Reviews written by registered user
|6 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I rarely write reviews here, but I had to put in a good word for The Chocolate War when I saw so few positive comments on the film. Simply put, if you are the right person who had similar experiences growing up, this movie will move you. You will not forget it. It is a low-budget film, and it sometimes shows. Some of the devices used to show the brutality and its emotional effect on the lead character are clumsy. But I have seldom been more affected by a film. Rather than say anything about the plot, I would prefer to discuss the themes that this movie presents so well. It is about the authoritarian impulses that lie deep in the human psyche. It shows how groupthink can destroy individuality and human dignity. It is about cruelty. When the lead character, Jerry, chooses to defy these conditions in his high school he comes face to face with some terrible truths about human behavior. The film's climax, of course, brings him in direct opposition to his classmates, and it might feel contrived, except that this film manages to bring the ugliness of humanity into sharp relief. If you take a chance on this film, you might not like it. Or, it might move you like few other films ever do.
I enjoyed this film. It has a lyrical quality, and it is essentially a character portrait. Many Americans will tire of the film quickly, because they expect clearer character development and a more coherent plot. But if these qualities ate not essential to you and you like French films, you will find this movie touching and memorable. (I know that this is a Swiss, not French, production, but I think most Americans will view it as stylistically French.) The main character and Chatagny's performance, reminded me greatly of Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character and performance in "Mysterious Skin." (Many Americans will prefer this movie, though the subject matter is darker.) I love both films, both performances. I hope to see more films with Pierre Chatagny.
This film had so much potential, but many things were just off. Most grating to an American were the accents, of which Stevenson's was the worst. Bishop's accent is a wooden attempt at the Midwest, especially Ohio. Stevenson's was an attempt at Los Angeles, with some Brooklyn thrown in. Most of the scenes are set in America, but it's clear they were not filmed there. Everything, right down to the Christmas tree, the kitchen appliances (small European refrigerators!), telephones from the 1970s, the Spanish-looking New York apartments, is from a different continent. Even Bishop's wardrobe reflects a misunderstanding of American culture. Are we to believe that this young, gay pianist who grew up in Boston and San Francisco dresses like a frat boy from Georgia in 1987? This director learned everything about America from old movies, and had no concern for accurately depicting a culture. How can any of his films, set in America or elsewhere, ring true without an eye for details? Actually, this "American" film directed by a Spaniard was an education of sorts. I came away appreciating how distracting it must be for British film goers, for example, to see American actors ham-hand their accents. With the film industry so dominated by Hollywood, I have gotten a taste of what a mess American actors and filmmakers often make of non-American subjects.
Well, we've seen this same story how many times now? But this film is a sensitive and realistic retelling. Well-written, -acted, and -executed. I was moved, and what's more important than that? Some minor drawbacks: (1) the soundtrack is an atrocious, Casio-quality distraction better suited for porn; (2) speaking of porn, I have no objection to nudity, but it seems strange that all the sex scenes are heterosexual in a gay-themed film, and (3) the subtitles are terrible. Even with my limited French, it was clear that a lot of meaning is lost in the translation. And, for an American the very British-English subtitles are jarring in a film about teens (lots of "fancy that, chap"). Do English teens talk like that? I noticed a lot of French slang, but the translation is stilted and, well, British. Worth a rental.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I have not read Waugh in years, and while this adaptation made me recall how much I enjoyed "Vile Bodies," the film does not do justice to the novel. The film is muddled and episodic, and requires the audience to do too much work. There is none of the subtlety here of a Woody Allen, for example, to reward us for remaining engaged amid the sloppy editing and choppy pacing. In fact, the excellent cast seems wasted, as does the novel itself. The movie brightens up during fleeting and sparkling party scenes that make us feel we are in London at a certain time -- though it's not clear what time that is. This adaptation pushes the hedonism of the 20s forward to the 30s (I believe the novel was published around 1930, whereas the movie seems to be set in the 30s). And the jazz score only reminded me what a cultural backwater London was at this time, relative to New York, where the Jazz Age and the real parties were in full swing. So, it doesn't work as a character-driven drama, and it's not a compelling portrait of the age. It is, however, perhaps worth seeing for some performances. We do not see enough of James McAvoy and Alec Newman, who are excellent. What a strange coincidence that both of these actors played the leads in the SciFi Channel's mini-series adaptations of the Dune novels.
Issues of class and social position (particularly for women) are central to Jane Austen's novels, and any adaptation for the screen cannot be successful without being sensitive to this, whether the adaptation is period or modern. This film fails to present these themes in any meaningful way, and I doubt being a Morman would allow a viewer to see any deeper. How does a young English publishing magnate end up hanging around with a bunch of milk-toast, brainless kids from Utah? How did these kids even get into college (is BYU a decent school?), especially if this is graduate school? My advice: see Clueless (based on Austen's Emma); it, too, is a just a teenage romp, but it makes a real effort to hold a modern mirror up to Austen's world. Besides, Alicia Silverstone is as vivacious as Emma Woodhouse.