Family is weird.
India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) is a young girl who suspects her mysterious uncle (Matthew Goode) is up to some sheisty-dealings after he comes to live with her emotionally unstable mother (Nicole Kidman) following the death of her father (Dermot Mulroney). But instead of feeling outrage or horror, this friendless girl becomes increasingly infatuated with him.
Without a shadow of a doubt, the main hype for this movie is surrounding the fact that this is South Korea’s Park Chan-wook (Oldboy), making his American feature-film debut and shows something to all of the other foreign directors that seemed to get thrown into the mix when they have to take crap material in the states. It seems to happen to every foreign-language director who makes a splash elsewhere, but Chan-wook is different. This is his film all the way through, and it’s usually for better, and for worse. Depending on the type of person you really are and what you like. Me, I’m still on the fence.
What makes this movie work is that it does have a very, very mysterious atmosphere and tone about it to where you have no idea what’s going, and exactly who’s behind all of these weird shenanigans that have been going on. From the get-go, it’s pretty obvious that not everything is as it seems to be, but that didn’t matter because it’s more deliberately-used, as Chan-wook allows his flick to build up more steam and tension as it goes along. For me, I always thought I knew where this story was going, how, and what they were going to reveal to me next, but that’s only because I’ve seen a shit-ton of movies. This movie actually surprised me when it was able to take leaps of death that I wasn’t in the least-bit expecting, and I have to give Chan-wook a bunch of credit for that, because it’s something that some of our finest, working-directors in America still don’t have the courage to pull-off just yet. Not saying that he’s better than anybody, just saying that the guy is able to show the brass balls he hides within. Or underneath his pants, physically too. Either way, the guy’s got guts.
Chan-wook also does a great job in keeping this flick so damn interesting, and not just by the story; but by the visuals. Every shot in this movie feels like it could be paused, taken-out, and displayed on a coffee table in some shop or some person’s house, and have everybody who picks it up, staring and gazing at it for day’s on end. Chan-wook not only gives this flick a plethora of beautiful colors to keep your eyes on-screen, but shows us some nice, visual-treats that he takes out of his goodie-bag. Certain scenes loom really cool, other scenes, just look very artsy-fartsy. But regardless of what you may deem them as, you still cannot deny that this flick is always interesting and always intriguing to watch, and if not for the story, then to see what Chan-wook can have our eyes feast on next. Trust me, you’ll see.
But something just didn’t feel all that right with this movie and I think I have my finger on what it was: it’s tone. See, this is one of those flicks where everything is dramatic, everything is eerie, and everything and everybody feel like they’re just being loopy, just for the sake to move the story along. Now, I know this type of story-telling does very, very well in the foreign countries, but in the states, it feels weird. For instance, there’s a bunch of staring and awkward-grinning between a bunch of characters that could be deemed as creepy and horrific in some, other countries because there’s a certain “art-essence” to it, but here, in the states, it just feels over-the-top.
In most cases, I was able to drop this idea from my head and just focus on the story and whether or not it I was interested, but other times it just felt like it tried too hard. Whether or not Chan-wook meant for that to happen, or that’s just his way of filming, is all beyond me. But watching this flick, you’ll almost feel like it’s parody at points, where people are just giving each other looks that the Dramatic Squirrel has been doing for a whole decade. Okay, you’re right. I’m sorry for putting this movie and that celebrity in the same sentence. He really is THAT COOL.
Where this film really counts, is in it’s cast who all do fine-as-hell jobs with all of the weird-shite that they are given. And yes, that does mean a lot for this movie. Mia Wasikowska always shows up in a whole bunch of movies that I actually get the privilege to see, and so far, she’s never done anything to really impress me. Sure, she’s cute and she has the promise to be the next, Amy Adams-type of gal, but so far, I haven’t seen anything from her that really had me calling till the cows came home. She’s always come off as sort of bland and dull, and never seems like she wants to liven-up the material and allows everybody else to do otherwise. Her performance as India marks the change in my perception of this gal. I’m sorry, Mia. You have my respects.
Wasikowska is awesome as India because she has to do a lot of strange brooding and stares to enhance her character and the type of mood she sends off to the others around her, but that’s something she’s very good at. She feels like a natural at just being weird outcast, but also the look and feel of a gal you do not want to fuck with, especially if she has a sharpened-pencil in her hand. A lot of the scenes where she is just standing there, silent, and not saying much, still compelled me, because I always felt like there was more to this character than she was letting on and what would you know it: I was right! Wasikowska definitely stole the show in this movie for me, and hopefully won’t let me down with whatever she’s got piled-up next.
Matthew Goode is also amazing as her strange-o uncle, Charlie, who has never been mentioned or seen, until now. Goode is good (teehee) at playing-up the whole suave look and easy charm that all of the characters in his movies display so well and it adds another level of weirdness to a character, that we already know we can’t trust. He’s not the type of guy you want on your side, but you start to realize that maybe, just maybe, he isn’t as bad as they make him out to be. Just a bit fucked-up in the head. Whether or not you are able to go along with that aspect with that character is totally up to you, but I like how Chan-wook showed me more to a character that wasn’t just all about being odd, but sexy at the same time. Ladies, get ready to double-bag the panties for this one. You’re gonna need ‘em for Mr. Goode. Aw yeah.
The biggest disappointment of this whole movie is probably watching Nicole Kidman play second-fiddle to not just these characters, but this story as well. Don’t get me wrong, Kidman is good as India’s mom and chews a bit of scenery when she gets the chance to, but there isn’t much else to her and sort of comes of like a total bimbo, in the grander scheme of things. You never get the full feel or essence that she was ever a nice lady beforehand, and you never get it after the movie, so why the hell do we need Kidman in the first-place? I’ll tell ya why: she’s a big name, she’s a good actress, and she may attract some people to see it where names like “Goode” and “Wasikowska” won’t. Sorry, peeps. But it’s the hard-to-honest truth. Same goes to Jacki Weaver. Why the hell was she even here?
Consensus: Certain parts work and others parts don’t, but no matter what, Stoker is at least a fun, interesting, and always-vibrant English-language debut from Park Chan-wook who shows us that he definitely has some of getting used-to with the way we handle business in the states, but still isn’t a person I have to worry about lowering my expectations for any time soon.
7 / 10 = Rental!!
No matter how grand or wonderful your life is, you still end up shitting your pants. Message of the day, everyone.
Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt) was born on the Day the Great War (WWI) ended. That was supposed to be lucky day to be born on but this was an unlucky case because Button was born old, week and dyeing. Benjamin is now living his life in reverse and dealing with the hard ships that have to occur with such an unfortunate circumstance as this.
Watching this movie almost 5 years after I originally saw it really has me thinking, “Did I really just love this movie because I wasn’t that cinematically-inclined yet? Or, was it just that I loved this movie because it was a good movie?”. Those thoughts go through my head, each and every single time I even bother watching/reviewing a flick that I saw so long ago, way before I even thought about this website. Some of them turn-out to be the great story that I once remembered them as being, and others, well, thanks to my knowledge of what’s right and what’s wrong with a movie, make me realize that I had plenty of years to grab a hold of my movie-knowing mind. Somehow, this movie, is somewhere right in the middle and I have yet to make-up my mind. Oh well, hopefully I will by the end of this loooooooooong review.
The reason why I put such a strain on the word, “long”, was because that is exactly what this flick is and to be honest: it doesn’t have to be. This is adapted from a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and for a bunch of source-material that probably equaled up to about 10-to-15 minutes full of reading-time, you would think that a simple story wouldn’t need to be told in over 3-hours. The story of a man that ages backwards and has all of these experiences in life, meets all of these people, and has a love that lasts generation-after-generation, does seem like it needs to be told in it’s own, epic-way, but this is a bit too much of a push. However, as long as this flick may be, you still can’t forget that this is a beautiful tale of growing old, falling in love, and above all, living life to the fullest. Yeah, it’s corny, but what makes it so strange is that the message is brought-out by David Fincher. Yes, THAT David Fincher.
It is quite surreal to see a story that’s so much about the human-spirit and always turning lemons into lemonade, directed by the guy who’s brought us some of the sickest stories in the past decade or so, but that’s what makes it so unique as well. Fincher has never, ever came close to touching material like this and at times, you’ll just think that it’s an attempt for him to make some cash and make a passion-project of sorts for himself, but you’ll begin to notice, there are still a whole bunch of Fincher’s trademarks. Everybody and anybody who has ever seen this movie always says the same damn thing, “It’s like Forrest Gump, but the guy’s older”. To be fair, that is a very true and realistic observation, one that I can’t contend with, mainly because the same writer of that flick (Eric Roth), is the same writer here but what makes the tales so different, is how one is all about sunshine and light at the end of the tunnels, this movie is more about how life starts and ends the same way: you start out as nothing, and in the end, you are still nothing. Anybody that has ever known you, will be the only ones and it’s a matter of whether or not you made an impact on their life is what really counts.
It’s a really depressing idea, especially when you put it side-by-side with something like, “Life is like a box of chocolates”, but it’s also more realistic and that’s why I applaud Fincher here, not just for stepping-out of his comfort-zone, but for being able to step-out and make the best type of movie he can. The story spans over generations and as long and dragging as it may be, it is always entertaining to see the type of stuff this man goes through, what he learns from certain experiences, and how it makes him a full and total human-being. Yes, there is always that known-factor that the guy is going to die at the end, but then again, isn’t that how life actually plays-out? Thanks, David Fincher! You’re always the type of guy I can depend on to remind me that life is great and all, but in the end, we just float away into the air. Happy hugs all-around!
Where I still feel like this flick hits a problem in, is that it does begin to run-out of steam by about the third-to-last-act and I think that’s mainly because Fincher, as well as all of us, knows what has to be done, what has to be said, and what needs to come of this story. We all anticipate the time to when Benjamin eventually starts to get so young and so tiny, that he can’t remember anything that has happened in his life and is just continuing to shrink-up into this little guy, that is eventually going to die any day now. It’s so sad to watch and as much of as an emotional-impact it may have on you because you’ve gotten so used to this character and all his stories, it is slightly redundant and almost feels like Fincher really needs to shoot somebody or decapitate somebody, you know, just to spice things up. I can totally tell that Fincher was running a little wild on the inside, but at least he made it interesting and entertaining for us, in the meantime.
What probably distracts people the most from this story, is how much time and effort was put in to the make-up and special-effects for these characters and their surroundings. Since Benjamin is aging backwards, we get to see him when he’s old as hell and looks like a turd on the side of the road, to the point of where he looks like Pitt from Meet Joe Black. It’s mesmerizing to just stare-at, not just because they make Pitt look as handsome as ever and Blanchett as sexy and glorious as she’s ever been, but because it’s almost seamless and never seems like a gimmick. Movies like these that simply just depend on changing-up a person’s look or style through neat-o special-effects, usually kills a movie and features no substance, but thankfully, the movie features both the neat-0 special-effects that help make us believe more in this story, as well as having a story that is worth believing in and actually getting involved with. Still, it’s great to see Pitt and Blanchett back in their younger, golden days, even if it all by a computer. Damn you technology!
Speaking of the Blanchett and Pitt, both make Daisy and Benjamin a lovely couple that is worth staying-for, no matter how uncommon the relationship they have may actually be. Blanchett is a joy to watch as Daisy, especially when she goes through her younger days as a free-willing, energetic dancer in her prime from NYC, and we get to see that charm and beauty come out of Blanchett’s acting-prowess that can sometimes go away when she takes crap scripts. I was a bit surprised to see that she didn’t get a nomination for her work here, but hey, I guess the Academy felt like they had to give the nomination to Taraji P. Henson, the caretaker of the old person’s home who finds Benjamin and takes of him, up until he’s an old, but yet, young-looking man. Henson is so charming and fun to watch in this movie that it’s a real shame she hasn’t been able to do anything that’s really worth buzzing-about. The girl’s got spark to her, and that shows through every scene she has.
Brad Pitt, though, is the real star of the show and milks this Benjamin Button’s simpleness almost to the point of where it doesn’t seem like he can go any longer, but however, he can. Pitt is great as Benjamin Button because he’s so kind, so simple, so polite, so regular, and so bright-sided about the world he lives in, that’s it almost way too easy to mark him as another caricature that ends-up taking some happiness out of his disability, but it’s not, and that’s all because Pitt won’t allow it. The guy doesn’t show many emotions throughout the whole flick (and that was the intention), but it feels real and honest, mostly because Pitt and Fincher, together, have painted a portrait of a guy that loves life and all those who inhabit it. Pit’s great to watch and the chemistry and love he has with Blanchett in this movie, never for a second, felt unrealistic or schmaltzy. It was as every bit as epic and heartfelt as I once remembered, and that will always stick in my mind when I think of this flick.
Consensus: Adapting a short story into a near-3-hour movie, is a bit of a stretch, especially when you have a flick that spans over decades-upon-decades, but The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is still a beautiful, endearing, and heartfelt story that looks at life through the eyes of a person who has a very strange one, despite him being played by the ultra-handsome, and ultra-powerful Brad Pitt.
A pedophile and a red-hot affair don’t really mix.
Two stay-at-home parents (Patrick Wilson and Kate Winslet) both end up striking affair after they both realize how bored they are with their own actual lives at home. Then another story happens where a convicted sex offender (Jackie Earle Haley) moves back into his house and is soon harassed by almost every person he sees.
This is the sophomore effort from writer/director Todd Field, who some will remember from the big-smash he made back in 2001 with ‘In the Bedroom’. Somehow, he took that similar story mixed it with some ‘American Beauty’ satire and divided it with a hint of ‘The Woodsman’, then he got this crazy flick.
The film starts off very strong with these two immature parents who obviously don’t know what to do with their lives except just nag each other and hope that all their depression and angst goes away. I dug this beginning because the film showed these characters in a very interesting light while also focusing on the fact that it’s telling us that these adults are just like kids in some ways, they both forget the responsibilities they have in the world and they go with their gut-feeling rather than just using their heads.
A lot of people complained about the whole narrator from PBS thing so much that when I heard it in this film, I couldn’t say that I was too bothered. Yeah, he does spell out everything a little too much but there are times when his narration actually makes a lot of this moments in this film a lot more entertaining then they have any right to be. It seems as if he is reading a children’s story to us, like one of those audio-tapes you would get for a book if you didn’t know how to read, and it really divides the line between what’s funny and what’s sad in this film. I found myself laughing at some of the things that the narrator was saying, while others, I didn’t know how to feel.
The main problem that lies within this film is that it is very very messy because it constantly shifts back-and-forth between these two stories and they shouldn’t be in the same film together either really. There would be moments where the film would just focus on the suburbanites and their affair for a very long period of time, and then randomly go to the peddy without any real reason other than to show this dude who has obvious problems. Both stories are pretty interesting in their own rights but together, they can’t really share the same screen considering that after awhile the “affair story” becomes the same thing over-and-over again whereas the “pedophile story” becomes a lot more interesting as the time goes on. I think I would have rather watched two different films of these stories rather than just one because it wouldn’t have been so messy.
I do think Field as a writer is very talented but there are times where I think he loses himself with trying to be too smart, which I know is a weird thing to say but just bare with me peeps.. There are moments here when Wilson and Winslet are getting it on and Winslet will constantly ask him, “Is she pretty?”, she meaning his wife. She doesn’t only just ask this once but also many other times during whoopie and this to me seemed very unbelievable as some chick would just constantly ask the dude who’s mounting her about his own wife. There are also plenty of other moments where this film doesn’t feel all that realistic but not worth mentioning.
Everything with this film is all pretty messy until the last act, where the film really loses itself with the shock-o-riffic ending that seems more put-on than anything. I don’t want to give anything away really but I think Field tried a little too hard to convey these certain types of emotions for these characters to the point of where this ending came up, and it probably looked good on paper, but when it came to actually filming it up on the screen, it seemed very dumb.
The cast is very good though despite all of these other problems with the film. Kate Winslet is great as the conflicted house-wife, Sarah, and Patrick Wilson has never been more charming or conflicted as Brad. Jennifer Connelly is good as Brad’s wife, Kathy, but I wish there was more of her that gave more of her side on things. Granted, we get a scene here and there but I really did feel like her character could have done a lot more for this film if they included her just a little bit more considering Connelly is such a good actress as well.
The best out of the bunch though is probably Jackie Earle Haley as the pedophile who plays up that man-child act so well that it’s almost too hard to hate this guy when he’s being such a dirt-ball. I mean yeah, he’s a dirty dude that I would never have over for dinner around my kids but he’s also a very troubled soul that wants nothing more but to be accepted once again and feels the need to fit in, mainly because his mommy says so. Haley is great here and just by looking at him, you get the sense that this is a sad and tormented soul.
Consensus: Little Children has some good elements, such as its good acting and very strong beginning, but then starts to fall apart with being too repetitive, too unbelievable, and just by having two different stories that don’t really mesh all that well in the same film.