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3096 Tage (2013)
Underwhelming if you have read the book
I had tracked the progress of this film from its initial stages after the release of the book to the ridiculous speculative casting; Kate Winslet and Scarlett Johansson, two actresses known for being voluptuous playing an emaciated young woman from about preadolescence to young adulthood? Yeah, right! No wonder the film took ages to get going. Unfortunately, it was also delayed because the initial director (Bernd Eichinger) passed away. Hoffman later took over the realms with Eichinger still listed as writer. This type of story was not suitable for maudlin Hollywood Oscar bait treatment and fortunately it didn't go there. It's probably a good thing it was an independent film with obscure indie actors which would help detract the potential glamorization of such a sad sad story.
If you have read the book this film is based on, I would be surprised if you found the film equally insightful. It isn't. The film in spite of its natural limitations of time does not do enough to absorb Natascha's harrowing story. You're pretty much getting a clear-cut version of her ordeal but that's not surprising with most adaptations of real life stories, especially ones that have an important chronology as hers did. This monster robbed her of her youth, and you can't really translate that when you have a grown woman of 30 playing the young teenage version of her.
Having said that, the acting was okay - nothing special. Hughes, to me at age 29-30 does look convincing as a younger person, not sure enough to pass for a young teenager but you will just have to suspend any disbelief. The set and locations I think are relatively well done. There are some scenes that were as I imagined them to be reading the book. The story does stretch the truth more than what Natascha herself was willing to reveal in her book but has implied outside of the book later on. The relationship between kidnapper and captive is very complex - probably not understandable to most people, thankfully. This movie does a predictably mediocre, yet mildly engaging way of portraying this type of relationship.
To be honest, if I just watched the film without actual knowledge of the real-life events that occurred, I would have given it a lower score, but because of my personal interest in Natascha's story, I can't help but say I was interested in the film - to see a visual albeit fictitious representation of what "happened".
I remember hearing about Liz Murray on Oprah back in 2004. I also remember she was the first recipient of Oprah's Chutzpah award and was inspired by her story. Naturally, it was only right of me to be curious about the film made about her life, and since I was not able to see it back then, I decided to fork out the money to buy the actual movie online last year. I'm so glad I did because it truly is one of the most inspirational films I've seen. The film has no pretense about it, it doesn't paint Liz Murray as this big heroine or self-pitying sermonizer, her story just was what it was - she realized her situation and took steps to eventuate to success out of grand resilience. She overcame a great deal of hardship to make it out telling her story to the world. Anecdotes that really convey her situation; about doing her homework on the subway train, juggling twice the amount of course work, trying to deal with her family situation of drug-addicted parents, shoplifting self help books and of course it goes without saying - being homeless.
The performances are terrific, especially Thora Birch - off the back of her comedic role in Ghostworld - really shows her range here and her portrayal is determinedly solemn. Also, an honorable mention to the girl who plays young Liz.
I'm also glad this story wasn't made into some big Hollywood production - it would have come across too schmaltzy.
Greta is Great
This small independent movie was probably the least hyped movie Hilary Duff has had and it's ironically also her best (imo of course). Greta is sarcastic but not over the top witty that it becomes annoying (alas Juno - sorry Juno fans, I disliked that character). I feel a part of this can be attributed to Hilary's girl-next-door look turned brat delivery. I can imagine other actresses of Hilary's ilk trying out this role and not succeeding as well as she has. The character's narcissistic flaws are shown but a part of you likes her because of it. Her selfishness juxtaposed with her tolerant grandparents is fun to watch but also kind of sad and sorrowful when you realize why Greta misses her father and acts the way she does. The tension is nicely subtle and with modestly effective emphasis on supporting characters. Although the title itself features the main character's name, I liked the fact each supporting character is also appointed their own personal back story and just how this all comes into play with Greta's decision.
The performances were delicately fine. Hilary, well what can I say, she has won me over! Although I liked some of her earlier teen work, I don't think I took her for someone who could carry this film - and she did so well. Hilary definitely soars this time around! Ellen, Michael, Melissa and Evan are all strong support.
Props to Michael Gilvary for writing a simply funny and touching but not annoyingly sardonic and sappy film.
This is indeed, Hilary's best!
Bad Girls from Valley High (2005)
I watched this movie circa 2005/2006 and didn't think I wasted my money on the rental... it was enjoyable.
Do not take it too seriously. It was filmed just off the mark from the 90s/00s boundary in 2000 (which is why it gives off that 90s vibe) and apparently ran into financial difficulties during post production and thus did not get released to the general public until 2005.
It's a typical high school teen comedy flick except with a supernatural / curse theme. The movie is pretty mundane in its use of the "bitch girl" clichés but if you are seriously just looking for a way to kill some time and the chick flick genre is your penchant... this movie isn't half bad.