Wednesday, October 31, 2007

London Film Festival: I'm Not There & The Savages

Today was my last film, "Juno", but since I'm a day behind on all of my reviews...

I'm Not There: In Review

One of my least favorite feelings while watching is a movie is to WANT to love the film you're seeing but you just can't. Todd Haynes' "I'm Not There" falls in that category for me. I absolutely loved the beginning of the film but as it continued, my attention drifted and I wanted it to end. Quite the opposite of "Bee Movie", I'm almost 100% sure that "I'm Not There" will be loved by many, if not all, but not by me. I may be called unintelligent and I may be accused of not understanding the film but, I assure you, I did understand the film and I was extremely disappointed. While the film did have some strengths, mainly in the acting, there were too many weaknesses for me.

"I'm Not There" was my most anticipated film of the year, which could possibly be the reason why I was so expectations may have been too high. That being said, the film doesn't deliver as a whole. For lack of a better word, there is too much "indie" in this film. Now, hold on. I'm not against indie. "Amelie" is my sixth favorite movie of all time and look how many indie elements are in that particular film. However, I firmly believe that a movie should not be quirky and indie unless the subject matter works with it. Bob Dylan's life, while this is a disagreeable statement, is not material for an indie-fied film. For instance, I felt that some of the transitions between the segments between the actors made no sense. The camera shots of all the actors playing Dylan were used two (or maybe three, to be honest, I can't remember exactly) times instead of just one to introduce us to the images of the actors. That just seems unnecessary to me. Why don't you just skip the "clever" transition and just go straight to the next segment?

The choice to make all of the "Dylans"' stories intertwine rather than in chronological order was a bad idea. Since all of the stories were told on top of each other, it was easy to lose track of what was going on. This brings me to my next point, the six actors aren't playing "Bob Dylan". They are playing different fictional characters ("Jude Quinn", "Billy the Kid", etc.) whose lives are similar to Dylan's, some more abstract than others. While this may look good on paper, it doesn't transition well to film. I loved the idea of six actors for Dylan...but they should have all been named "Bob Dylan" and it should have gone in chronological order. They all get the same screen time and it makes more sense so why didn't they do that? Well, I'm pretty sure it was just to try and be more complex and interesting. This aspect of the film is extremely pretentious. Oh, and some of the dialogue is groan inducing. For instance, after Cate Blanchett's Jude's girlfriend knocks a man out who is threatening to stab their whole party, he, or she rather, says: "Just like a woman". Sorry, but that's just lame.

Now, at this point, the general consensus of a guess for my letter grade for the film would probably be about a "D". But, it isn't. This is because they are still very good qualities of this film. The acting, by every actor, is exceptional. Cate Blanchett is obviously the star. While I didn't necessarily love her segment of the film, Blanchett excels as "Jude". She nails every Bob Dylan character aspect (unlike the other actors, she is pretty much playing Dylan with a different name...same hair, same clothes, mannerisms...) completely. While she won't be my Best Supporting Actress of the year, a nominee rather, she will most likely win the Academy Award. I also really enjoyed Marcus Carl Franklin's performance. His segment was enjoyable. Christian Bale is my favorite male "Dylan". Since, according to me, the "Six Dylan" approach didn't work, I would have much preferred a straight up music biopic of Dylan with Bale in the lead.

While this may come as a surprise, I enjoyed the screenplay. I just didn't like the way Haynes, who also wrote the film strangely enough, tackled it. The screenplay shifts from narrative to mockumentary to concert footage to everything in between. I really admired that. The dialogue was, for the most part, good. The screenplay will almost certainly make an appearance in the Academy's final five choices for Original Screenplay. It may make mine, I haven't decided.

While "I'm Not There" has bucketfuls of flaws, style problems, and some unnecessary material, the magnificent acting from every actor and the highly original screenplay redeem many of it's qualities. That being said, I'm still disappointed. B-

I bet you weren't expecting a bad-ish review on that, were you? Before "The Savages", I got to see Laura Linney (she was on the red carpet) and I got a good picture of that (I'll add it in an edit of this post).

The Savages: In Review

"The Savages" opens with a scene of elderly women cheerleading. We can't help but release a laugh. The beginning continues. We now see seniors doing some sort of aerobics in a pool. Other images of retirement communities come onto the screen. We slowly start to realize that these seemingly comedic moments are actually portraits of what these peoples' lives have become. Not necessarily a bad way of living, they don't think so, but we're introduced to another world in a way. The film deals heavily with old age. In that very subject, we are saddened but Tamara Jenkins, writer and director, also manages to put in oodles of dark humor that makes this, overall, a very good film.

I'll keep this review brief because I think I'll be able to write a better review that way. The real triumph in this movie is the acting. Laura Linney is Oscar-worthy, Philip Seymour Hoffman is fantastic. It is Philip Bosco, though, that really impressed. He is very deserving of an Academy Award nomination. It's a funny, sad, and moving performance. Look for him to make my personal awards at the end of the year. The screenplay is also fantastic for the reason I mentioned earlier, it makes us laugh while being in a sad situation. Well, that's it-plain and simple-"The Savages" is a knockout. A-

Tomorrow, my final London Film Festival review: "Juno".


Alison Flynn said...

I was anticipating I'm Not There. It seems like a lot of movies are just not living up to their hype this year.

Hoffman stands a chance for a nomination in 3 different movies this year. Maybe this will be the one.

Anonymous said...

Hoffman could be suffering the Maggie Gyllenhaal curse. The year before, she was in four films:
-Sherrybaby: Most likely to be nominated (Plus: De-glam)
-WTC: The best of all the cast
-Stranger by fiction: Marc Foster's film (Johnny Depp and Halle Berry...)
-Monster house: Her voice.

Daniel said...

You bring up a good point, Anonymous. I think that Hoffman will have to deliver an absolute knockout in "Charlie Wilson's War" to put his nomination in stone and I'm pretty sure that will happen (I think he's fantastic in the trailer).