Samstag, 18. Januar 2014

Short takes

"I Used to Be Darker" is obviously made by someone very creative. It features wonderful musical performances and is, with bouncy colors leaping at you everywhere, never bad to look at. But even with a compact length of 90 minutes there's not nearly enough material to frame and underpin that scattered prettiness. Instead, the movie drifts along between the songs devoid of a narrative hook and what few actual plot points there are, are characterized by an inconsequential triviality so one never feels quite engaged on any intellectual level. Director Matthew Porterfield has an eye for catching the vibe and seductive aliveness of youth with his lens but fails at telling a story through it. Ned Oldham and especially Kim Taylor are much better singers than actors, commanding your attention effortlessly with their distinctive voice but missing here and there when something needs to be communicated through expressions or body language. Like its catchy title, the movie looks and sounds cool but doesn't really mean anything.

"Le Week-end" by British director Roger Michell touches on surprisingly heavy subjects in an otherwise comedic setting and gets lost now and then in some turbulent emotional shuffles. The script by Hanif Kureishi dares to recreate the mysterious, ever-elusive tapestry of sadness and elation that's called life, and is responsible for the admirably eloquent, if not always convincing words pouring out of the characters. The narrative imperfections and tonal imbalances notwithstanding, in the end it's hard not to be won over by this aggressively charming little movie with a lot to say. As a husband too smart for his own good and a wife too "attuned to her unhappiness", Jim Broadbend and Lindsay Duncan are impeccably cast and both give performances that are alternately breezy, cold, endearing, cruel, unfailingly captivating. Jeff Goldblum is also delightful in a lively supporting role, complementing the changing couple dynamics in all the right ways. Shot in frustratingly beautiful Paris with a dash of drunken jazz, the film might not hit all the marks with the intended symphony and intensity, but there's no end to its loveliness.

"The Immigrant" is an astonishing mess considering the talents involved. The story of a polish immigrant caught between two American cousins with dubious intentions while she tries to rescue her sister from deportation is not so much ludicrous as it is awfully ill-developed. Plot lines swim in and out of focus pretty arbitrarily, none of which quite carries the narrative potential or emotional heft needed for a feature film. The feelings of mistrust, hatred, attachment even sympathy between the three main characters are probably kept intentionally ambivalent by director James Gray but it does nothing to help give this movie shape or substance. There are some nice 1920's set pieces and serenely composed shots like the final frame, but the way they're used feels repetitive and the somberly waxy color palette tends to bore after a while. Marion Cotillard and Joaquin Phoenix both show occasional bursts of brilliance in their portrayal but the quality of the performances is nowhere near consistent. The ineffective, distracting score sounds out of place throughout.

"No se aceptan devoluciones (Instructions Not Included)" starts off promisingly enough, borrowing an admittedly formulaic storyline of the playboy father suddenly confronted with responsibility in the form of a child but sprinkling it with splashes of Mexican tropical flair and an organic humor thanks to the earnest deadpan of lead actor Eugenio Derbez. But the cliches that just keep coming soon catch up on all that goodwill, sucking away the last bit of plausibility and killing the sweetness irrevocably despite the relentless, slightly exaggerated sense of innocence shouting from the fairytale color schemes. Derbez, who also made his feature film directorial debut with this movie, keeps things going at a brisk pace and shows good timing in the first act, but then loses sight of the big picture when he tries to balance the comedy with an illogical custody drama that feels forced the entire time, and finally just drowns in way too much mush. The cast beside himself isn't very good, which contributes strongly to the feeling of TV soap in some emotional scenes.

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