rob Reiner really and his scriptwriters and his producers. How many jokes can you make about Pasadena? Please guys, listen to Shirley.
The New World (2005)
Something Old, Something New
A breathtaking landscape populated by looks of discovery. Very few words, just the sensation that something is changing. Terrence Malick is one of my heroes but I had the feeling that, this time, he was expecting too much from me. Within the lushness of the surroundings there is something static, unapproachable, inaccessible. Q'Orianks Kilcher as Pocahontas is, quite simply, sublime but her emotions, and therefore mine, were kept so far removed that it was hard for me to get involved. Slowly, very slowly but surely her story started to creep in under my skin. I floated out of the theatre transported by the visual feast I had been served but frustrated by the numbness it provoked. A Terrence Malick film is a Terrence Malik film and you take it the way it was intended. I will, but I fear I'll be in the minority.