Reviews written by registered user
|4 reviews in total|
This movie feels cheaply made, but considering its subject matter, it
makes sense. The gritty cinema-verite style jumps back and forth
between the lives of street workers and condo dwellers, gradually
drawing these two worlds ever closer. Jump cuts and hand-held cameras
work in this context.
The best thing about the movie, and the thing that ultimately overcomes the poor filming, is the acting. Great performances by Aaron Poole (who is also the producer), Kristin Booth (from MVP), and Caroline Cave (from the L Word) create a genuine tension on screen. The story itself is clever, and the dialogue understated, but the acting borders on magnificent. Not only do they manage to create something riveting, but smart as well. The setting, the city, looks fabulous.
Saint Ralph is a triumph. It approaches the "inspirational" movie genre
(think everything from Rocky to Chariot's of Fire) but manages to evoke
a genuine and unique flavour in the form. It is fresh, original, funny,
and extremely moving. The characters are well developed, the plot
intriguing and inviting, and the dialogue simply priceless. People
literally clapped in the theatre; more than half hung around for all of
the credits, and groups were huddled around posters seeking more
information about the film.
My favourite detail: I was simply astonished at the music score for the climatic scene. Gord Downie's version of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah is breathtakingly beautiful, and perfectly set. Adam Butcher, playing Ralph, in the scene transcends the child-actor role. His face displays an exquisite complexity of emotions, chilling and sublime, while Downie sings. Truly marvelous.
The premise, by now, is familiar: a boy's mother falls into a coma, and he believes a miracle will awaken her. The movie positions itself in that delicious but awkward transition between boyhood innocence and adulthood stoicism or cynicism. Ralph is a child, becoming a man, learning the limits of his own body, his mother's body, and all the while confronting adults inability to imagine or dream. He dream's on and takes the audience on a sweet journey that will rekindle your fire. It truly is an inspirational film, without being sappy or relying on overwrought clichés.
A truly promising start for Michael McGowan, a new Canadian filmmaker.
To begin with, this is a funny movie. It's different than you'll find
of any other comedy you've seen and that alone makes it special. Set in
a small city in New Brunswick, the story follows a group of
wise-cracker women as they plot their vaguest fantasies.
The nice thing about the movie -- beside Mary Walsh -- is the spirit of the characters. They are poor, they are cynical, but yet they are also quick to laugh and joke. There is something uplifting about their camaraderie, flawed and filled with poison as it may be.
It's interesting to compare this movie to the play on which it is based, Les Belles Souers by M. Trembley. The play is also filled with quick wit, but there's a heaviness to it that puts the "social commentary" into overdrive. Despair weighs heavy on the dialogue, and each character embodies a sustained fascination with depression. Don't get me wrong, it's a wonderful play -- sort of in the spirit of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. The plot twists take you further and further into a murky world of unstable social politics.
Geraldine's Fortune has most of the same dark elements, but the stress is on the surface and the wise cracks and the humour. This allows the audience the greater freedom of engagement. In other words, John Smith doesn't want you to become depressed, but yet he also reminds us that humour is often the inverse of sadness. The hopes of the women for the big money prize from the (hilarious) game show reveal their self-doubt. But the cleverness of the movie, and the way it is made, leaves us wanting Geraldine to not win the prize, and to help the really important problems and people in her life in a more meaningful way.
Now for Mary Walsh. She's simply great in this film. A total dynamo. Compared to other films, like New Waterford Girl, Walsh has finally found a script that works for her personality. She's a quick witted, fast talking, eloquent jokester laden with barbs all viciously aimed at her loved ones. This is the character Walsh can do, not some mourning Maritime mother, and she does it well.
The other actors are solid and charming, though somewhat derivative. They serve the plot well. Jane Curtin stands out as Geraldine if only because her smile hinges between simplemindedness and lunacy -- reminiscent of Katherine O'Hara in My Mom's a Serial Killer. In any event, she's solid too, and if your up for a light and comfy movie with some genuine and unique humour, here's your movie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
**Warning: Full of Spoilers**
There are a few funny lines in this movie. A few guffaws. But watching outside of the assumptions many Americans take as gospel, turned a good idea (a comedy involving puppets) into a political rant lacking in both satire and innovative humour.
As a fan of South Park, and a fan of South Park the Movie, I was expecting something much more intelligent and coherent. Instead, this movie delivers a surprisingly conservative rendition of world events, devoid of satirical weight.
Here's how the satire works: Team America are good guys with excessive force. The Film Actor's Guild (a crudely homophobic acronym) are corruptible Americans. The terrorists (a crude mixture of Russians, Arabs, and North Koreans) are unquestionably bad. The satire emerges in the excessive force used by Team America (as we've all heard), but this side of things dies down very quickly, after the first few scenes. The real thrust of the satire is against left-wing actors who speak out against American violence. In contrast to the violence itself, the film depicts their weakness as both unpardonable and ultimately treasonous. In contrast, the threat by the terrorists is given as real in the movie, and Team America presented as justified, warts and all.
Parker may be exaggerating his vitriol against the left-wing actor sector (think Rock the Vote style celebs), but the movie offers very little in the way of real satire. There are satirical moments, but the values of the film remain consistent with the images and narrative shown (satire depends on the opposite). The movie does ridicule left-wing actors, but it doesn't hide its ridicule -- the ridicule is the very point of the film. At the same time, the criticism against George Bush style violence is excused by the fact that the terrorists are accepted and given as real threats to America. People may accept this as gospel in the US, but outside it appears delusional and paranoiac.
I was trying to think up a way this movie could have presented a genuine satire, and the best is to turn to the classics: Don Quixote, in particular. In Cervantes' masterpiece, the over-eager Quixote embraces the Romantic ideals of the day and sets about defending them. The problem is that, much like Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, the boogey-men and monsters he confronts are all false illusions. Nobody is trying to overthrow Romantic values because Romantic values don't exist in the world. In a similar way, to return to the context of the movie, nobody is really trying to overthrow American values because American values don't exist in any tangible, fixed way. To paraphrase Mackenzie King, the truth is that Americans have always accepted 'Freedom if necessary, but not necessarily freedom.' Parker includes many satirical gestures in this direction -- mocking the empty rhetoric of politicos. How many times can one person say "Freedom!" before asking what that really means, how is it defined, comprised, and safe-guarded in a nebulous world-in-flux? The film makes a few of this type of criticism but ultimately pardons them as the ugly surface muddying (by over-simplifying) the real issue of concern: the defense of America. But when these vacuous terms are used to justify terribly questionable actions, the implications of so lightly critiquing their use amounts to a tacit approval of the actions if not the language used.
To summarize: liberals appear naive and corruptible (they end up working for the terrorists), terrorists appear violent and evil, and conservatives appear awkward, over-aggressive but justified. The message and the image are the same in the film: it is not satire. Worse, still, it appears perfectly on message with White House personnel.
What happened to South Park? All I saw was a barely veiled critique of those who DARE criticize America. You'd think they were exercising their freedom or something. The nerve....