Thursday, June 28, 2012

Happy Uncle Beaver

     Today's DVD reviews include a quirky family drama about mental illness with bite (so sorry, slipped out, backspace key has stopped working, must trudge onward), the first Thai film I've ever seen, and a quirky family drama about mental illness with biting sarcasm (see, the first one was completely unavoidable by the end, still, sorry).  If I seem a little darkly comic it's probably because of the influence of...

Another Happy Day - Writer/director Sam Levinson's debut feature (as director anyway) is quite impressive for a freshman outing.  It IS yet another dysfunctional family dramedy, but one that often puts the "fun" back in "dysfunctional", peppered as it is with witty one liners that are almost casually tossed away in the heat of conversation, and built as it is upon an almost absurdist view of reality.  The ridiculous cast of characters that populate this world almost seem to belong in a more broad style of comedy, except that they slip into the pathos side of the film so effortlessly, for the most part, that somehow we can still take them seriously at the appropriate moments. 
     Another Happy Day has a great ensemble cast: Ellen Barkin as Lynn, the therapy obsessed mother of very troubled kids, Ellen Burstyn as her private and reserved (or repressed) mother, George Kennedy as the ailing and dementia ridden grandfather, Thomas Haden Church as Lynn's ex-husband, Demi Moore as his rather unpleasant new wife, and Kate Bosworth as Lynn's daughter, who is a cutter.  The stand out for me, though, is Ezra Miller, as Lynn's middle son.  He is perhaps the most troubled of all her children, and just as in We Need To Talk About Kevin (review here), he is exceptional at playing young men who are more than just a little "off".
     I found the film very enjoyable over all, truly funny in a ludicrous way, and occasionally touching.  Dark and weird, but worth a look.  Available on DVD and Netflix Instant Play.  4 of 5*

The Beaver - So, this film was supposed to come out back in 2010,  but was pushed back a year after Mel Gibson's highly publicized shenanigans cast a dark shadow over anything he was connected with.  Director/co-star Jodie Foster was much pitied for having her passion project derailed, but she was a loyal friend who stood by her actor and his performance.  In the end, it really wasn't a great blow to anyone's career involved that the movie was delayed because The Beaver was just...okay.
     It wasn't a bad film, and some of Gibson's delivery as a depressed man who develops an alternate personality that he manifests through a fuzzy handpuppet with buck teeth is quite charming.  The basic concept is so gimmicky, though, and the developement of it doesn't really seem to say anything about depressed people, or people with problematic family relationships, or...anything.  Available on DVD.  2 1/2 of 5*

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives - I had really high hopes for this film.  It won the 2010 Palme d'Or at Cannes and was hailed as this fantastic, creative, abstract film.  In many ways, it was.  It started out that way, lots of images and small scenes that seemed to be building mood more than storyline.  Then there was this wonderful dinner party where ghosts and spirit creatures attended unexpectedly, but no one acted as if it were shocking or unexpected.  It was random but cohesive, almost like a Buddhist Tree of Life.
     The film just never seemed to come to any resolution, other than Uncle Boonmee's eventual death.  If the film had ended there, I would probably have been more impressed overall.  It was followed, however, by a fifteen minute resolution segment, however, that didn't seem to really add to or resolve anything from the rest of the movie.  Maybe I didn't get it; the whole thing was so indirect.  I respected many things about director Weerasethakul's film and the way he made it.  I just wish I had been able to decipher its conclusion.  Anyone seen the film who thinks that they got it?  Love to hear about it.  Available on DVD and Netflix Instant Play.  3 1/2 of 5*

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