Sunday, October 16, 2011
50/50, Ides of March, and The Skin I Live In
So 50/50 came out a few weeks ago and didn't really make a big buck in the box office and that's a shame because it really is a great movie about a guy's personal struggle through cancer. Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen, the film is based on a true story. In fact, it's actually the personal account of the screenwriter of the film who wrote the script based on his battle with cancer. It's not hard to tell, either. 50/50 is a refreshingly honest film that deals with the disease maturely and yet still has a sense of humor. They always say humor is the best medicine. 50/50 manages to have funny scenes and dramatic scenes without too much sentimentality and it does its best to avoid the big cliche tearjerker scenes. Although, it's easy to be moved by the film emotionally.
The film tells the story of Adam, a 27 year old man who works for a radio station and is best friends with, Kyle (played by Seth Rogen). Soon after you get to know Adam is when he finds out that he has cancer. From this, he has problems with his girlfriend (played by Bryce Dallas Howard), his mother (Anjelica Huston), and also has a hard time connecting with a young psychiatrist (played by Anna Kendrick). The movie does a great job of not feeling too formulaic and it gives off more of a relaxed, slice-of-life type vibe than anything else.
That said, I wasn't too keen on all the performances and sometimes I feel like it used the comedy scenes with Seth Rogen as more of a crutch. Even though those scenes played out pretty well and Seth Rogen does a great job, the film does self-consciously try to strike a balance between the comedy and drama. This makes the film pretty easy to swallow. And there's nothing particularly wrong with that, it just doesn't make the dramatic scenes feel as strong. For me, the comedy of the film plays off a lot more convincingly and I found myself moreso looking forward to those scenes than the scenes with the mother or the psychiatrist. What makes this film great though is how it all sorta comes together for a very strong finale.
Overall, 50/50 is a great film that puts a bunch of great young actors on display and it does a remarkable job of attempting to maintain a consistent tone. Some scenes may be more stronger than others, but the great final act kinda makes the whole ride very much worth the time.
Ides of March
The most exciting thing about George Clooney's career is the way he has improved as a filmmaker. Ides of March is the fourth film that he's directed and it's his most controlled and contains great performances. Even though the plot may be a bit much and some of the details sort of come off as a little far-fetched, the great performances from Ryan Gosling, Evan Rachel Wood, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Paul Giamatti makes this film more fun to watch unfold.
That's especially true with Ryan Gosling, who gets the most screen time and plays Stephen Meyers, one of the top staff members of Mike Morris's presidential campaign (Morris played by George Clooney). Stephen, along with Paul (Philip Seymour Hoffman) attempt to come up with the best strategy in order for Mike Morris to win the democratic primaries. The film is smart in focusing on the relationships between the characters because the few times it attempts to go into details about the political issues Morris supports, it sometimes falters. This is a political drama that pays the most attention on its characters, especially Stephen Meyer's attempts to make a name for himself in the political scene.
What I found most fascinating about the film was how it divulged into something that we all kinda feared about presidential campaigns: that it's more about the people working the political campaign than it is about the presidential candidate himself. Mike Morris tends to take the backseat in this movie and this is primarily Stephen Meyers and Paul's ride. But Stephen Meyers is going to learn a few harsh realities about what it's really like to work on a presidential campaign as a few rookie mistakes puts his whole career in jeopardy.
The movie soon starts to unfold and the shit starts to hit the fan and soon Stephen Meyers is scrambling to keep some of the mistakes that he made away from the press. There's a lot of backstabbing, double-crossing, and manipulation involved in the movie and it makes for some really great drama. Like I said before though, things are sort of amped up to the point where it feels like it's sort of getting far fetched, almost to the point where you almost get taken out of the movie. Some of the character motivations don't particularly add up, but for the most part, the movie tends to stay away from being a convoluted mess. This is George Clooney's best film and he proves to be a director with considerable skill. As much praise needs to be given to the films actors, especially Philip Seymour Hoffman who proves yet again that he is a brilliant actor. If you're a fan of good acting, you will enjoy this movie.
La piel que habito (The Skin I Live In)
What a movie this is.
La piel que habito is Pedro Almodovar's newest film and it's another brilliant film from a filmmaker who has made quite a few of those in his career. What's so great about this film is while it contains a lot of the same subjects that Almodovar loves to delve into, it's completely different than any film Almodovar has made in the past and his direct, focused approach to the material gives it the necessary edge that is needed for a film with such a strange premise.
Basically, I will do my best not to give anything away about the film because it's so important for you to go into this with as little plot details as possible. Set in Toledo, Spain in 2012, Antonio Banderas plays a surgeon who has spent much of his time trying to create skin that cannot burn. He has made speeches within the scientific community that go into the work he has done, saying that he has done his research with only mice. But, in his large home where he conducts his research, it is discovered that he has been doing all of his research on a woman that he's been holding captive. His main assistance is from his servant, Marilia, and she helps to provide the necessary amenities for the captive, but is mostly kept in the dark about Robert's (Antonio Banderas) true intentions with her. And so are we, for a brief period of time, until the film starts going back in time a few years and the truth starts to reveal itself in one of the most shocking and unbelievable twists I have seen in quite some time.
What is so brilliant about this film is the way Pedro Almodovar plays with the audience and keeps his cards close to his chest until he finally decides to tell you what is really going on. It's a masterstroke from someone who has been making excellent films for four decades now, this might just be one of his best. As what tends to happen with some Almodovar films, some details within the plot get a little bit messy, but the best thing about the film is how slowly it stretches out the story and you really get into the intentions and motivations of Antonio Banderas's character. Antonio Banderas, by the way, has never been better. Another one of Almodovar strengths are just the way he's able to get such great performances out of his actors. Antonio Banderas is no exception. He, like Penelope Cruz in some of Almodovar's other films, bring their A-game when working with the legendary Spanish filmmaker and the results are just beautiful.
It's tough to say just how great this film is because repeated viewings are absolutely necessary. Surely, the second and third time that I watch this film, they will be completely different experiences than from the first time I watch the film. And because Pedro Almodovar does such a great job with playing with audience expectations, repeated viewings will be just as fun and the twist will be just as satisfying as it was the first time. It's not that you can't figure out what's going to happen, it's just that you can't believe and imagine that it's actually going to happen. Pedro Almodovar is such a great filmmaker though and he is at the point in his career where he can have the balls to go through with such a story like this. Easily one of the most original premises I have witnessed in a long time. The Skin I Live In is the best film of the year so far and it's going to be really tough to beat it.
50/50 and Ides of March are really great, solid dramas. Honestly, so far, September and October have been very satisfying months with The Skin I Live In being the biggest surprise for me so far this year. I'm not particularly interested in the rest of the movies coming out this month (maybe The Rum Diary, but I wasn't too impressed by the trailers). Very soon, I'm going to go into the films that I am most looking forward to in the closing months of 2011. Stay tuned.