Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Young Adult; The Muppet Movie; We Need To Talk About Kevin; The Comedian

Young Adult

Charlize Theron gives a brilliant performance as Mavis Gary, the unfulfilled belle of a small town, who left for the big city and a career as a ghost writer years ago, only to find disappointment and disconnection as she exists on junk food, one night stands and writer’s block about 10 years after that would stop being fun.
On receiving a round robin email with the picture of an old flame’s new baby, she decides to go back home to try and get a little self confidence from those left stuck behind, only to find them more happy and content than she. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be!

Finding her old schoolmates mainly underwhelmed by her being back, she tries to get back in with her old flame, despite his being married and newly a father. In the meantime she meets an old classmate, Matt (Patton Oswalt) who was crippled by homophobic jocks, despite his being straight, and they form a disjointed friendship based on the perceived failings of others.
Her stay at home spirals into a nosedive of epic proportions as she combusts in front of a large part of the town, but moves on, still thinking she’s better than them.

There’s a lot of bite in the dialogue from Diablo Cody’s script, directed again by Jason Reitman after the success of Juno, and it feels like there’s not a little self-deprecating autobiography about it.

Despite her overwhelming flaws we still come to care about Mavis, enabled by Theron’s unflinching portrait of a self-obsessed but self-deluded depressive. 

The Muppet Movie

It seems that Gary‘s (Jason Segel) brother Walter is essentially a muppet and grows up in awe of the show, feeling out of place in his all-American small town.
After some to-and-froing with Gary’s sweetheart Mary (Amy Adams) the trio travel to Hollywood to visit the old muppet theatre, only to find it under threat by mean old developers. Off they go to find Kermit and persuade him to put the gang back together for a fundraiser that will save the theatre.

There are quite a lot of in jokes about the muppet’s waning fame and a bucket load of musical numbers, but the most enjoyable scenes are those with the evil developer Chris Cooper and his muppet henchmen.
Whilst all the goody-goody wholesomeness overplayed by Segel and Adams is definitely tongue in cheek, it does get a little cloying. 

This is a better muppet movie than the last few to hit cinemas but still isn’t quite as funny as I wanted it to be, as a fan growing up with the TV show in the 80s.

We Need To Talk About Kevin

Lyn Ramsey manages to take on a story of one of the most American of tragedies, the high school massacre, whilst leaving her unique painterly vision intact.
We’ve had arty versions of this story before, with Gus Van Sant’s 2003 Elephant, but whereas that imagining of the events of the real Columbine high school murders created a film whose interpretation sometimes veered more on the sleepy end of dreamlike, ‘Kevin’ is more visceral, if almost as light on dialogue.

Ramsey’s approach to the book is to get us inside Eva’s head through setting a tone, and using Tilda Swinton’s extraordinary abilities to convey the isolation, anger, frustration and resentment she feels alongside the occasional burst of joy.
It’s joy that opens the film, but even as Eva is carried above the crowd at the La Tomatina, the annual tomato-fight near Valencia, we are introduced to the recurring motif of Eva covered in red.

Moody washes of colour continue to set the tone as we continue to follow Eva’s pregnancy and the start of motherhood through flashbacks she has from her current life, what we later learn is a limbo she endures as her son rots in prison after murdering numerous classmates.
The scorn and attacks carried out by townspeople are accepted, begrudgingly, by an Eva who clearly feels somewhat responsible by the way her son turned out, though there is an anger there too, a suspicion that he emerged into the world fully formed and resentful of her.

John C. Reilly does well as the father, Franklin, totally manipulated by his son’s cynical act as the dutiful son, only when his dad’s around, whilst Ezra Miller and Jasper Newell are brilliant as the teenage and younger incarnations of Kevin, all malice and sly charm and convincingly different versions of the same person.

Unlike the book Ramsey’s film doesn’t focus very much on the massacre itself, instead when those scenes come up it mainly features outside the school, taking in the reactions of school kids and family, as well as Eva herself.

The film, like the book, is brave in depicting the conflicting feelings some mothers feel, rather than the assumed automatic motherly instincts, and questions how much influence we have in our children’s development.

The Comedian

Low budget British mumblecore drama about a 32 year old for Sheffield trying to make it as a stand-up comedian whilst hating his day job in a call center, torn between his feelings for his French housemate and a young man he recently met on a bus.
Conversations and relationships feel realistic, with no overly scripted elements, people mumble, pause and talk over each other in a way which demonstrates writer-director Tom Shkolnik‘s ear for dialogue.

All the main parts are well played, Edward Hogg as Ed exuding a rumpled tiredness as he flits through life like a man in his 20s but ten years on. Nathan (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett from Misfits) is good as a younger man living an artist’s lifestyle, unwilling to be collateral damage from Ed’s early/mid-life crisis, and Elisa Lasowski (as flat mate Elisa) offers a mix of friendship and intimacy that makes it easy to believe when Ed feels torn and can’t make up his mind.

‘Raw’ would have the wrong connotations for the atmosphere created in this snapshot of London life and love, but there is an unflinching honesty to this take on the directionless life of 20 to 30 somethings, come to the capital to seek their dreams only to find them hard-won.


Post a Comment