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Into the Wild (2007)
Arrogant, selfish, myopic and stubborn.
As a parent who's reasonably liberal and open-minded I was nevertheless repulsed by the incredibly self-serving main character and director Sean Penn's unsubtle and cloying anti-government/anti-commercialist bent. McCandless may have been a straight-a student but he didn't learn a bloody thing in college. The writings of Byron, London, Tolstoy, Thoreau i.e. are taught as a jumping off point toward self-determination and adulthood. They are not meant to be literally emulated as lifestyles.
And the ridiculous conceit of a 24 year old lecturing an elderly man to open up and go live his life underscores the primary issue with this movie, a misanthropic and deluded main character. Acting was decent enough but I could not for a moment get into the story or the performance due to my disconnect. In scene after scene, I was constantly reminded of the agony McCandless put his poor parents and sister through. Sure they made some mistakes in bringing him up but who's perfect in this world? It would have cost him nothing to simply let them know he was still alive and on 'walk-about' or whatever he thought his pointless odyssey signified. Or at least given them the chance to say good-bye.
Ultimately, I found "Into the Wild" irresponsible because McCandless is presented as the rebellious anti-hero rather than a fool who caused his own senseless death and the deepest sorrow of his loved ones. Sean Penn is a talented somehow but choosing the right sorts of role models to present on film is not one of his skills. Oh and I will definitely not be sending my kids to Emory College if this is the sort of minds they produce...
Fauteuils d'orchestre (2006)
Not quite French Altman but worth seeing.
This film is being compared to Robert Altman in reviews and advertising but it's not quite up there with his skills. Altman had a much surer hand on writing, directing and acting not to mention a distaste for the un-ironic happy ending. Admittedly, you'll probably want to jump on the next Air France to Paris as you leave the theater but you'll have forgotten this film by the time you land.
Kudos to the filmmakers for creating a brisk film though. All too often a movie with this large an ensemble feels it necessary to give an extended conclusion to each storyline. This one just gives us a point in the right direction for most of them. Less is more. Fauteuils d'orchestre is a solid attempt at situational comedy and there are worse ways to pass 106 minutes.