Sunday, October 4, 2009

Girls Who Kill, Women Who Skate & A Women In Love

I have been on a bit of a movie rampage over the last little while. Haven't had the time to review everyone I have seen. On this lazy Saturday night, while on a hot date with my PVR, I thought I would try and rattle off a few reviews. Three very different movies - all with Women as the leads - although not necessarily Chick Flicks per se.

I saw Jennifer's Body a few weeks ago. Although it was pretty much panned by critics and had a relatively disastrous opening weekend, I thought it wasn't that bad. Megan Fox didn't even mention it last weekend when she was hosting SNL, ostensibly to promote the movie she seems to be doing everything to distance herself from. Way for her to be supportive of her own work!

Jennifer's Body is about a girl (Amanda Seyfried) - with the unfortunate nickname of Needy - whose best friend Jennifer (Megan Fox) gets possessed by a demon and goes on a killing spree. Written by Diablo Cody who won an Academy Award for Juno, there are a lot of smart one-liners and witty puns in this film. So much so that it makes you wish you had a 30-something year old writing all of your dialogue for you in high school. The whole movie felt like a smart one-liner and witty pun explosion - that was pretty much all their was to it.

I went into the movie expecting to judge Megan Fox and her acting ability or lack thereof.. I am still pretty much undecided. She is super hot - in a cheap, trailer park kinda way. I get why the boys all wanna f*ck her. But as to whether she can act.....I don't know yet. I am a fan of Amanda Seyfried - and as always she did a great job in the film. There was an episode of Big Love this year that she was the focal point of - when she miscarries - OMG - it killed me, I get tingles thinking about it - A-mazing.

For me, the best part of the movie was Adam Brody's character. He played the lead singer of the band who are the reason that Jennifer became possessed (basically, they kidnap her and try to sacrifice her to some God as an offering to help them become rich and famous. Problem is the sacrifice needs to be a virgin and Jennifer is not - hence becoming possessed and killing people). What I loved was his explanation for what they did - that there are so many indie bands out there that this was the only option they had left - unless they were lucky enough to get on a soundtrack or Letterman. This was genius! It's funny cause it's true!

Jennifer's Body was fun and silly. It made me laugh. Didn't really make me squirm as a horror film should. And it most definitely was not Juno. But I was entertained for 2 hours, which is what a movie should do right?

Next up is the luminous Drew Barrymore's directorial debut - Whip it! Now I kinda went into this thinking I wouldn't like it - it was one of those expect the worst, but hope for the best situations. You know how it is with actors who try and direct - often they suck. Whip it! was not a perfect movie - it was a little disjointed in parts and there was a lot of stuff going on, but overall I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Whip it! tells the story of yet another unfortunately named highschooler - Bliss Cavendish (Ellen Page) - a small town girl who transforms her life and herself when she becomes Babe Ruthless in a roller derby league. Along the way she fights & reconciles with her best friend (Alia Shawkat), loves and loses a dreamy boy (Landon Pigg), alienates both parents Marcia Gay Harden & Daniel Stern), but by the end makes them super see where I am going with this. The movie is pretty much one big cliche, complete with an epic battle at the end between Bliss' Team and that of their nemeses - The Holy Rollers, led by Iron Maven (Juliette Lewis).
The supporting cast - led by the always amazing Kristen Wiig - were great - Zoe Bell, Eve, Drew Barrymore, Jimmy Fallon - all good. The cast apparently did all their own stunts which is commendable, cause really - outside of roller derby - who rollerskates anymore? Landon Pigg as "indie rock band guy" - Oliver - did pretty good for his first role. I have had a few of his songs on my I-pod for a few years - he is a decent singer.
Page as always was phenomenal and pretty much carries the movie. However, that breathy voice she used in some scenes was a tad annoying - especially as it came and went depending on the scene..... I don't get it? Small thing though. Her scenes with the always flawless Harden are great. I also really enjoyed the scenes with Daniel Stern as Bliss' long-suffering father - I didn't recognise him as the robber who wasn't Joe Pesci in Home Alone until the credits rolled at the end. And for those critics who are worried about the young star being typecast as the indie misfit should check out the preview for Inception due out next year. Drew's directorial debut was impressive. She elicited great performances from her cast and it is clear that they had a strong camaraderie that appears to have carried beyond the film.
Huge props go to Drew for her musical selections for this film - From the opening scene with Kings of Leon's "Knocked Up' (a sly homage to Juno perhaps?), to MGMT's "Kids" - the music in this film was great and helped the movie flow. Overall, I was impressed with Ms Barrymore's directorial debut. I suspect that Drew is not as sweet and kooky as her public persona portrays her, and she has demonstrated her skill as a director in making a smart, funny, sweet coming of age film. I look forward to seeing what she comes up with next!


Jane Campion's latest film Bright Star was next. This is the relatively simple yet ultimately doomed story of acclaimed British poet John Keats (Ben Wishaw) and his love for the girl next door Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish) in early 1800's London.
This is a beautifully shot film, there are some scenes that are framed so perfectly, it is quite breathtaking. The costumes are spectacular - especially Cornish's whose character was renowned as a fashion maven in her time. The language in the entire film is poetic - both with the actual poetry and the remainder of the dialogue.
A revelation for me was Paul Schneider who plays Keats friend and benefactor Charles Armitage Brown. I have never seen him in a dramatic role before ( he is currently in NBC's Parks & Recreation) and he was fantastic as the boorish and interfering Brown. Abbie Cornish is proving that she is much more than the Aussie girl who supposedly came between Reece Witherspoon and Ryan Phillipe. The camera loves her and her simple understated performance is already being touted as award worthy. In a year that does not yet have a ton of strong female performances yet, I would not be surprised to see her nominated as Best Actress.
This is ultimately a tragic story. Keats dies at the age of 25 and the film documents that last few years of his life, when his health deteriorates, but he was also his most creative and prolific in his writing. In this day and age, the possibility of receiving an actual handwritten love letter is so small. Everything is done through email, twitter, facebook and text messaging. This movie kinda makes me wish that I lived in a time when the only way to communicate with someone far away was to put pen to paper..... I have a friend who gets actual postcards from people, and he is always excited by this. But then I remember how much I love the interweb, my I-Phone, twitter and writing this wee blog. Although a love letter would still be nice.....
Bright Star is a beautiful film. It is lush and warm. The performances by the cast - particularly Abbie Cornish - are strong. Jane Campion has made a masterful film about one of the most respected and renowned poets of the period. But at it's heart, Bright Star is a simple love story - and is a deeply moving and tragic testament to Jane Campion's skill as a filmmaker.

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