Four films

Revolutionary Road

I haven’t read the book, but the film version certainly made an impact. There’s something dramatically satisfying about seeing articulate people argue, and Winslet and DiCaprio give it everything they’ve got, and there are sterling supporting performances from Michael Shannon and Dylan Baker. Frustration, shattered dreams, disillusionment and falling out of love don’t sound like the ingredients for a fun night out at the movies, but then again movies don’t have to be “nice” in order to be pleasurable. Favourite line, when Winslet admits that she doesn’t love her husband any more: “You’re just some boy who made me laugh at a party once”.

The Wrestler

I saw this in a cinema in Exeter which had seen better days (the cinema, not Exeter) – the carpet was worn at the edges and rainwater steadily dripped through a hole in the ceiling into the cinema throughout the film. Strangely I didn’t mind, as this air of dilapidation rather suited the film, which is a subdued, melancholy portrait of a has-been, and while the plot and dialogue don’t really offer anything new or unexpected I enjoyed the feel of it, and the glimpse into another world – the fascinating details of the wrestling milieu, the camaraderie, the pitiful sight of faded stars forced into retirement by injury trying to scrape together enough money to survive by signing autographs and hawking tattered memorabilia from their long-gone heyday. If you’re in the mood for a piece of bluesy existentialism interspersed with bone-crunching violence (one wrestling scene in particular is painful to watch) you could do a lot worse.

Unrelated, but amusing: queueing in front of me as I entered were half a dozen middle-aged women buying tickets for a midday screening of teen vampire sensation Twilight. “I’ve read all the books!” one of them squealed.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

My god, what a disappointment. Quite the most tedious film I’ve seen in a long time. Uninvolving and seemingly interminable, the film-makers seem so certain of the initial impact of their (well, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s) high concept that they don’t feel the need to flesh it out or explore it in any depth. At no point did I really connect with Brad Pitt’s character, which is not surprising since he’s such a blank, personality-free protagonist with nothing particularly interesting to say about his reverse-ageing predicament. The premise is a juicy one, and the scope for insights and observations on society’s attitudes to freaks, ageing, our relationships with our own bodies, male-female relationships are myriad, especially given the near-three-hour running time. But even the comedic possibilities of a young boy in an old man’s body are ignored. Instead we get a listless voice-over offering trite, cod-philosophical nuggets like “Nothing lasts forever” and “You can’t escape your fate”. All that was missing was “Life is like a box of chocolates”.  The only person who makes any kind of impression, who makes you feel that their character is a living, breathing, interesting human being is the ever-excellent Tilda Swinton.

Slumdog Millionaire

It was probably inevitable that I was slightly underwhelmed by this one, considering all the hype and awards hoopla surrounding it. It’s still a colourful, energetic and refreshingly upbeat film though, despite the grinding poverty, violence and gratuitous poo. The editing was a little ADHD for my tastes, the music was good but often intrusive, and there’s the nagging suspicion that there’s less to it than meets the eye, but the depiction of the protagonist’s rough childhood in the slums of Mumbai is vivid and the structure, whereby successive quiz questions lead to flashbacks explaining how he knows the answers, is neat.

12 thoughts on “Four films

  1. Erik R. February 13, 2009 / 11:20 am

    It turns out that enjoyment of movies, and everything in life, is highly dependent upon your initial expectations.


  2. jane February 13, 2009 / 2:26 pm

    Naturally, I haven’t seen any of these, but I just want to say that I adore Kate Winslet and would, in fact, like to be her when I grow up.


  3. CuriosityKiller February 14, 2009 / 6:52 pm

    Wow – this is the second time I’ve heard complaining about “Curious Case of Benjamin Button”… and I was so looking forward to it. 😦

    Well – at least I have “Revolutionary Road” to look forward to. Kate Winslet’s taking all the spotlights this year. 🙂


  4. Peter February 16, 2009 / 11:12 am

    Benjamin Button made me feel like walking out of the theater too Simon…

    Such a disappointment…


  5. simonlitton February 16, 2009 / 11:15 am

    Peter – I was bored after five minutes and looked at my watch regularly from that point on.


  6. J February 17, 2009 / 7:25 am

    I saw some of Slumdog Millionair (don’t ask) and all of Revolutionary Road. I LOVED RR. Just finished reading the book before I saw the film, and if the film was at all devastating, the book was moreso. Really good. Now I want to see Kate in “The Reader”.


  7. Karen meg February 17, 2009 / 8:36 pm

    Four movies that I am really looking forward to seeing! I’m surprised that Brad Pitt got an oscar nod, based on your comments (I’ve never thought he was the greatest actor, although he wasn’t bad in Babel). But like you, I expect to be disappointed with those given too much hoopla!


  8. simonlitton February 19, 2009 / 10:20 am

    Karen – I have no particular problem with Brad Pitt. My problem here was the script, which gave him nothing to do.


  9. sgazzetti February 20, 2009 / 1:41 pm

    So now I can delete “Benjamin Button” unwatched instead of deleting a perfectly good Friday night?


  10. simonlitton February 20, 2009 / 1:51 pm

    Yes. If you need a David Fincher-Brad Pitt fix, watch Se7en or Fight Club again.


  11. birdandpickle March 7, 2009 / 2:45 pm

    I’m late to this but have to comment. I haven’t seen The Wrestler yet but saw the others and had mostly the same response you did, which is nice because I thought I was the only human alive who didn’t love Slumdog Millionaire. I feel that Danny Boyle doesn’t understand the concept of “peaks and valleys.” That movie was one treacherous peak after another — every horrible, violent thing that could possibly happen to a person, over and over and over again. Furthermore, I don’t believe that children fall in love like that, and I know that cell phones don’t ring that many times before going to voice mail. When it comes to film, I prefer hyper-realism, so it didn’t stand a chance with me. I love Indian culture, music, actors and landscapes but no — couldn’t stomach Slumdog.

    The best film of the season, to me, was Frost/Nixon. It was beautifully understated and well acted, and the writing was snappy but in that natural way that makes it almost invisible.


    • simonlitton March 9, 2009 / 3:09 pm

      Fair comments, although I feel I have to point out that people still tend to credit the director with whatever they liked or hated about a film, yet when you’re talking about something like the pacing, structure or plot-holes that’s probably more the fault of the screenwriter (or the writer of the original novel – in this case Vikras Swarup).


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