The Time Traveler’s Wife (2009)

Maybe the book is better.  The Time Traveler’s Wife is a romantic drama directed by Robert Schwentke, adapted from Audrey Niffenegger’s bestseller of the same name, and I had heard so many great things about the book, and I am a big fan of the romantic drama genre, but all that was for naught.  This is a good movie which requires a certain amount of suspense of belief to enjoy even at the moderate level.  Eric Bana plays Henry DeTamble, a man who involuntarily time travels.  Clare Abshire (Rachel McAdams). Henry is a librarian afflicted with a genetic disease that causes him to travel through time more or less randomly. Henry’s unpredictable escapades are often dangerous, terrifying and sometimes life-threatening ordeals because he ends up buck-naked and starving in unknown places and times. For those reasons, Henry keeps himself in top physical shape and taught “himself” all type of survival skills such as pick-pocketing, street fighting, or picking locks. After a random while, he always goes back to his “present” but is largely unable to affect his future. At age 28, he meets 20-yr old Clare Abshire. He doesn’t know her but she has known him since she was 6 and has been waiting for him all her life and will do so the rest of her life.  This is the part that I find kind of creepy.  He meets his wife as a time traveler when she is a kid–she gets a crush on him, which is largely not his fault–but once she is his wife, he goes back and visits her on a more or less regular basis…which affects her trajectory in life.  One of the inconsistencies in the story is that he cannot affect the outcome of life’s events–he tries to stop his mother’s death over and over again but he cannot–but on the other hand, the chance meeting with Claire as a 6 year old does affect her life.  So when does it happen and when doesn’t it?  Hard to say.  Anyway, the whole manipulation of the woman who becomes your wife was unsettling enough that I couldn’t get over it.  Otherwise, Rachel McAdams does a good job portraying the wife of a man who she adores but can;t really count on.  Eric Bana seems a bit wooden, and I am starting to think that might be a pattern for him–Romulus, My Father, and The Other Boleyn Girl being two recent examples.  The cinematography has a beautiful stark and cold quality to it which reinforce the tragic nature of the movie. The movie was beautifully shot by Florian Ballhaus and is the strongest attribute of the movie. The crafty camera-work using motion and placement selection gave a particular tone to his scenes and Schwentke used that to his advantage in the film, giving the movie a light touch of fantasy. He created a nice immersing atmosphere that really highlighted Clare and Henry’s impending fate. The CGI effects of Henry’s time traveling are unspectacular but first rate while the overused musical score was melancholic, adding to the tragic tone of the movie.  If you are a lover of the tragic love story or wither of the two leads, this one might be a good one for you–otherwise I would recommend another choice.

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Coco Before Chanel (2009)


Directed by Anne Fontaine and based upon the book by Edmonde Charles-Roux, Coco Before Chanel is a biographical tale of Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel set a timeline which is just that, before she founded her empire. So for those who are more intrigued about the fashion world and the impact Chanel has on it, then this is not the movie you’re looking for, as it firmly dwells on Coco as a person, and her romantic dalliances with two men who played significant roles in her life, be it in support of her daily sustenance, or inspiring her love, beleiving in her, and providing the means for her desire to make a name for herself.
The film dedicated plenty of time in Coco’s awakening to the French high life of the time, since she became a voluntary insinuated herself as the mistress of rich playboy Etienne Balsan (Benoit Poelvoorde), who rescued her from poverty, and whose riches afforded to her access to the slacker lifestyles of the rich and famous. The audience gets reminded time and again of how stifling a woman’s place in high society was at the turn of the century, made worse by the restrictive clothing like corsets, frills, and lace from the neck right down to sweeping the floors. Coco’s disdain for constraint, combined with her penchant for freedom from social norms led to bold designs that did not conform, starting from her hats, which provided her some attention and notoriety.
As Coco Chanel, Audrey Tautou epitomizes that level of elegance, vulnerability with a rebellious streak to do things differently. Her petiteness and somewhat boyish cut figure probably suited the role really well as the initial designs by Coco were those inspired by menswear, though you only get glimpses of her design genius from short montages scattered throughout, and from some scenes which show her working at a tailor shop, but other than that you will gain very little from this bio-pic about the evolution of the fashion designer she was to become.

Coco is a woman who did, finally, fall in love, but again with a man to whom she was a mistress, not a wife–though he carried her about on his arm, and who saw her vast talent and her iron fist as the keys to being a great success. Sadly, he dies (but not before he has financed her beginning), and Chanel never really recovers.
Though it is not a movie about fashion but rather the making of a designer, the clothes here are the star of the show, from the fashions of societal norms in both directions of the rich-poor spectrum, to Coco Chanel’s designs with her menswear inspired pieces, and the glamour-chic pieces only making it through in a parting shot at the finale. The opulently designed clothes of that era stand in stark contrast to the Chanel pieces, which celebrates sheer beauty and elegance in their simplicity, and probably from there, stamping its mark on the fashion industry.

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Lost in Austen


‘Lost in Austen’ is a four-part 2008 British television series for the ITV network, written by Guy Andrews as a fantasy adaptation of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Loosely following the plot of Austen’s novel, it sees a modern girl, Amanda Price, somehow transported into the events of the book via a portal located in her bathroom.
Amanda loves Austen–for all the right reasons really. She loves the manners, the attention to details that the characters have, and that things matter. Appearances and rules are important to Amanda. He love interest is someone who lacks all of these qualities and she has struggled with what to do–should she stay or should she go. Enter Elizabeth Bennet. Right out of Amanda’s favorite Austen novel. Through the looking glass-okay, not really. But through a door in the bathroom wall, which is a link from Amanda’s flat in Hammersmith to the early 19th century home of the Bennet’s, of Pride and Prejudice fame. Elizabeth choses to stay in Amanda’s world and Amanda is left to cope with Elizabeth’s–she tries valiantly to ensure that all the relationships that are supposed to come to fruition in the novel do, and of course it all goes horribly wrong, until, in the end, it all goes very right. Some sticklers for the original story, or who cannot suspend belief long enough to allow the tenets of the new story to take hold may be appalled. But I loved it.

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Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy


This is a very long, sumptuously written book about not just Anna, but her interconnected family and the state of Russian society and culture in the late 19th century. It gives a very clear picture of what might have contributed to the Russian Revolution beyond the behaviour of the Tzars themselves. It was originally published in parts, and came out over a 4 year period of time, which increases both it’s length, and the retreading of common ground between parts–originally, people were reading it over a very protracted period of time, and might forget who was who.  Which is a danger, for me, with any Russian novel.  Everyone has at least three or four different names, some of them similar and some of them not, and all of them appear to be related to each other, which is initially the only way (for me) to figure out we in fact are talking about the same person.
I loved the story, but found the lead character singularly unlikable.  She is the literary classic example of borderline personality disorder.  She is a black and white thinker, someone who thrives on chaos, which if it doesn’t exist, she creates it. She has tremendous strengths as a person–she is creative, smart, hard working, and charming–but they are all neutralized by her crushing personality disorder.  I would love to see the character enter therapy and see how the story would change.

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Love Happens (2009)

Every now and then, for reasons that are largely  unknowable, a movie is promoted as being one thing when it is actually something very different. Love Happens is a case in point. The trailer sells it as a romantic comedy: it isn’t. Sure, there are some smiles during it, but it is actually a light drama dealing with the heavy weight issues of bereavement and grief.
Aaron Eckhart is good in a role which stretches him rather further than usual, and Jennifer Aniston is satisfactory in a part which demands little of her than to look attractive, occasionally pleased and, more often, rather puzzled. Martin Sheen is OK in a role which is deceitfully sold initially as one of the agrieved and grieving father, but turns out to be quite another.
But pride of place must go to John Carroll Lynch with a strong, sympathetic, and very believable performance in a supporting role.

I enjoyed this movie even though I felt that it was rather glib in the way it dealt with some elements of the story).  Ekhardt plays a man who is in the driver’s seat when he loses control of his car, and his wife is killed.  He writes a book, austensibly about how to move beyond the profound sadness of such a loss, and it becomes a huge success.  But it is also a huge sham.  He is not over his wife’s death.  Even though he demands that participants in his workshops confront their grief, in a mixture of bully and sympathizer, he himself has not been able to admit that his actions led to his wife’s death.  Not to himself or to her family.

In walks Jennifer Aniston, and is is a whole other story.  Here is a woman who could capture even the most depressed man’s attention.  She is cheerfully oblivious to her own charm, and is equally put off by Echhardt’s celebrity, but they forge a tentative relationship with each other.  He confesses to her.  She does some in vivo exposure with him.  And eventually he manages to take a few baby steps towards healing some of his own wounds.  This is not a great movie, but it is a good one, and it deals with some very difficult to talk about realities about loss.  I rated it 6/10.

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Zombieland (2009)

Zombieland is the best comic horror movie I have ever seen.  While that is not a gnere that I am particularly fond of , this movie  is filled to the brim with laugh-out-loud moments, thanks largely to the brilliant cast and an above average script. Eisenberg is very very funny as the main protagonist, Columbus, portraying that sense of vulnerability and awkwardness, without becoming too Michael Cera-like. Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin are also terrific as the sweet, yet tough Wichita and the more-mature-than-she-seems Little Rock, respectively.
The real stand-out performance, though, is Woody Harrelson as the Twinkie-lovin’, zombie-hatin’ Tallahassee.  While I have spent more than a decade lowballing his acting ability, I beleive I am ready to concede that I might in fact be wrong about that (I was about to acknowledge that after ‘Transsiberia’, but it is clinched by this movie).  The foursome forge some very tentative bonds in their battle against zombies, the sisters occastionally ditching Tallahassee and Columbus when it seems to suit them to do so, but by the end it appears that they will stick out the zombie-era in American History, and move forward as a group.  There is not alot of meat on this movie’s bones, but there as end-of-civilization films go, this one is funny and hopeful at the same time.  Recommended.

The movei opens with a hilarious sequence about how to survive in this zombie-eat-man mandscape, but as the story evolves, it is a story about what do alliances mean,

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Moscow, Belgium (2008)

This Flemish movie is an improbable, funny, telling movie.  Barbara Sarafian plays Matty, a rather dowdy, phlegmatic, forty-something mother of three whose art teacher husband Werner has left her for one of his students some five and a half months before. She works in a post office, takes care of the kids and – when we meet her first – is trudging half heartedly around the local megastore buying groceries. Matty is more dead than alive. Exiting the car park, she reverses into the truck of Johnny (Jurgen Delnaet) a red haired, alcoholic but quite cute truck driver some ten years her junior, and a sharp exchange of views ensues about fault and blame, which ends abruptly with the arrival of the traffic police, called by Matty. It seems Johnny has a record.

The next day he turns up at her apartment to fix her damaged trunk and he asks her out for a drink. Johnny is intrigued by Matty, but she is less than enamoured of him. All she wants – she thinks – is her old life back; her husband home, her kids behaving and everything ordered and where it should be. Her coworker at the post office has assured her that sexual passion only lasts six months, so Werner will be back soon. But Johnny is persistent and Werner is flaky.  On the other hand, Johnny lives in his truck and Werner is a professor.  What trumps what?

Well, in the end, Matty has quite the whirl with Johnny.  This is another tellin gof the story of just how fragile marriage and love can be, and what happens when you submit to sexual desires that fall outside the boundaries of that relationship.  It is not that it is bad, it is that it is confusing, and all the previous rules no longer apply.  We are ill equipped to deal with those emotions, it turns out, even as we get older.

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