Hold your howls, all movie nerds who enter here. I'm calling it right here, right now: The Constant Gardener is going to win Best Picture in the next Academy Awards ceremony. (Not that movie nerds really care who gets handed the statuette in that mass market measurement of success.) Now, I'm not saying it's a perfect film. Not even close. But it is a remarkable film with a lot of the earmarks of Best Pictures past. Why, one in particular comes to mind that also features Ralph Fiennes and stunning aerial shots of Africa. He was English. And a patient. You get it.
While my NYC homie gave TCG a thumbs up (and the John Le Carre novel that it's based on even higher marks), I had no idea what I was in for. I absolutely loved it. For starters, the acting was top shelf. Fiennes was very affecting as a sympathetic soul bent by grimacing primness. Rachel Weisz was, to borrow the well-worn description, a revelation (I feel so badly for thinking she was just another pretty face all these years). It was also great to see Danny Huston (one of the few bright spots in Birth) give a very nicely shaded performance.
The writing was also solid, except for one achingly awful line that could have been plucked from a Lifetime movie: "Tessa was my home." Oh, good gaaawwwd.)
Adding to the pleasure and power was Fernando Meirelle's passionate direction--visually vivid and full of thoughtfully framed yet frantic fury. There were shots that actually made me draw a sharp breath. It's obvious that his previous film, the amazing City of God, was no fluke. As he did in CoG, Meirelle's dug into the culture of the impoverished and panned out heartwrenching gold. In this film, he didn't/couldn't dig as deep, but the snapshots he included feel sharp and sure.
Sure, sure, sure. The Constant Gardener is a "message" movie. There are the "slick thriller" fingerprints of major studio's influence upon it. The plot chugs and surges. But there were brilliant moments that blew away pretty much every other film I've seen this year (in a movie-making way, not a storytelling way, mind you). That, along with the movie's box office success, make me confident that the headlines one fine spring morning will read: GARDENER SWEEPS IT. Or maybe a "rake" reference. You get it.