Monday, November 26, 2007
No Country for Margot in Real Life
As I had had the keen foresight to take Thanksgiving week off from work, I was able to visit the cinema thrice within a seven-day time span. Ahh, what bliss it was. As a sidenote, the Arclight Cinema in Hollywood is quickly becoming my favorite place in Los Angeles. Not just because of the posh movie-viewing standard it provides, but because I've seen three great movies there in a row. A winning streak like that can earn a gal's affection real quick like.
While I'm dishing up the countrified slang, might as well dive into my first review. The Coen Brothers' No Country for Old Men is as brutally violent and darkly funny as all get out. While my favorite line in the film is one-word long ("Alright," exquisitely delivered by Josh Brolin after some tossing and turning in his darkened trailer bedroom), the dialogue is peppered with cult-status quotables like Tommy Lee Jones' dry as dust "If it ain't, it'll do till the mess gets here." My absolute favorite scene is the coin toss in the gas station, where Javier Bardem menancingly tests the tensile strength of implied threat with pitch black humor.
Best supporting actor awards should be immediately dispatched to Brolin, Jones and Bardem. "Supporting" only because they share in the film's success so equally. Talk about a (cowboy) hat trick. Bravo, boys!
My only beef with the film was the casting in the secondary roles (although the bit parts were terrifically performed). The truth in acting was lacking when it came to Brolin's character's wife and mother-in-law (esp. in a real clunker of a taxi scene obviously meant to be comic relief). Woody Harrelson was distracting and the usually spot-on Stephen Root was strangely self-conscious and awkward. While those stumbles dimmed the film's luster for me slightly, nothing could make this instant classic any less instant classic-ier.
Now onto cinematic delight numero dos. Margot at the Wedding is a neurotic jumble, which is to say I loved it. Which is also to say, I wouldn't recommend it to most homo sapiens.
If you like talky movies, say "hey." If you enjoy emotionally eviscerating film experiences, say "ho." Since I do find enjoyment in both of the above, I was digging Noah Baumbach's new offering. Much less accessible and winning than Baumbach's wonderfully written and acted The Squid and the Whale, Margot at the Wedding is no less wonderfully written and acted. Both films share a lack of narrative structure that weakens the whole, but Baumbach knows from modern-day angst and finely noted foibles.
Nicole Kidman is a verbally evil delight as a sister with a chip on her cashmere-sweatered shoulder. Jennifer Jason Leigh is beautifully bemused as the black sheep in the family fold. Speaking of Black, Jack ain't bad as the groom to be. And the terrific supporting cast keeps pace with the needling sisters admirably. A special shout-out is deserved by the young boy playing Nicole's son in the film. Zane Pais plays a difficult role with admirable delicacy. The sisters of Margot at the Wedding lingered on my mind for days after seeing the film. I almost missed them, like I would a newly made friend who lived far away.
Truly one of the most lovely and loving facets of the film was the cinematography by Harris Savides. Desaturated hues of bottle green, rosy russet, worn-in blue and bleached-out beige gorgeously capture the faded feeling of old Super 8 home movies, adding to the sense of nostalgia and regret. Even Wong Kar-Wai would weep at the sight of it.
Now onto more crowd-pleasing fare: Dan in Real Life. As big a fan of Steve Carell as I am, I didn't think I would like this one. It gave off whiffs of saccharin schmaltz and the reviews were mostly dismissive. WRONG! It was sheer romantic comedy delight and I don't use that phrase casually. Sure, there were some sit-com-y short-cuts and undeniable cute-osity, but overall it was warm, witty and wonderful. Carell and Binoche ground the film so beautifully. You'd expect that from a silver screen veteran like her, but Steve holds his ground and more. I laughed out loud and sniffled out loud. *Sigh* I'm a lucky film goer, I am, I am.