August 2, 2010

Film Fest: Day Fifteen

Wow. Just typing out that title "Film Fest: Day Fifteen" was a little scary. Fifteen days of constant movie watching?! Insanity. Yet here I am, still with a coupla days to go. So what was on the cinematic menu for today? A brutal noir, an uncomfortably funny comedy and a disappointing sci-fi.

The Killer Inside Me
This was one of my most anticipated films of the Festival. I've been liking what Affleck has been doing the past few years, and Winterbottom is always an interesting director to watch. Of course, when the film premiered at Sundance there was much hue and cry raised about the violence, particularly towards women. One woman calling shame down on the film, and shame down on Sundance for showing it. What a blinkered view.
Winterbottom certainly doesn't shy away from the violence. But seeing as how this is a film, based on the book of the same name, that follows a cold killer of a man would you expect the blow to be softened?
This is a brave central performance by Casey Affleck, not shying away from the cold darkness inherent to the character. He brings that smarmy style of charm so associated with his older brother, but with a dark edge to it. But we cannot forget Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson, both giving brave performances in their own way. It's not usual for Hollywood starlets to allow their characters to be treated this way. They are absolutely fearless, the both of them. There are scenes, particularly with them, that are extraordinarily difficult to watch. The ending is, however, is somehow beautiful. In a twisted sort of way.
It's a brutal 50's Texas set film noir, and the obvious companion piece to it would be American Psycho.

I was not expecting to like this as much as I did. I feared some sort of hipster style comedy. I was pleasantly surprised as this is one of the best, funniest and most real romantic comedies I've ever seen.
John C. Reilly is a schlub, divorced the past seven years and still not over it. At a party he meets Marisa Tomei. And they hit it off. And things seem to be going great between them and you get the sense that this is the first happiness either of them have had for a long time. And then he meets her son. Her hyper-intelligent, passive-aggressive obsessive son, played by Jonah Hill. You remember when Robin Williams first went creepy for One Hour Photo? That's what Hill seems to be channeling here as he appears from the shadows with a blank face and false friendship to Reilly.
Unsurprisingly, given that Reilly and Hill are the male leads, the comedy is informed by the Apatow/McKay school of improvisation. Thankfully, the directors keep a rein on things becoming too absurd. They have a keen eye for relationships, and how real (and adult) relationships work and can get screwed up by the people in an around them. The similarities between John C. Reilly's character (unable to completely let go of his ex-wife) and Jonah Hill's Cyrus (unable to let go of his mum) are noted without being overplayed. The only time this very realness, this naturalness, becomes distracting is in the camera-work. The "documentary" feel to it can be distracting at times. I understand wanting to keep the camera fluid, like the scenes, but there a few too many obvious zooms for it to totally work.
However, that's a minor gripe to an overall wonderful film. It's funny, sweet, real and more than a little awkward.

Oh. Oh dear. Oh how very disappointed I was with this. From the director of Cube Vincenzo Natali and produced by Guillermo del Toro? With Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley creating an horrific abomination of nature and a crime against nature?! How could I not dig this groove? Well, it turns out... throw a bunch of cool stuff together and sometimes you get a big, cheesy disappointment. Like microwave macaroni.
Brody and Polley are cutting-edge geneticists; they're rock-star scientists, part of the geek-chic. They wear crazy-cool clothes and have a punk rock attitude to science and morals. They push the boundaries, man. So they end up creating a animal-human collage like creature before their funding gets pulled. And from there... well, every beat is pretty predictable. An anonymous female donor is mentioned and, guess what? It turns out to be Polley! With the running (more brisk walking) and hiding there's no real sense of tension or horror. Their quickly growing (and maturing) creation/daughter Dren tends to just... hang out.
The interplay between the three of them and the shift in dynamics is largely handled well; Polley first protecting Dren and then clashing with her and Brody at first wanting to destroy her and then... well, this is where the film lost me actually. You see, Brody and Dren... get it on. Down'n'dirty in the hideout: the scientist and the creation. The audience lapped it up, whooping with laughter at the pure ridiculousness of it.
There were quite a few moments of that: unintentional laughter. Splice was a very serious-faced B-movie that didn't pull it off. Which is a real shame because I love genre films, I love sci-fi and I love the potential of a great idea. It just didn't happen here.

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad I missed Splice - I've not heard anything particularly positive from anyone who saw it.

    I'm still not completely certain how I feel about The Killer Inside Me. Casey Affleck was absolutely terrific but I came away feeling unsatisfied and I found the end to be on the wrong side of farce (although I understand it follows the source material very closely). Where American Psycho was satire, I'm not sure if I would put "Killer" in that realm. I have bought Coup De Torchon, another film based on a work by the same author, so I'm going to give that a go to see if it is in fact the author or the adapter with whom I have a problem.