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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Jérémie Renier

The Unknown Girl (2017)

Not your problem, don’t solve it.

Jenny (Adele Haenel) is a young doctor who has a pretty bright career ahead of her and is using her knowledge to help out those looking up to her. But late one night, after a very long day of working with all sorts of people, she’s just so pooped and can’t be bothered with someone who rings her buzzer late after work hours. While she normally would have any other day, on this particular day, she doesn’t, and ultimately, it ends up biting her in the rump for the days to come. As it turns out, the person ringing the buzzer was a young African woman who was found dead not long after ringing away. How? Or why? Or better yet, who exactly was this woman? It constantly aches and chews away at Jenny and for the next few days, she spends, when she’s not looking over patients, finding out more about this woman and the life she led. Is it to make up for the guilt she feels? Or is it just because she herself needs a little bit of inspiration in her own stale-mate life?

“Cheers! Or at least try to! We’re in a Dardenne movie.”

It should be said that a Dardenne movie is a lot better than most of what is out there, regardless of how good the actual Dardenne movie is. And in the case of the Unknown Girl, this is especially true. It’s not that it’s neither bad, nor good – it’s just that it’s very mediocre and awfully generic, especially given the standards that the Dardenne’s have come to be known for in the past two decades they’ve been around.

And it’s odd, too, because the Unknown Girl has everything one could want from a Dardenne movie. It’s bleak, a little sad, super-serious, well-acted, and filmed in such a naturalistic, realistic way that it almost seems like a documentary than anything else. In that sense, it’s very French and wears a lot of the Dardenne’s movies on its sleeves, but for some reason, the story just isn’t here.

And that ultimately proves to be its main and only issue.

“Hello? Yeah, I’m pretty depressed.”

The fact that the story in and of itself is a Macguffin, sort of doesn’t matter; it’s fine that we sort of spend our time, waiting and watching as Jenny finds out more about this mysterious woman’s life. In a way, there’s plenty of secrets to be had and it makes you think of just where it’s going to go, especially since the Dardenne’s movies aren’t always the most predictable bunch.

But then, it gets going and it turns out, oh wait, there’s not much to it. We begin to find out more about the life this woman lived, why she was ringing the buzzer that night, the guilt, the sadness, and the tragedy of her life left behind, and that’s about it. We don’t really learn much about anyone in the meantime, nor does it ever feel like much of anything was accomplished – it’s just a story, being told in the most generic-way imaginable. Which isn’t to say that it makes the Unknown Girl a bad movie, but considering that we’re talking about the Dardenne’s here, it can’t help but feel like a disappointment. This is usually their bread and butter, and while there are bits and pieces and splashes of interesting ideas, they feel in-service of a story that’s not quite where it wants to go, or what it wants to do.

It just meanders long and long enough until we’re at the end and left wondering, “Well, that’s it? Really? Anything else?”

But nope. There isn’t. Oh well.

Consensus: Despite there being flashes of the usual solid work done by the Dardenne’s, the Unknown Girl still feels like a bit of a disappointment, with a slow-pace, generic story, and awfully simple outcome.

5 / 10

Great door-to-door service medical-care. Why don’t we have this in the States?

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

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The Kid with a Bike (2011)

Every kid needs a bike to get by in life.

Abandoned by his father and practically everyone else around him, young Cyril (Thomas Doret) begins to act out in anger, causing all sorts of havoc and constantly finding himself in trouble. In a way, it almost seems like it follows him everywhere he goes and it’s as if Cyril will never be able to escape the darkness that swallows up his whole life. However, there is one light to be found in Cyril’s relatively bad life: His caretaker Samantha (Cécile de France), who took the opportunity to watch over him on something of a whim and is finding a lot more than she can chew. But seeing as how Cyril’s got nowhere else to go, but an orphanage, or even worse, a juvenile delinquent center and becoming another little boy involved with the system, she decides to stick with it and realizes that it may be worth it. And after much time together, yeah, Cyril gets used to Samantha, her rules, and the way she lives her life, which is relatively peaceful and nice, by his standards. But as per usual, Cyril’s past always comes back to bite him in the rear-end when constant attempts to connect with his dad seem to turn sour and piss Cyril off even more.

Good luck watching over that kid.

The Kid with the Bike is one of the Dardenne’s more interesting flicks, because it not only seems to have something resembling an actual plot, but seems to be a lot sweeter and more optimistic than their other flicks. Sure, it’s about a young whippersnapper who causes all sorts of problems, gets into trouble, and doesn’t have the best life imaginable, but it also has some solid glimmers of hope, too. In fact, a good portion of the movie is dedicated to Cyril getting better at life, at family, at love, and at realizing that there’s more to everything than just sitting around all day and being mad at the world around him.

Sometimes, it’s best to just smile and be grateful, as easy as that may be to say.

And yes, as usual, the Dardenne’s keep up with their naturalistic approach, where it seems like the movie’s a documentary, and yes, it works. But what really keeps the Kid with the Bike compelling is Thomas Doret in the lead role of Cyril, who proves to be a smart kid, despite also being chock-full of angst. The Dardenne’s have a knack for casting talented young actors in their somewhat difficult roles, because half of what they’re doing is just showing, rather than just saying; you can say that’s all of acting, but when you’re a kid, and half of what you’re being told to do is simply just standing there and reacting, it’s a pretty hard feat to pull off. But Doret does just that, showing that there are true, honest, and relatively sad layers beneath Cyril’s sometimes infuriating actions.

Brat.

As is usually the case with Dardenne protagonists, Cyril doesn’t make the best decisions, but because he’s a kid and is so hot-headed, it sort of works and makes sense. And considering she could have easily turned into a silly, sappy type that these types of stories love to have, Cécile de France feels real and honest as Samantha, a gal who doesn’t know what she’s gotten herself into, but knows the end results of what happens if she walks away, so she sticks it out, the best that she can. The two have a lovely little bit of chemistry, seeming as if they’re getting to know, as well as love one another, gradually over time, with the usual hurdles having to be climbed over.

But hey, that’s how family.

But the reason why the Kid with the Bike isn’t, in my book, considered one of the Dardenne’s best, even though it can come very, very close, is its cop-out of an ending.

And that’s all I’ll say about that. Just see it and you’ll know what I’m saying. Hopefully.

Consensus: Despite a folly ending, the Kid with the Bike is typical of the Dardenne’s, in that it’s sad, honest, heartfelt, and surprisingly warm, given the underlining of darkness always there to be found.

8 / 10

Well, maybe he’s got some charm.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

L’enfant (2005)

Some people just shouldn’t have children. Especially idiotic children.

After giving birth, teenage Sonia (Déborah François) returns home to find that her boyfriend, a petty criminal named Bruno (Jérémie Renier), has sublet their apartment. Sonia tracks Bruno down on the street, and after the couple spends the night together, they decide to start a new life with the baby and forget about any of their past trouble and woes. But the next morning, Bruno sells their child for cash, sending Sonia into an absolute state of shock and awe. How could he do this? Was it for love? Money? Or did he just not want to responsibility any longer of taking care of something that is, you know, his? Regardless, she decides that it’s best to press charges against him for taking what was rightfully hers. Bruno is shocked by her decision, too, so he vows to find the baby and bring it back to her, by any means necessary. And being that he’s already in the criminal-game, Bruno’s got some ideas and tricks up his sleeve.

“Looks like money to me.”

As usual with the writing/directing team of Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne, L’enfant is no easy ride. In fact, it’s one of their more disturbing, hard-to-watch movies ever made as we literally never grow to like any of these characters. Sure, you could say that about the rest of their films, in which we never really judge the characters, as much as we just sit and watch them, but here, it feels like they’re so despicable, that spending any time with them whatsoever, let alone two hours, would just be way, way too much. Add-on the fact that the Dardenne’s love themselves some hand-held close-ups and yeah, you’ve got a pretty miserable experience.

And yes, that’s exactly the point.

See, L’enfant is a hard movie to watch because, like most of the Dardenne’s other movies, it asks us the simple question of whether or not we can accept these idiotic, downright juvenile human beings as just that, human beings? They’re stupid and they make absolutely dumb decisions, but does that make them any less human than you or I? The Dardenne’s have always examined this in their movies, but it feels more raw and relevant here because, at the center of it all, is something resembling a love story, that eventually, as expected, turns sour.

But then it becomes a sort of redemption-story of one Bruno, who goes from being the most unlikable, despicable human being on the face of the planet, to actually a pretty determined guy, when he wants to be. See though, that’s the thing about Bruno and the movie – we never fully see it all in just one light. Bruno can be seen as another dumb young adult who doesn’t really know what to do, unless he’s committing some act of vandalism or crime, but when faced with responsibility, can act his age and actually make something of his relatively pathetic life.

Seriously. Michael Bay, take notes.

And it deserves stating that Jérémie Renier, a Dardenne regular since he was literally 14, does one of his best jobs here. Of course, it helps that he’s got a lot to work with; Bruno grows throughout the whole course of the movie and we see different shades of him. We may not always like, or respect the shades, but they are still shades nonetheless, and Renier remains always compelling. We never know what his next action will be, or for what reasons, and because of that, he’s incredibly watchable and perfect for this kind of role, in this kind of movie.

The kind of raw, gritty, and in-your-face movie that needs raw, gritty, in-your-face performance to match it.

But honestly, it’s the Dardenne’s who deserve a lot of praise for, once again, proving that the best way to tell stories such as these, is to just sit back and let the acting/writing do the talking itself. Which is surprising because a solid portion of the movie is actually quite as thrilling; a car-chase that happens about halfway through and seems to go on forever, is way more exciting than most that I see in your typical, summer blockbuster fare. But it doesn’t always resort to action to really keep itself compelling – all it needs is a little emotion and heartbreak to drive everything along.

Sort of like life itself.

Consensus: As sad as it is, L’enfant is still another masterclass in raw, gritty naturalism that the Dardenne’s have practically perfected, with a great lead performance from Renier.

8.5 / 10

Thanks, Bruno. Always making the men look good in this kind of situation.

Photos Courtesy of: Sony Classics

Saint Laurent (2015)

Fashion’s cool and all, but partying is probably better.

Yves Saint Laurent (Gaspard Ulliel) has become synonymous with the fashion world. However, he also had his fair share of personal and professional issues that kept him away from being a person people would want to be around and appreciate. Through many years of his life, we see as Yves goes through all sorts of love-partners, as well as co-workers, most of whom either despise, or adore him. Either way, people know that Yves has a certain style that the people want and because of this, everybody is willing to stick with all of his odd, almost preposterous idiosyncrasies. All of this is chronicled at the time during his life from 1967 to 1976, when everybody was at his beck and call, yet, so little people actually loved or cared for him and were more concerned with milking the cash cow for as long as they could. Yves knew this, however, and it’s one of the main reasons why he would continue to break away from the rest of society for so long throughout his life.

Strike a pose!

Strike a pose!

I’m all for a biopic not standing by conventional route we tend to see with a biopic, or a story about a certain famous person in which there achievements are told through something as deep and meaningful as a Wikipedia entry. However, Saint Laurent is the kind of pretentious piece of film making that makes me wish more movies did follow a structure of some sorts, wherein we understood and learned more about the biopic subjects, and not just follow its own rhythm and pattern. After all, there is something to be said for a movie that does what it wants, when it wants, and plays by its own rules, when its subject did the same exact thing in real life, but really, there could have been so much more done here had some rules been followed.

Actually, scratch that. A lot of rules.

See, what director Bertrand Bonello does here is that he focuses on one time in the life of Yves Saint Laurent that may have been the most successful, as well as exciting, but he doesn’t really show how or why. Instead, the movie just more or less shows us that Laurent tended to be a bit of a perfectionist, something of a drama queen, and a generally closed-off human being who didn’t really treat those who loved him or worked with him, to the best of his ability. In fact, there’s one key scene in which an employee of Laurent’s tells him that she needs to get an abortion and doesn’t have the money for it. Laurent gives her the money and tells her that she’ll always have a place to work, except that, moments later, he’s seen at a dinner table talking about how he wants that employee fired.

If anything, this scene not only tells you everything you need to know about Laurent, but is perhaps the only bit of insight the movie ever actually gives us. Other than that, we just get a bunch of scenes where Laurent slowly pans around, looks at fancy clothes, touches his chin, engage in promiscuous sex, do drugs, drink, dance, party, and most of all, be an a-hole to everyone around him. That’s pretty much all we get to see about Laurent here and while it’s nice to see a biopic that doesn’t necessarily set out to glamorize its subject, it would have also been nice to see more about him that made this movie worth watching in the first place.

And then, of course, there’s the pace.

I'd party with her. Not him.

I’d party with her. Not him.

Saint Laurent meanders so much, for so long, that by the time the two-and-a-half-hour run-time had hit its limit, I got up out of my seat, took a walk, took a shower, and then, continued on with my watching. Rather than getting started on another movie/show right off the bat as soon as it ended, instead, I had to do something else more productive with my time, as well as get past the fact that I wasted so much time with a movie that seemed to go hardly anywhere from the very start. And while there’s no issue with a movie taking its time, when it turns out to be very clear that the movie has no set destination in mind, after awhile, all of the waddling around can get to be a bit of a pain.

None of this is particularly any of the cast’s problems, either. Basically, they’re trying their absolute hardest to make sense of what’s going on and just how exactly they can make things better. Gaspard Ulliel looks great as Laurent, but doesn’t really get a chance to dive deep into the inner-soul of what made Laurent such a tragic, rather misunderstood figure. We see him do a lot of crying and whining, but that’s not enough to really have us see him for all that he was when it came to not just being a fashion-designer, but also a human being.

In fact, it’s those around him who are probably the most humanized and understood. Jérémie Renier’s Pierre Bergé constantly wants to be there for Laurent no matter how hard times between the two get, but also can’t seem to help himself from sponging off of the goods, too; Louis Garrel’s Jacques de Bascher may seem like he’s just there for the sex with Laurent, but really wants something loving and caring, too; and Léa Seydoux’s Loulou de la Falaise may not go all that deeper than just being “the party girl”, but hey, it was nice to see her around. Wish there was more for each of these talented actors to do, but for what it’s worth, it was nice to see them at least try in a movie that didn’t seem to care for them, or anything else.

It just wanted to be cool and stylish, sort of like its subject.

Consensus: Saint Laurent may daringly play by its own rules, it still doesn’t offer enough glimpses of heart, humanity, or even insight into its subject, but instead, just shows him as a guy who did some stuff and that’s about it.

2 / 10

Just chillin'.

Just chillin’.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

In Bruges (2008)

Who knew Bruges was such a happenin’ place! Full of fun, murder and all!

After a job goes terribly wrong, hitmen Ken (Brendan Gleeson) and Ray (Colin Farrell) are sent away to Bruges to let the heat die down. This also allows for their boss (Ralph Fiennes) to think of their next move, so that while they’re in Bruges, not only can they enjoy the various sights, but they can wait on his call for further instructions of what to do next. In the meantime, the two hitmen go sight-seeing, although against most of Ray’s wishes; instead, he would much rather like to drink, do drugs, find some pretty ladies and have as much fun as one possibly could while vacationing in a place like Bruges. Luckily for Ray, there’s a local film crew around town filming something with a dwarf and a pretty gal (Clémence Poésy) that he automatically takes a liking to. However, the aftermath of his one job still continues to mess with his mind and threatens to ruin any possibility of being sane he may have. To make matters even worse, when the two guys eventually do get their call from the boss, it isn’t a pleasing one and may actually pit the two seemingly good friends up against one another.

But hey, that’s business, mate.

It’s a very rare occasion in which a movie that I have seen more than a handful of times, can not only just make me laugh nearly as much as I did the first time around, but can also keep me on edge as to where the story is going next. And with In Bruges, it’s an even rarer-occasion, because, generally, the film leans on its constant plot twists that take over the last-act of this movie; plot twists that I have seen many times before. So for a movie to excite me all over again, as if I was just watching it for the first time in my life, truly is a work of magic.

I think we all know she's in for a wild night ahead of her.

I think we all know she’s in for a wild night ahead of her.

Because, the fact remains, In Bruges is one of the better dark-comedies of the past decade, and not too many people know about it. Even if they should, they don’t. But while that may seem like a meaningless “idea that I think is actually a fact”, there’s something endearing about that aspect that works wonders for this movie.

For instance, the movie prides itself in being contained to this one, rather small part of Bruges; a place you didn’t think was a perfect setting for a film, but somehow, totally is. It’s a place that the movie mocks on more than one occasion, but also shows that there’s some beauty in the land these guys are vacationing at. I don’t mean in just the numerous museums or churches these two guys see, I mean in the people they meet and the things that happen to them, both good and bad. What I’m basically trying to say is that Bruges itself, becomes something of a character in a movie that’s named after it and it creates a small vortex of a world that, as they say in the movie, “Seems like you’re in a dream.”

All that philosophical shite aside (working on my Irish over here), this movie is still entertaining-as-hell no matter how many times it’s watched. You so rarely get that with any movie, but when you see as many movies as I do on a regular basis (more than any normal human being should ever have to), certain movies just fade in your mind and you lose the ability to love them all over again. However, with In Bruges, that ability isn’t anywhere to be found; in fact, I think I may love the movie even more now, then I did way back when I saw it in the early days of ’09.

Certain jokes I can catch up on quicker now, the story makes a whole lot more sense, and the performances from the trio of lead veers quite closely into being “perfect”; especially from Colin Farrell, the actor I’ve always had faith in, and here is exactly the reason why.

As Ray, Farrell is a ticking time bomb just waiting to explode and destroy everything around him. You get the sense that he’s a young, brash asshole that doesn’t know when to keep his mouth shut, nor knows how to act like an adult, but that’s sort of the point of the character and makes Farrell act even better than before. He’s a bit of a punk that does and says bad things throughout the majority of this movie (as hilarious as they sometimes may be), but knows that they are bad, wrong, they should not be done, and at least wants to move on from those mistakes and see if he can turn his life around.

In other words, he’s a bastard with a conscience, and every single second of watching Farrell play him is a total pleasure.

Even more of a pleasure to watch is Brendan Gleeson as the older, much more experience hitman that’s something of a father-figure to Ray, although the movie doesn’t hit us over the head with that idea. Instead, it just allows us to see Ray and Ken as two guys, who have the same job, and are mates, yet, they are in a bit of a sticky situation that can go either way. They don’t know, and they don’t necessarily care. They just want to take each day as they come and both characters express that feeling in two very different ways. For Ray, spending his day is all about getting drunk, having a shag or two with a lady, and just overall, having a grand old time. Whereas for Ken, he’s much more simpler in that he likes to read a book or two, explore the land around him a bit, and at the end of the day, go to bed while watching the tube.

They’re both opposites, yet, they are very good friends that understand each other and at least try to make sense of where the other one comes from. Watching them speak to each other about such stuff like either Belgium art, guys who sell lollipops, kung-fu, is constantly fun and entertaining, while very interesting because we see certain shades of their characters come out that we didn’t expect to ever see, all throughout their conversations. It also helps that Gleeson and Farrell have a lovely chemistry that never feels false. Not even for a single second.

Look out, Oskar!

Look out, Oskar!

And to make matters even better, we have Ralph Fiennes here as the foul-mouthed, constantly pissed-off boss of theirs that isn’t around a lot, but when he does show up, is around to only take care of business his way. We hardly ever see Fiennes do a performance as nasty or as eccentric as this, which is what exactly makes it such a pleasant, if totally unexpected surprise. But what Fiennes is able to find in this character is some ounce of humanity that makes him more than just a dirty, cold-blooded killer; the dude has a code/conscience, and all he’s doing is following through with it. He’s a mean old son-of-a-bitch, but he’s at least a human one, and the fact that we get to see that aspect of the character is truly a testament to the kind of actor that Fiennes is.

But honestly, I’m going on and on about the cast, without mentioning the one who is really responsible for this whole thing coming together so perfectly: Writer/director Martin McDonagh. Sure, McDonagh’s style of blending dark comedy with humane-drama, and bloody violence, has all been done numerous times before, but there’s something oh so refreshing about McDonagh here that makes me wonder not only why he doesn’t do more movies, but also why many more writers and directors haven’t followed suit? Because what McDonagh does so amazingly well here, is that he finds out what makes us laugh, what makes us cry, and what keeps us on the edge of our seats when watching movies, and combine them all together to make a movie accessible enough for anyone to see.

I mean, I’m not saying that In Bruges is the perfect pint of Guinness for either mom, dad, or your younger sibling, but what I am saying is that if you and your pals are hanging around late one night, need something to watch that will not only interest you, but have you downright laughing and enjoying yourselves, then you could do worse. Far, far worse.

Moral to the story: Watch this movie and thank me later.

Now go!

Consensus: Hilarious, fun, superbly-acted, exciting, surprising, and sweet in spots you don’t expect it to be, In Bruges is a near-perfect dark-comedy/thriller more people need to see in order to realize just how much crap is truly out there in the world that everybody knows, and why little gems like this go so unnoticed, for so very long.

9.5 / 10 = Full Price!!

Something in that image doesn't fit with the rest of it....

Something in that image doesn’t fit with the rest of it….

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images