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Messy, somber and affecting. Eastwood's ode to death and beyond.
With a scatter-shot screenplay that weaves from disaster film to mystical drama, social satire to romantic comedy and back again, Hereafter found a lucky fate with Easwood at the helm.
Screenwriter Morgan seems generally ill-fitted for the material. The overt contemporary setting (involving both the 2004 Tsunami and 2005 London Tube bombings) clashes with unrealistic clichés of heroine-addled mothers with sensitive latch-key twins, an ambitious then broken career woman sleeping with her callous producer, the burdened mystic and his opportunistic brother. As death and the dead strike them, Morgan writes with an emphasis on ambiguity as to whether their beliefs in the afterlife are a truth of the film's reality, or a combination of illnesses, dreams, hopes and hallucinations.
Thus, it's a credit to the actors, mostly graceful cinematography and Eastwood's (whose own score goes a long way) choices that the moody tone casts such a spell and the characters elicit real empathy in their plights (though some of the supporting performances, notably and somewhat understandably given Eastwood's one-take directing style, the young twins, are stiff and don't hold up to the captivating Damon and De France). Nice, if contrived, details by Morgan do offer some light diversions and help to fill out the film, e.g., the psychic's obsession with Dickens, a wink to a writer who often explored death, redemption and fate.
And yet, over and over, just at the moment where viewers would expect to be floored, most necessarily when the characters at last converge in a cathartic ending, a not-quite-believable special effect is implemented, the dialogue doesn't come through, or the acting falters, and the audience is instead left, at best, touched, or at worst, ponderous.
Which might partially be the point. But as it is, Eastwood's masterfully directed a non-believer's screenplay as a believer, and the finished work is left, like the dead of the film may be, in a beautiful, sprawling limbo.
Inspires Awe/Revulsion, Difficult to Review
The Awe is from the reality uncovered behind the mystery the first half of the film is devoted to investigating. There are a few moments of fantastic surprise.
The Revulsion one will likely discover occurs during the thinking/discussion that occurs after the film, when they realize the amount of manipulation by the filmmakers on both their subjects within the film and the audience. With their endless pasted-on smirks, its hard to discern which of the two they perceive to be the bigger dupes. Unlike films (like the comparably classic MAN BITES DOG) that explore similar themes of manipulation and non-fiction/fiction blurring with intelligence and dignity, these filmmakers have taken a story with a real humane potential and bankrupted their morals to create a sensational tabloid-like experience, more likely to titillate certain members of the Youtube Generation/make a few bucks/create some buzz.
Inevitably, Catfish is a challenge to review because to continue to discuss why the film inspires such varied emotions would be to give too much away. And to encourage one to see the film in order to further the conversation would be to promote the careers of people who have no business meddling in non-fiction (or is it? In this case, who cares?).
If only there was a way to see it for free... I'm sure the Youtube Generation can think of something.
A Prairie Home Companion (2006)
Mama's little baby loves rhubarb, rhubarb
Robert Altman's "A Prairie Home Companion" is light, fluffy and fun, much like the radio show. As long as audiences keep this in mind, they'll be sold like Rhubarb pie and duct tape advertised during the broadcast.
The outstandingly cast ensemble and Altman's signature directing style stitch a flowing patchwork of laughs and tinges of nostalgia. Streep and Tomlin are dynamic together (and sing beautifully!), and Kline carries much of the film's comedy on his capable shoulders. The film represents a bygone era that the people of the show are still living in. Only Virginia Madsen, Lindsay Lohan and Tommy Lee Jones represent the outsiders to the otherwise coherent culture of the show, and as the film progresses, affect it and are affected by it in different ways.
I generally prefer films, however comic or fun they are, to have some deeper themes. But unlike the multi-layered theater that most of the film takes place in, there's nothing really behind the scenes here- it's art for arts sake. However, I still enjoyed the film and am actually relieved it didn't bog down in anything too serious.
Whether audiences are fans of the radio show or not, the film's worth its weight in Narco Bran Flakes.
Love in the Time of Money (2002)
Similarities to "Closer"
Overall, I enjoyed this film and would recommend it to indie film lovers.
However, I really want to note the similarities between parts of this film and Nichols' Closer. One scene especially where Adrian Grenier's character is questioning Rosario Dawson's about her sex life while he was away is remarkably similar to the scene in Closer where Clive Owen's character is questioning Julia Roberts, although it is acted with less harshness and intensity in "Love." Also note that "Anna" is the name of both Dawson's and Roberts' character. Can't be coincidence. Now Closer is based on Patrick Marber's play and supposedly this film is loosely based on Arthur Schnitzler's "Reigen" so I'm not sure how this connection formed.
Anyone have an idea?