02 March 2013

Day 2 of the !f Festival

Stories We Tell
A very interesting movie. I don't want to say too much about it, because I went in blind and I think the movie is a lot more fun if you don't know the story, but basically, it's Sarah Polley exploring her own life by conducting interviews with her family. Invariably, it thereby becomes a reflection on memory and identity and family and how we make sense of our lives, but it's very well handled and actually quite engrossing.

Celeste and Jesse Forever
This is about what I expected, ie, the reviews turned out to be right: despite very lovable performances from everyone involved, and a seemingly interesting story, the movie just can't quite get off the ground. Celeste and Jesse have been separated for months, but still act like a married couple. Because the movie doesn't really explore why their relationship fell apart, we're not really sure, as an audience, how we should feel about the whole situation. Which is fine, the movie is pleasant anyhow, with funny bits of dialogue and likeable characters, so it kind of ambles along and all is well, and then there are some curveballs, so you're somewhat intrigued as to what will happen next, but the movie is just so even tempered and mellow about it all that you kind of don't worry about it too much. After all, let's be honest - you know everything is going to work out in the end anyways. Oddly enough, most of the characters are basically blanks - the film rapidly comes to focus on Rashida Jones' character, and everyone else is just background. Colleen noted that it's interesting to see a rom-com discuss divorce, to which my response was well except not really, because it's not like it actually explores it in a very substantive way, it's really just typical rom-com plot moves but in a slightly different configuration. To my mind, this stuff is all so superficial anyhow that I focus more of the surface. To me, what was innovative was the open discussion of marijuana (change is a'comin', America!) and the many references to Biz Markie (nice!). I was glad that the career woman, although typically self-absorbed, obsessed with being right, and out of touch with her own emotional life, was mostly pretty likeable rather than being an utter harridan.
But yeah, overall, meh.

Nobody Walks
I was interested in this one primarily because it was co-written by Lena Dunham, and I find her work interesting. The cast is really excellent - Olivia Thirlby is just as mesmerizing as she's supposed to be, Rosemarie DeWitt is smart and intriguing, John Krasinski is wonderfully likeable yet flawed - they absolutely carry the film. The story is off a young artist named Martine (Thirlby) who comes to stay with a family so that the husband, who does sound for movies, can help her with the sound editing of a video-art piece. She semi-inadvertently wreaks havoc as all the men around become attracted to her.
     One of the interesting things about the movie is that she does not set out to be a home-wrecker, nor is she callously sowing discord. The film remains ambivalent as to whether she bears some responsibility for the negative consequences that result (at one point she says "I'm just doing what I need to do to get my shit done!" or something like that, and it's a good point). I appreciated the ambivalence, and the subtle way that the movie gestures towards the fact that disaster seems to follow in this girl's wake, without taking a position on why. It was actually kind of thought-provoking. It's part of a broader inquiry into the nature of a young woman's sexuality, and how they are both subjects and objects, in a curious way. There's a nice parallel here with the character of the sixteen year old daughter, who is negotiating these questions herself. Particularly interesting is that she's being sleazed at by her Italian tutor (not quite preyed upon, but certainly, what's happening is not ok). Her response initially seems like a girl power! sort of moment, and then gets very scary for a second - a poignant reminder of the danger that underlies these kinds of things. Just speaking up for yourself is not a solution.
     I think the film also does a pretty good job capturing the realities of marriage, though not being married myself, I wouldn't really know. But it certainly felt like a more authentic portrayal of a relationship, where you notice that your partner is checking someone else out, but that is neither the end of the relationship nor completely unimportant.
    Another thing I really liked about the movie was that, appropriately enough for a film where two people are working on sound production, it used sound in a wonderful way. You know how sometimes you see a movie, and afterwards you are suddenly way, way more conscious of all the noises around you? This was one of those movies. I peeled an orange when I got home, and was just kind of lost in the raspy, squishy sound of it. I think that's an indicator of an effective use of sound in a film. It makes you hear things more.
  It is not a perfect movie. Actually, my first response to it was kind of lukewarm, and now I'm finding myself warming to it. I think it's because it is subtle and not overdone. There's a wonderful restraint to it - no massive, horrific consequences and hyperbolic dramas. Things happen, life goes on. It's a feature I'm appreciating more and more in movies.

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