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Bound by a shared destiny, a teen bursting with scientific curiosity and a former boy-genius inventor embark on a mission to unearth the secrets of a place somewhere in time and space that exists in their collective memory.
T.S. Spivet lives on a ranch in Montana with his mother who is obsessed with the morphology of beetles, his father (a cowboy born a hundred years too late) and his 14 year-old sister who dreams of becoming Miss America. T.S. is a 10 year-old prodigy with a passion for cartography and scientific inventions. One day, he receives an unexpected call from the Smithsonian museum telling him that he is the winner of the very prestigious Baird prize for his discovery of the perpetual motion machine and that he is invited to a reception in his honor where he is expected to give a speech. Without telling anyone, he sets out on a freight train across the U.S.A. to reach Washington DC. There is also Layton, twin brother of T.S., who died in an accident involving a firearm in the family's barn, which no one ever speaks of. T.S. was with him, measuring the scale of the gunshots for an experiment, and he doesn't understand what happened.Written by
This film is very unusual for Jean-Pierre Jeunet because it's in English and is set in the United States. While he previously directed "Alien: Resurrection", his films are usually in his native language. However, like most of his movies, it is very strange and has a wonderfully unique sense of style that is pure Jeunet. It's hard to exactly describe this style—you just have to see it to believe and appreciate it. This oddness is actually what makes most of his films so wonderful.
As far as the film being set in America, I was not totally surprised by this—especially since a lot of the film is set in the American West. When I have visited France on several occasions, I was very surprised to see that many folks there were very fascinated with the old west and cowboys. The biggest shock was inside the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland Paris, as inside this mansion are, believe it or not, cowboys!
The film is about a very small and unique 10 year-old, T.S. Spivet (Kyle Catlett). T.S. is a strange child who is a lot like Dexter from "Dexter's Lab" or "Jimmy Neutron"—a boy genius with an intellect far, far in advance of his years. You learn just how smart he is when the boy receives a call from the Smithsonian Institution. It seems that the kid has received the very prestigious Baird Award for ingenuity and inventiveness. However, the folks have no idea T.S. is a child and naturally think he's an adult. After all, he's invented an amazing machine to demonstrate perpetual motion. When they invite T.S. to come to Washington to receive the award, he does something very strange—he accepts and never tells his parents. Instead, he treks from Montana to Washington! What's to become of this little prodigy? In addition to this main plot, there are subplots involving T.S.'s dead brother (who, oddly, appears to T.S. periodically throughout the film and has conversations with T.S.!) and his very quirky family.
This film has a somewhat slow and meandering pace that reminded me a bit of the recent Oscar-nominee, "Nebraska". Some may be put off my this or the strangeness of the characters, but to me this is what make this a wonderful and entertaining film. I appreciated the nice, low-key performance by Catlett and it's a nice testament to Jeunet that he was able to coax this out of the boy. Additionally, I really, really appreciated the uniqueness of the plot and way it was handled. Too often films seem awfully familiar, but this is certainly not the case with this nice film. Well worth seeing for audiences of all ages. This Jeunet film is much more normal than many of his films, but the style is definitely his. Additionally, like in so many of his films there is an appearance by Dominique Pinon—an actor that always seems to show up in Jeunet's movies. I appreciate this, as I have loved Pinon in many films —ranging from "Diva" to "Delicatessen".
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