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There is a lot to like about this movie, but it has too many flaws
OK, I agree that this is a slow, minimalist movie. But that could have worked in its flavor. The buildings and the landscapes in Columbus, Indiana are stunning. The cinematography is gorgeous, and the music is beautiful and peaceful. At times I felt like I was meditating. If you like documentaries about architecture, I can highly recommend this film. In fact it often seems more like a travelogue than a drama.
The problem lies with the script and specifically with the character of Casey (Haley Lu Richardson). Even though she's in almost every scene and has quite a bit of dialog, I still could not get a handle on her character. Every time I thought I was beginning to understand her, she would do something weird or crazy. Is she supposed to be borderline mentally ill? I couldn't decide. Does she really want to study architecture or is she just rehearsing to be a tour guide? I have my doubts whether she can make it in college. Too many personality issues.
Richardson is an appealing actress, but I'm not sure she was the right choice for this part. Perhaps another actress could have made Casey's character more relatable. In the end neither of the main characters was likable or interesting.
I liked all of the dialog about philosophy and architecture. But too much of the other dialog was shallow.
The Glass Castle (2017)
Fails to capture much of what was good about the book
The Glass Castle was one of my favorite books that I've read recently. But unfortunately, the movie fails to capture much of what was good about the book:
1. In the book the story is told from Jeanette's perspective. She is the narrator and the main character. In the movie there is no narrator and you could make the case that the main character is not Jeanette, but her father, Rex.
2. In the book the main focus is on how the children, through their resourcefulness, are able to overcome horrible parenting. The movie devotes some attention to the children's resourcefulness. But the main focus is on the father's child abuse and neglect, which makes the movie much darker than the book.
3. Except in one dramatic scene that occurs near the beginning, the movie places the blame for most of the bad things that happen to the family squarely on the shoulders of Jeanette's father. But in the book Jeanette's mother is almost as responsible for the family's down and out situation. In one memorable scene in the book (missing from the movie), the children, after going hungry for days, find their mother hiding under a blanket eating from her hoard of chocolate bars.
4. Most of the movie takes place after the family moves to West Virginia, which is the most difficult and depressing time period for the family. Almost all of the lighthearted, funny, and enjoyable parts of the book happen when the family is living out west, before they move to West Virginia. But the movie just skims over that part of the story.
5. The movie has a sentimental, "Hollywood" ending which is not true to the more realistic ending in the book.
Everything, Everything (2017)
Not just for teens
Adults, don't be put off by the fact that this movie is being marketed to teens. If you are starved for a good romance, this sweet teen movie is just the ticket. My wife and I went into the movie with zero expectations. We only decided to go because we had already seen all the other movies worth seeing. But we ended up being very pleasantly surprised by this high quality production. The two lead actors have tons of charisma, particularly Amandla Stenberg. She is mesmerizing in every scene. I can't remember a single scene that was boring or didn't work. Of course this had as much to do with the good script as the acting. And it certainly didn't hurt that the movie had bright appealing cinematography and songs I'm going to try to find on iTunes. In case you were wondering, "Everything, Everything" has none of the bad language, back talking, and wild parties that are so typical in teen movies these days. And there is only an inconsequential amount of drinking.
The following would ordinarily be a spoiler. But if you are an adult, I think you may enjoy the movie better knowing this. The girl's actions in the last act seem unreasonable at first. But they make more sense once you realize that she has decided that living a shortened life to its fullest is preferable to living your whole life in confinement.
It Comes at Night (2017)
Not a horror movie...but doesn't work as a suspense thriller either
Despite the marketing and the title, this is not a horror movie. It's a post-apocalyptic suspense thriller. I'm not even sure what "it" refers to in the title. There is no ghost or monster or anything else supernatural. The danger comes from a virus that has killed most of the people in the world and from other humans. A few brief scenes at first seem to be in the horror movie genre, but they are quickly revealed to be only the bad dreams of the teenage boy. I think you're more likely to enjoy the movie if you understand all this going in.
This is a low budget, minimalist movie. Almost the entire movie takes place in and around one house in the woods. Probably 2/3 of the scenes take place in the dark. You see a lot of scenes with characters wearing gas masks creeping around in the dark with lanterns or flashlights attached to the end of gun barrels. I never could figure out why they wore gas masks some of the time, but were not worried about removing them at other times.
There is relatively little dialog or character development. I didn't have much sympathy for any of the characters. There isn't much suspense unless you consider people pointing rifles at other people to be suspenseful. And not much happens. The movie is mostly about people being afraid of getting sick with a deadly virus and people getting killed because they are sick.
Worthy effort but never should have been released in theaters
There are two ways to review this movie. On the one hand, it is obviously a labor of love, and you have to admire director Patrick Johnson's persistence. He worked for 13 years to get this project completed. So I have to give him an A for effort. It's amazing that an amateur filmmaker was able to bring his film to the big screen. This is a worthy "student film", but it is what it is, and it should never have been released in theaters. Everything about it is amateurish, including the acting, the directing, the script, and the cinematography. For example, the director seems to think that having one of the actors stare into the camera with his mouth open for 10 seconds is high drama (and he uses this technique repeatedly). I'm not saying that there is no audience for this movie. I'm guessing that sci-fi geek's, Star Wars fanatics, and amateur filmmakers will enjoy it despite its flaws. But it should have gone straight to DVD and streaming. I felt ripped off having to pay eight bucks to see it.
Good swing, but a miss
This movie definitely has some things going for it. It has an intelligent script and great acting by Richard Gere and the rest of the cast. But in the end I could not get past how annoying Norman is. In real life you couldn't stand to be around this type of person for more than five minutes. Yet he is in almost every scene. To make matters worse, we don't get any backstory for Norman and no scenes with his family and friends. His private life is a total mystery. We never even get to see him sitting down for a meal with his acquaintances. All we see is scene after scene where he is trying to manipulate someone for some advantage. And ultimately this becomes so annoying and monotonous that it doesn't even matter that Norman is doing it for altruistic reasons.
The Lovers (2017)
Enjoyable romantic comedy for adults
Despite all of the negative reviews you may have seen on Rotten Tomatoes, this intelligent, character-driven, romantic comedy is well worth seeing. I don't know–maybe all of those naysayers are young adults. But if you are over 50, The Lovers is a refreshing change of pace from the usual multiplex fare. Sure, it has its flaws. There is no backstory whatsoever for any of the characters. And yes, the symphonic music can be intrusive at times. The score reminds you of movies from the 30s, 40s, and 50s. Also, the movie is a little stagy (lots of dialog), if you consider that to be a drawback, which I don't.
So much for nitpicking. The Lovers has plenty of romance and a little lighthearted comedy. But it also explores serious themes like affairs, divorce, and relationships with grown children. The acting is outstanding, especially Debra Winger and Tracy Letts. Jessica Sula is so good as the daughter-in-law that I wanted to see her in more scenes. She has an unusually naturalistic way of acting and a buoyant personality that lights up the screen. I hope she has a long, successful career ahead of her. Others have mentioned the ending and I too would have preferred something different. There is a lovely romantic scene near the end that could have brought tears to your eyes if the movie had ended right there. I will have to admit, though, that there is a pretty cool final twist after that scene.
Manchester by the Sea (2016)
Falls short of a masterpiece
I went into this movie with sky high expectations based on all the hype. But like a lot of other reviewers on this website, I was disappointed. This was one of the bleakest movies I have seen in a long time. It begins with the death of the main character's brother and then goes downhill from there. The first two thirds of the movie, which deals mainly with preparations for the brother's funeral, is slow and boring. I've had to plan two funerals after the deaths of my parents, and it's not a pleasant process. I didn't want to be reminded of all the mind numbing details that you have to go through. The movie runs long at two hours and 15 minutes, and at least ten minutes of funeral planning could have have been edited out.
In my opinion, Casey Affleck's acting is good (perhaps better than in any of his other movies) but not great. One big disappointment for me was that there is very little dramatic arc to Affleck's character. His character remains so dead inside that by the end of the movie, I had grown tired of the same expressions and reactions.
A less serious problem is the score. The music is too operatic for my taste. It is so loud and obtrusive in a few scenes that it is hard to appreciate what is going on on screen.
In fairness I need to mention a wonderful scene near the end of the movie between Michelle Williams and Casey Affleck that will almost certainly earn Williams an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress. The film is worth going to see for this scene alone. I suspect that this one scene (like the bear attack in The Revenant) is responsible for leaving such a strong positive impression of this movie on the minds of many critics.
Manchester by the Sea could have been a masterpiece with leaner editing and a better story arc. But, sad to say, I can only give it a "C".
The Adventures of Ociee Nash (2003)
Worse than a bad TV movie
This movie isn't even good enough for TV. At best it's only for children under age ten. Most adults and teens won't be the slightest bit interested. Some of the acting is possibly the worst I have ever seen in any movie. I've seen better acting in high school plays (much better). The only slightly bright spot is the young actress who plays Ociee. This movie was made in Georgia and cast with local actors. I saw it in a metro-Atlanta theater on the opening weekend. There were only 5 or 6 other people in the theater and they might have been relatives of the cast and crew. Unless your only criteria is wholesomeness, I would recommend looking at the negative reviews here. When there are so few reviews for a movie and almost all of them are positive even though the overall IMDb rating is low, there is something suspicious going on.
Avril et le monde truqué (2015)
Mainly for steam punk fans?
The steam punk alternate universe is the most interesting thing about this film. However, I'm not sure if it will appeal to adults who are not steam punk fans. The storyline with its lizard men, talking cat, and house that can both walk and swim (not a typo!) is reminiscent of what you would see in a children's cartoon on TV. I would have liked it better if the film had omitted these types of fantasy elements and stuck to science fiction elements such as the steam powered automobile and cable car. The talking cat provides some comic relief, but not as much as I expected from the trailer. As another reviewer mentioned, the animation is similar to Miyazaki. The people aren't drawn with much detail. The color palette is mostly shades of gray and rust...too much of those colors for my taste.
A believable, unconventional movie...until the end
The ending didn't completely ruin it for me--I still thought it was a great movie. I loved the dialog and the acting. But the ending kept me from enjoying it as much as I would have otherwise. Based on Greg's denials in the narration, I was hoping that Me and Earl would break the mold and actually allow the "dying" girl to live. After all, the survival rate for childhood leukemia is in the high 90s! But no, in the end the movie reverts back to all the usual dying girl clichés, especially during the overwrought final video scene.
In my opinion, using an unreliable narrator in this case was a cheap trick. Yes, I know that there are lots of unreliable narrators like Greg in fiction, The Life of Pi being a famous example. But most unreliable narrators are either immature, mentally ill, or mentally handicapped, or they have some really strong reason for lying to the audience (for example, to cover up a crime or to make a central point as in The Life of Pi).
It also bothered me that the screenwriter never gave Greg the opportunity to tell Rachel how he really felt. I thought it was going to happen in the final video, but it didn't.
The Age of Adaline (2015)
Thought-provoking story ruined by second-rate acting and a disappointing script
This science fiction romance had lots of potential. The story is interesting. The production values are outstanding. The cinematography is gorgeous. But the two leads, Blake Lively and Michiel Huisman, ruined it for me. Lively is not known as a great actress, and she's not going to improve her reputation with this film. She has a wooden delivery, and what little inflection she does have sounds unnatural, at least to my ears. Another problem is that her cool persona isn't a good fit for a romance. Huisman does a better job of acting than Lively, but he still comes across like a bad actor in a Lifetime movie. The two of them can barely manage any chemistry on screen. I cringed every time Huisman leaned in for a kiss. Harrison Ford and Cathy Baker, on the other hand, are convincing as Huisman's parents. The script is about what you would expect from a Lifetime movie or an adaptation of a Harlequin romance. If you were hoping for something like a Nicholas Sparks movie, you may be disappointed. Even though Sparks' movies can be corny, at least the scripts are well-written and the acting is usually pretty decent.
La grande bellezza (2013)
Almost all spectacle with little substance (mild spoiler)
I see nearly every art film that comes to town. This is just my opinion, but I think The Great Beauty was one of the worst of 2013. It's almost all spectacle and almost no substance. There is no story to speak of and little character development; just two hours and twenty minutes of mostly unrelated scenes showing the decadence of Rome's affluent. The movie reveals less of the city itself than you might think based on the reviews. And many of the scenes are at night, limiting what you can see.
Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo), the main character, is one of the few people in the film who are halfway likable. Most of the other characters are types whom you would be happy never to meet in real life. Servillo has a very expressive face, and I'm sure he would be interesting to watch in a better movie. But here he is forced to wander aimlessly through scene after vacuous scene. Supposedly, Jep is taking stock of his life now that he's reached his 65th birthday. You keep expecting him to have some kind of epiphany, but there is little evidence of it on the screen.
The Spectacular Now (2013)
Awkwardness doesn't necessarily equal reality
I live in Athens, Georgia, the location where this movie was filmed and the hometown of the director, James Ponsoldt. I loved Ponsoldt's previous movie, Smashed, which by the way featured a stunning performance by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who plays Sutter's sister in this movie. So I really, really wanted to like Spectacular Now.
But what a huge disappointment. Sometimes when I watch a movie, I know in the first five minutes that I'm not going to like it. This was unfortunately one of those movies. My biggest problem was the awkward, underwritten dialog. Some scenes were almost painful to watch. I know that the awkwardness was supposed to make the movie more realistic. But if there are teenagers that talk like this, I've never known any. The dialog here, especially in some scenes, is more like improvisation than reality.
My other problem is that we are initially led to believe Aimee is a serious, bookish, "good" kid. But the way the story develops and the way Shailene Woodley plays the part, Aimee comes across as shallow, giggly, gullible, and immature, not to mention lacking in character. Having never taken a drink of alcohol, once she falls under Sutter's spell, she zips right on past beer and goes straight to regularly drinking the hard stuff without giving it a second thought, as if she's never even heard the word responsibility. Sure there are plenty of teens like Aimee, and Woodley does a good job of portraying her. But we see enough of teens like this in commercial Hollywood movies. I was hoping for a more interesting character in this independent film.
Girl Most Likely (2012)
Were the critics expecting Bridesmaids??
To me the current IMDb rating of six is more accurate than the tomatometer rating of 14%. The IMDb rating is right in line with the audience rating of 58% on Rotten Tomatoes. I think the critics got it wrong on this one. Maybe they were expecting a raunchy commercial comedy like Bridesmaids. But the only similarity between the two movies is the leading actress. Girl Most Likely is a quirky indie drama about a dysfunctional family. It has a few amusing scenes, but I wouldn't call it a comedy, especially not the type of comedy that's currently popular. It's an enjoyable movie if you accept it on those terms, particularly if you like Kristin Wiig and Annette Benning. Rotten Tomatoes described the film as "largely witless and disappointingly dull." That description might be accurate...if you're talking about Francis Ha, a similar movie that the critics gushed over. Maybe Kristen Wiig can't act as well as Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha), but she sure is more appealing. As for the "false and forced finale" (as one critic put it), it's not that different from the feel-good ending of Francis Ha. Go figure.
Frances Ha (2012)
Frances Ha is no Manhattan
This movie didn't work at all for me. The biggest problem is the script. A good script needs characters who are interesting even if they aren't likable. But Frances is boring and her life is boring. The story rambles aimlessly on and on with little narrative arc. What you see is a series of episodes about different places Frances has lived but with little or no transition explaining how and why she has moved from one to the next.
I heard writer and director, Noah Baumbach, say that he was inspired by Woody Allen's Manhattan. But his writing comes close to Allen's only in a few places. There are two or three mildly amusing lines in the movie. That's it. I saw it in a half-full theater and heard only a couple of chuckles from the audience the entire time. And I don't think loving the movie, Manhattan, is a good enough reason to shoot in black and white. It worked for Woody, partly because the cinematography was gorgeous, but here it makes an already dull movie even more colorless.
A little of Greta Gerwig goes a long way. She can be really good in the right role, but she's a little too gawky to be appealing in every role she's in, especially when she's expected to carry the movie. She was enjoyable in a supporting role in To Rome with Love. But without the right script and director, as in this movie, her awkwardness can become annoying.
A better movie on the same subject is Walking and Talking. But if you want to see a truly outstanding drama about a young woman who doesn't have her act together, watch the HBO series, Enlightened.
This Is the End (2013)
If only this were the end of movies loaded with jokes about male body parts
Wow, my wife and I thought this movie was horrendously bad. It was the worst movie we have seen this year with no other close competition. Imagine a home movie that a middle schooler would make and add a little CGI and a lot of vulgarity. It was mind-numbingly boring, idiotic, and crude. So many of the scenes were just filler that could easily have been cut out. To us it was amateurish and self-indulgent. The actors, who play themselves, were so obnoxious that it makes you never want to see a movie again with them in it, especially Michael Cera. We watched for 50 minutes, which seemed like 2 hours of torture, and then walked out. I can't even recommend this movie to people who liked Pineapple Express. I liked Pineapple Express myself, but if that was a B+ movie, then this one is an F-. How the heck did this get a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 84%? Were they watching the same movie? I would advise reading the "hated it" reviews on this site before you spend money on a ticket.
Broken City (2013)
Not great but still entertaining
This film is enjoyable if you don't expect too much. Wahlberg is appealing in almost every movie he's been in, and this one is no exception. Crowe and Zeta-Jones are fine in their roles too. Sure the script is a little slow in parts and there are some holes in the plot. But you can't worry too much about plot holes in this kind of movie anyway. The fun is finding out "whodunit" and seeing the bad guys get their due. The ending is a nice touch, by the way. If you like old-fashioned crime dramas, Broken City is good escapism. I've seen way too many movies in the past year or so that were a lot worse than this one.
Middle of Nowhere (2012)
This movie has gotten glowing reviews from the critics and a few very positive reviews on IMDb. But the current user rating on this site is 4.9, which should tell you something. On the plus side, the acting is good, particularly in the case of Emayatzy Corinealdi (Ruby) and Omari Hardwick (Derek). Hopefully, we'll be seeing these two in more movies. The script effectively shows the dilemmas facing so many women whose husbands and boyfriends are in jail. But even though the movie has a lot of dramatic tension, it's really slow going. There are way too many pauses in conversations while the camera focuses on a character's face. The conversations between Ruby and Derek and between Ruby and her new boyfriend are painfully slow and awkward. It's as if you took a normal conversation and cut out two-thirds of the words. And there are way too many long musical interludes. You can't get to know characters well enough when there is so little dialog. And musical interludes are no substitute for drama. It also got a little annoying to always see faces in extreme closeup. Still, this is a worthwhile effort about an important subject.
Much better than you would think
My wife had to beg me to go see this movie. I have a very low tolerance for overly sentimental movies, and that's exactly what the trailer leads you to believe Timothy Green is. The critics are chiming in with words like "sticky sentimentality" and "mawkish melodrama." Don't believe it. If you can get past the absurd premise that you can grow a boy in the garden (not a spoiler if you've seen the trailer), then the rest of the movie is thoroughly enjoyable. And in some ways it's the opposite of sentimental.
Despite the fact that he is "made to order," Timothy is far from the ideal boy. In fact he's a misfit. Every time he tries to use one of his preordained talents, something goes wrong. Every time director and screenwriter, Peter Hedges, has the opportunity to bring a tear to your eyes, he goes in a different direction. For example, before Timothy draws a portrait of his Mom's cranky old boss lady, he takes off her glasses and lets down her hair. The portrait makes her look pretty, almost glamorous, that is until you notice the crop of hairs sprouting from her chin.
Jim (Joel Edgerton) and Cindy Green (Jennifer Garner) aren't ideal parents either. They make one mistake after another and even make mistakes correcting their mistakes. Their foibles are an exaggerated version of what I've personally seen other parents do or what my wife and I have done ourselves.
Surprisingly, the acting is as good as you would see in the average adult drama . . . none of the "I'm just here for a paycheck" performances that are typical in children's films. I don't normally like Jennifer Garner, but this is her best performance to date in my opinion. CJ Adams is spot on in the role of Timothy. If you don't have the right boy for this role, the movie doesn't work. But Adams is just right. I particularly like that he isn't overly earnest like Haley Joel Osment (Pay It Forward, Second-Hand Lions), although he does resemble Osment.
Timothy Green is a great movie for the kids and it doesn't insult the intelligence of adults. I would also recommend it for seniors.
Habemus Papam (2011)
Most of the funny parts are in the trailer
"We Have a Pope" was advertised as a comedy, but it's really more of a drama with a few lighthearted moments. I was looking forward to this movie after seeing the trailer, which made it seem like a laugh-out-loud comedy ("hilarious" according to a Huffington Post critic quoted in the trailer). When the movie started, though, I was thinking, "Wow, this is a slow start for a comedy." Minute after long minute of cardinals walking through the Vatican and chanting as they prepare to elect a Pope. Unfortunately, this snooze-inducing pace doesn't pick up much as the movie progresses.
Oh yes, the premise is intriguing: The elected Pope has a crisis of confidence at the last minute and decides that he can't go through with it. He slips away from his handlers and wanders the city, trying to resolve his dilemma. But surprisingly, given a storyline with so many interesting possibilities, the script flounders at this point. The Pope wanders from place to place, never meeting anyone we care about, never having a meaningful conversation. He never learns anything, never resolves anything.
Meanwhile, back at the Vatican, the cardinals organize a volleyball tournament. (What the heck?) The director apparently thinks the idea of cardinals playing volleyball is so amusing that he even shows them in sports-movie slow motion. Yawn. As boring as the Pope's adventures are, this ball game is even more boring.
About two-thirds of the way through the movie, we finally get a hint of an interesting subplot. The cardinals discuss the odds published in the local paper regarding each of their chances of being elected. It turns out that the Pope was selected despite long odds. But alas, the whole matter is quickly forgotten.
"We Have a Pope" has very little character development, a skeleton plot, only two or three funny lines, and a disappointing ending. I can't recommend it.
Silent House (2011)
I felt ripped off
I sorry to say that I wasted my money on this one. Sure Elizabeth Olsen does a good job. I mean she REALLY acts scared, just short of being hysterical.
But I have two huge problems with the movie. Even though it is extremely suspenseful, paradoxically it's also boring. I got tired of the constant intensity. It just doesn't work to have the intensity ratcheted up to 10 all the time. Scary scenes work more effectively if the audience is lulled into complacency by breaks in the suspense. Olsen spends a good 60 minutes of the movie scared out of her mind, mostly creeping around from room to room to room in a dark boarded-up house trying to avoid a stalker. I kept thinking, "Enough creeping and cowering, get to the point."
*SPOILER* My second problem is the ending. In my opinion, filmmakers have an implicit contract with the audience to the effect that most of what you are seeing on-screen is real. But sometimes a filmmaker will break the contract, and the audience finds out at the end of the movie that everything they've been watching is either a dream or a hallucination. I admit that once in a blue moon, this type of plot works. The Wizard of Oz is the classic example, but that movie worked because it makes no pretense of being anything other than a fantasy. Most of the time though, when the whole plot turns out to have been a dream or a hallucination, I feel cheated. It seems to be just a lazy plot device that allows screenwriters to put all sorts of weird, spooky, and fantastical scenes in a movie since they know they can explain it all away in the end.
One Day (2011)
Few redeeming qualities
I just got back home from seeing this movie, and I feel like I've been hit upside the head with a baseball bat. I'm a sucker for romantic movies, and I've sat through hundreds of mediocre ones that were watchable anyway. But One Day had to be one of the worst romance movies I have ever had the misfortune to endure. It was especially disappointing because I've loved Anne Hathaway in just about everything she's been in (Princess Diaries, Ella Enchanted, Rachel Getting Married, The Devil Wears Prada, Rio, etc.).
One Day has few redeeming qualities, except for the occasional pretty scenery. The most serious problem is Jim Sturgess's character, Dexter. Dexter is an unlikable, shallow womanizer. I know what you're thinking: Charming womanizers are a staple of these movies. But Sturgess gives Dexter no charm, no glimmer of humanity, no hint that there may be lovable qualities beneath his contemptible persona.
The usually wonderful Hathaway (Emma) gets mired down here in a bad script. And there is not the tiniest spark of chemistry between the two. I kept thinking, "Come on, Emma, block this loser's number and take out a restraining order." When the inevitable romance comes, it hasn't a shred of believability. This movie ultimately amounts to a plain Jane wish-fulfillment fantasy (yep, Hathaway is supposed to be plain)...sort of like those movies where the nerdy guy gets the hot girl.
The plot structure is a big problem too. We see the main characters only on one day (July 15th) of every year from 1988 to 2011. Instead of continuity, character development, and relationship development, we get mostly uninteresting snippets of their lives.
The final straw for me though was the surprise ending, which was a completely gratuitous attempt to insert meaningful drama into an otherwise vacuous movie. At this point, I was begging for the movie to be over, but no such luck. Incredibly, screenwriter (and author of the book of the same name), David Nicholls, drags this bad movie out for another 15 minutes or so.
Copie conforme (2010)
Great movie once you understand the plot
I have seen the movie twice and here is my interpretation of the plot.
Fifteen years before the start of the movie, the woman played by Juliette Binoche and James have an affair. They live in France. James is probably married since she sees her relationship with him as a "certified copy," not an original like his relationship with his wife. They go on a holiday to Tuscany, staying at the hotel shown at the end of the movie. The night before the day shown in the movie is the 15th anniversary of their first night there. Her son is conceived early in the relationship. Although they never marry, the affair lasts at least a year or two. After the breakup, James abandons his son.
Five years before the start of the movie, without telling James, she moves to Florence. By coincidence James visits the city shortly afterward. He happens to see her and the boy walking past his hotel window, but he doesn't recognize her. Later in the piazza, he notices her again—she is looking at a statue with the boy. Although James still doesn't recognize her, he is struck by the fact that the boy apparently loves the statue, a copy, just as much as if it were the original. This gives him the idea for a book about certified copies in art. The central theme of the book is that a copy can be just as good in some ways as the original, as evidenced by the subtitle: "Forget the original, just get a good copy."
The book is published a few months before the movie begins. She discovers the book in a bookstore and buys several copies. By this time she has moved from Florence to a town near the place where she and James vacationed 15 years earlier. She runs a local antique shop. After she hears that James is visiting her town to lecture about his new book, she contacts him to see if they might meet. Apparently they haven't seen each other in many years.
He plans to arrive the evening before his lecture, and they agree that she will meet him at his hotel. While James considers their affair to be a long-ago closed chapter in his life, her feelings for him are as strong as ever. On their "15th anniversary" she is hoping to rekindle their relationship, both romantically and sexually. But James isn't so enthusiastic. Not only does he arrive late, but he falls asleep while she is freshening up in the bathroom. Finding him asleep on the bed, she leaves and returns home.
The next morning she attends the lecture but has to leave early to get the boy something to eat. Before leaving she passes a note to James asking him to meet her at her shop after the lecture. At the restaurant, she gives the boy a book she got James to autograph, and the boy teasingly asks why she got James to write only his first name. The fact that her son had to take her last name because he was born out of wedlock is such a painful subject for her that she has to leave the table.
Later when James arrives at her shop, they act almost like strangers because they haven't seen each other in years. They apparently spoke only a few words the night before. For the moment she overlooks his rude behavior at the hotel, hoping to salvage what she can of her original plans. James suggests an afternoon ride in the country before he catches his nine o'clock train. She says, "I'll take you to a place that you might find interesting," meaning the town where they stayed 15 years earlier.
As they drive through the countryside, they start arguing about his book. From the outset it is clear that she doesn't agree with his main point. Although it seems that they are discussing art, she is really talking about their relationship. She tells him that she doesn't like copies (she never wanted their relationship to be a facsimile of the real thing). But he tells her that he thinks copies are just fine.
When they arrive at their destination, they stop at a coffee shop. She asks how he got the idea for the book. When he begins to tell her about the woman in Florence, she realizes that it was her, and at the same time she thinks, "How could you not recognize me?" Once James sees the tears in her eyes, he slowly starts to comprehend his mistake in Florence but doesn't openly acknowledge this fact to her.
After James takes a call, perhaps from his wife, Binoche says that the woman behind the counter mistook them for a married couple. As they leave the shop, they fall into a game of pretending to be married. She uses the role-playing as a way to voice her complaints to James. She tells him how difficult and frustrating it is to be a single parent. Later when they stop at a restaurant, she talks about how he hurt her feelings the night before. At this point James is fed up with the game and yells at her, even telling her that he hates her after they leave the restaurant.
They wander through the streets and end up at the hotel where they had stayed so many years before. As they sit on the front steps of the hotel, he apologizes for "fifteen years ago and five years ago". She softens and becomes more flirty. She suggests that they go look at the room where they stayed. She remembers every detail about their holiday, but James doesn't recognize the hotel or the view outside the room window. Hoping to seduce him, she lies on the bed and asks him to stay with her. Instead he goes to the bathroom to freshen up as the bell outside the window rings eight times.
Meek's Cutoff (2010)
The least you need to know
This movie is much loved by the critics, but you know there is some kind of problem when the critics meter on RottenTomatoes.com stands at 87 while the audience meter is at 65. Personally, I don't think it's a bad movie, but before you decide to see it, you at least need to know that:
--It is a very minimalist movie, even more so than Somewhere (which I loved). You don't even get a good look at the actors' faces until 15 minutes or so into the movie. The dialog is so sparse that the actors probably didn't need to start studying the script until the night before shooting began. (Don't be fooled by the trailer--it contains most of the dialog in the movie.) The screen is almost completely black in the many barely illuminated night scenes. You can hear the dialog, but you can't see much of their faces or see what they are doing. Although these scenes are highly realistic, the director seems to have forgotten that film is a visual medium. And too much of the dialog is unintelligible. I couldn't decide whether the problem was poor enunciation by the actors, poor placement of the microphones, or both.
--This is one of those "make up your own ending" movies. After you spend 104 minutes watching these people trek through a parched landscape looking for water, you long for answers. The dramatic tension in the movie arises primarily from not knowing whether the Indian they have captured will lead them to water or into a fatal ambush. But don't expect any clear-cut resolution. Yes, there are clues at the end. But some viewers will be unhappy to discover that there is no unambiguous answer to the central question of the movie.
With that said, I still think Meek's Cutoff is worth seeing because it gives you a good feel for what life was like in a wagon train. The film is not so much a drama as a reenactment of life on the trail. No matter that the dialog is sparse. No matter that there is no real ending. The director isn't much interested in character development or storyline anyway. She just wants to put you in the shoes of these pioneers for a few days. And on this level, the movie works very well. Although it may not be entertaining (after all, life on the trail was boring most of the time), it is informative.