Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Elegy and The Kids Are All Right

I watched Elegy, the underplayed film that is just shy of a masterpiece, and The Kids Are All Right, an overhyped film about a family's awkward situation. 

Elegy (2008)

I remembered hearing about this film when it was released. It was extremely well received by critics but not the general public and it didn't seem to have a very wide release. It stars Ben Kingsley as a professor who, surprise, falls for his much younger student played by Penelope Cruz. David (Kingsley) and Consuela (Cruz) end up in a passionate relationship with surprising consequences. 

Playing David's best friend is Dennis Hopper who, in one of his last roles, proved why he was a star with staying power. His performance was honest, funny and totally sincere. He almost steals the entire film with some of the best lines.

Elegy is directed by Isabel Coixet (Secret Life of Words, My Life Without Me) who perfectly captures life from a man's point of view. I verified this with my friend Robbie, who is a genius and expert critical thinker. One of the best lines in the movie is by David who says "When you make love to a woman, you get revenge on all the things that defeated you in life". The writing in this film is honestly the best I've seen in a very long time, and quite unique. It makes you want to become an elite academic, sitting around all afternoon listening to jazz and drinking fine wine. It doesn't even seem like a wanky thing to do. 

It's a great shame that Elegy made very little at the box office. I suppose most people are tired of the old man/young woman story. When my friend read the synopsis to me, I balked. I almost didn't watch the film. I think like most do (unless you're Ben Kingsley's age and desperate for a young date) that the whole thing was a bit gross.

However, I'm so grateful I overcame the hurdle of my own judgements to watch the movie. It's a real diamond in a sea of coal. Please watch it if you are able.

4.5/5 stars.

The Kids Are All Right (2010) *potential spoiler*

Nic and Jules (Annette Benning and Julianne Moore) are a married lesbian couple who have two adopted children. When Joni (Mia Wasikowska) turns 18 her younger brother Laser (Josh Hutcherson) convinces her to seek out their technical father, sperm donor Paul (Mark Ruffalo). Major awkwardness ensues. 

With the current debate on gay marriage, I expected this movie to be sort of a vehicle to make a statement. It wasn't. In fact, it seemed like a movie that was trying far too hard to be hip while neglecting the actual story. (Thanks to a twitter user who put it in these terms). It was also a film that hated men, starring a man who everyone loves (I challenge you  not to adore Mark Ruffalo, you won't be able to resist) and one who gets blamed for everything. We get it, they're a lesbian couple, they don't need a man. You don't have to be pissy about it. 

I didn't hate this movie but it was far more forgettable than I hoped for. I wanted to really love this film but, despite some great subject matter, it just ended up being ho-hum. Every actor was incredible, especially Wasikowska and Hutcherson. They both have long careers ahead of them. It wasn't enough, however, to prop up the mediocre plot.

In the end, Lisa Cholodenko (Director, screenwriter) wasn't really taking any risks. There were some unnecessarily graphic sex scenes, but apart from that, it was way too safe. 

I felt really disappointed at the end of The Kids Are All Right. The coming of age storyline was what they should have focused on, rather than all the adults doing what adults do, making everything more difficult. 

2.5/5 stars.

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