Films viewed in 2011

Archive for the ‘romance’ Category

467. The Time Traveler’s Wife

In romance on February 1, 2012 at 4:33 PM

Dir. Robert Schwentke

A Chicago librarian with a gene that causes him to involuntarily time travel tries to hold together a complicated marriage.

MY TAKE

Poor Rachael McAdams. She would be so easy to look at if her romantic movies weren’t so hard to watch. The Time Traveler’s Wife, for one, could use a complete re-edit so the first dramatic moment didn’t happen a full hour into the story. Then of course there’s the creepy factor that’s hard to shake as Eric Bana meets her at different stages of her life, in no logical order, that precludes us from ever understanding their “real” relationship – whatever that is. We’re left with a tale that tells us two people are in love, or were in love, but we never get to feel it. Actually focusing on the wife might have also offered an entry point, instead of leaving us just watch an experiment go wrong.

 

463. She’s Gotta Have It

In romance on January 31, 2012 at 10:29 AM

Dir. Spike Lee

The story of a woman and her three lovers who try to compete for her affections.

MY TAKE

Spike Lee’s first “joint” is an unlikely start for a young 20-something-year-old urban male filmmaker. Rather than take the safe route of leaning on violence or genre, She’s Gotta Have It gets its edge from exploring feminist themes under the tropes of a romantic comedy. In a pre-Sex and the City New York, Tracy Camilla Johns unapologetically holds simultaneous auditions for who can hold her interest, both sexually and emotionally. The resulting interplay between Tommy Redmond Hicks, John Canada Terrell (best middle names ever), and Spike Lee himself is where the film shines, managing both humour and insight without the heavy philosophizing.  It seems a shame Lee’s biggest films are now all masculine genre stuff.

443. One Day

In romance on January 20, 2012 at 9:51 AM

Dir. Lone Scherfig

Dexter and Em are shown each year on the same date to see where they are in their lives.

MY TAKE

The concept of writer David Nicholl’s One Day sounds more like an experiment in narrative structure than it does a promising premise. But by limiting our experience to one calendar day every year, director Lone Scherfig manages to find a rhythm to the storytelling that captures a lot of the beautiful randomness in friendship and love. Jim Sturgess is empathetic even as a somewhat unrelateable media personality, while Anne Hathaway brings the compassion and humour she’s famous for as the girl next door. Some moments, costumes and hairstyles felt a little heavily contrived, but by the end, the film rises above being more than just an exercise in novelty.

442. Like Crazy

In romance on January 20, 2012 at 9:17 AM
Dir. Drake Doremus

Dir. Drake Doremus

A British college student falls for an American student but she is banned from the U.S. after overstaying her visa.

MY TAKE

Like Crazy gave me flashbacks to when I was 18 years old and high on life because of a girl I met (a long distance affair). A friend/mentor 10 years my senior casually remarked that I would have “a few of those connections” in and around my 20s. Drake Doremus’s film is a similar type of romantic-buzz kill, albeit better crafted and more expansive on that sense of perspective. The perils and beauty of young love are ripe for foolish decisions, and Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones do a fine job of making each one believable. Less convincing were Yelchin’s designs as a chair designer, which look like shop-class rejects. No one seems to have had the heart to tell him that cold truth though.


430. Beginners

In romance on January 5, 2012 at 4:50 PM

Dir. Mike Mills

A young man is rocked when his elderly father reveals he’s gay and has terminal cancer.

MY TAKE

Beginners, by writer and director Mike Mills, is largely about endings. Even as we see relationships unfolding for the first time, they’re told in a reflective way that changes how we understand each character’s growth. Christopher Plumber in particular, who easily carries the film’s most compelling storyline, certainly deserved more attention in the script. The other love story with Mélanie Laurent is sweet and usually works, but is far less interesting by comparison. We’re left with a heartfelt romantic film that’s far better than most, but is never totally as good as the promise at the beginning.


421. The Artist

In romance on December 21, 2011 at 11:58 AM

Dir. Michel Hazanavicius

A silent movie star wonders if talking pictures will cause him to fade into oblivion and sparks a romance with a young dancer set for her big break.

MY TAKE

The Artist honestly made me fall in love with movies all over again. French writer and director Michel Hazanavicius has crafted not only the best film of 2011, but a bold, entertaining, emotional and beautiful silent picture than made me want to stand up and cheer. The two stars, Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo, are divinely cast and light up the screen with some of the best chemistry I’ve ever seen.  What I expected was the pastiche and novelty of Guy Maddin (who I love). What I found instead was the welcomed charm and unbridled energy of Roberto Benigni. Thaw your heart and open your eyes, and I promise this film will take you by surprise.


391. Atonement

In romance on November 18, 2011 at 5:08 PM

Dir. Joe Wright

A 13-year-old irrevocably changes the course of several lives when she accuses her older sister’s lover of a crime he did not commit.

MY TAKE

Love is a war of contrition in Joe Wright’s romantic tragedy Atonement. Keira Knightly and James McAvoy bring enviable energy to the central story, but it’s Saorise Ronan who gives the film most of its dramatic mileage by naively tearing them apart. Careful casting also allows us to maintain emotional continuity when her character ages a few years into Romola Garai. Beautifully shot overall, with a sensational (and almost stylistically out of place) long take that unveils the chaos of soldiers post-battle, the film certainly earns it’s status as an elegant epic. Pretty impressive when you realize the story basically depends on the word “cunt”.

355. Crazy, Stupid, Love

In romance on October 27, 2011 at 10:31 AM

Dir. Glenn Ficarra, John Requa

A father’s life unravels while he deals with a marital crisis and tries to manage his relationship with his children.

MY TAKE

Romantic comedies are typically light-hearted stories shot with high-key lighting to reassure us everything will work out in the end. Crazy, Stupid Love uses more shadows and emotional shades of grey, leading with a divorce instead of a meet-cute – even if the plot eventually falls into some conventional habits. Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling are at the centre of it all, although the latter’s love story is postponed. A late second act twist raises the stakes with one of those “only in the movies” conflicts, but at least the attempt to collapse storylines allows us to question the decisions made until that point. But a strong extended cast in Emma Stone, Julianne Moore and a pitch perfect Analeigh Tipton give us enough reason to care where things are going and how they’ll turn out

348. Footloose

In romance on October 24, 2011 at 12:56 PM

Dir. Craig Brewer

City kid Ren MacCormack shakes things up in a small town where dancing has been banned.

MY TAKE

Is it ironic or unfortunate that a dance movie about a town that doesn’t allow dancing doesn’t have enough dancing in it? The remake of the 80s fromage classic Footloose kicks off to a good start (and the requisite boot stomping close-ups) then at least tries to justify Bomont’s ban on boogying. But the story is just so silly it’s hard to ever get emotionally involved. Kenny Wormald wears his James Dean hair and outsider attitude well, so it’s too bad his big warehouse solo is undermined by a strangely incongruous indie rock track. Ultimately it’s hard not to tap along when the film’s final moves finally cut loose, but by then the floor is left drama free.

226. Me and You and Everyone We Know

In romance on September 6, 2011 at 10:35 AM

Dir. Miranda July

A lonely shoe salesman and an eccentric performance artist struggle to connect in this unique take on contemporary life.

MY TAKE

There isn’t a single scene in Me and You and Everyone We Know that doesn’t work. And considering the pacing and episodic structure of the film, that says a lot. Miranda July does it all – writing, directing and acting her way through improbably hilarious material that is simultaneously shocking, smart and sweet. Her determination to cut through clichés about loving and jaded hearts is inspiring. She’s never made anything else, but I refuse to believe she’ll be a one-film-wonder.