Sunday, December 21, 2008

Late to the Party

This blog has become a cinematic graveyard of late. I've been all too focused on movies of the distant past. It's most noticeable in a time when everyone's discussing the cinematic year that's been. On the other hand, I probably can't be expected to make a sufficient Top Ten List until June of 2010, given the vast holes in my 2008 viewing.

In place of that, here are my brief thoughts on two of 2008's new releases, believe it or not. "New" is relative of course... They've been out for some time now. As always, remember to check out Club Silencio two months from now for all the latest in film.

Rachel Getting Married was a lot like attending a wedding actually. If it were a wedding of someone I didn't know and wasn't sure I cared to know. I wandered around, meeting the crowd and sharing a laugh here and there, followed by more than a few glances at the open bar. But just like a wedding, it sits better in my memory.

I can remember some of the touching human moments and the real purpose of it all -- which has a scope both small and emotionally grand. It's often sweet, occasionally cringe-inducing, and filled with equal parts misery and awe. I'll raise my glass to Anne Hathaway for once again making the most of minor moments, and to Jonathan Demme, whose invasive camerawork somehow manages to be a fly on the wall. They may have to send me to rehab after the ceremony, but I'm glad I RSVP'd.

As with the openings of Moulin Rouge and Romeo + Juliet, I was baffled at Baz Luhrmann's flustering thrust into exaggerated screwball with the intro to Australia. It's like an editing slaughterhouse in here! I was ready to press fast forward, even though it felt like that's exactly what Baz was doing for me. Once it settles down there's still a bit of awkwardness -- namely in Nicole Kidman's comic-to-crushing turn as Mrs. Boss, Sarah Ashley -- but then it finds its epic beats and plays them fairly well.

That said, while admirably vast in scope, everything that occurs in this movie feels so often inauthentic. Every turn of the plot and directorial cue is calculated to fit into that epic mold of classical Hollywood, to the point of my numb disinterest. The enormity of it all is rare nowadays, but the story and sweep still feels too common -- like a "Paint by the Numbers," it's pretty but programmed. I was emotionally left in the dust like a piece of stray cattle, and I wished Baz had wondered off course a bit as well. The performances are solid, if unremarkable, and Kidman eventually falls into character once Baz reins in his mood swings. Admirably Hugh Jackman is exploited like a piece of meat, and for that we can thank Baz and fast forward directly to the beef.

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