The Swedish Review

→ in
Tools    





You're a Genius all the time


Lars and the Real Girl (Craig Gillespie - 2007)

Is there an actor with any more upside than Ryan Gosling? Here is a movie thats success totally hinges on the strength of its lead's performance. And Gosling is perfect. This character could have just been creepy or completely unlikable and the whole thing would have fallen apart. But instead, Gosling turns Lars into a remarkably relatable (albeit unusual) individual and we totally buy it. He's a painfully shy, lonely guy living in a small town where everyone seems to love as well as feel a little sorry for him. So when his paraplegic missionary girlfirend Bianca arrives, no one except maybe his brother Gus (Paul Schneider) has the heart to ask him why he's dating a life-sized, vinyl sex doll.

This sure sounds like the kind of high-concept "comedy" somebody like Rob Schneider would feel at home in, but it really isn't. I'd be hard pressed to name a film that better balances its more sentimental or depressing moments with such liberal doses of hilarity. Lars and the Real Girl is very, very funny when it needs to be, but it's also the most sincere movie I've seen in years.

All the ancillary performances, from Emily Mortimer's sympathetic sister in-law to Paul Schneider's flabbergasted brother, are dead on. But yeah, this is Ryan Gosling's movie. I've heard critics say he wasn't "real" enough and that the film is just trying to be as quirky as possible - holding no basis in reality. Well I don't necessarily think it needs to be realistic to be effective. For all its whimsy, Lars and the Real Girl is still a life-affirming, immensely positive, easily enjoyable and magnificently sweet movie that deserves to find an audience.

Swedish Rating:



You're a Genius all the time


Teeth (Mitchell Lichtenstein - 2008)

Much like Lars and the Real Girl, Teeth takes an utterly bizzare premise and does some pretty fantastic stuff with it. But unlike Lars and the Real Girl, it never manages to turn that premise into a fully formed, completely realized motion picture.

Still, this thing has stuck with me a lot longer than any film i've seen in a good long while. And for what it's worth, I think that I would like very much to meet Mitchell Lichtenstein, the writer/director of this strange little movie. His heroine, Dawn (a pitch-perfect Jess Weixler), is an annoyingly naive, abstinence-pushing teen with a pretty big problem. The problem is that unlike most girls her age, Dawn has an entire set of overzealous chompers in her vagina. Though, inexplicably, she doesn't realize this problem until her first ill-fated sexual encounter with a fellow abstinence pledgee (Hale Appleman). And while I don't want to give away some of Teeth's more interesting plot developments, I will tell you that Dawn's teeth taste blood more than a few times over the course of the movie.

There are, as you may imagine, many memorable moments throughout. Dawn's creepy step-brother's (Nip/Tuck's John Hensley) numerous attempts to claim her virginity are of particular note. And if the film stuck to that sort of camp horror sensibility, maybe it would have been something genuinely special. But Teeth never really decides what it wants to be. It's all over the place - ranging from quirky teen rom-com territory to an over-the-top gorefest. Is it about sexual empowerment? Is it a cautionary tale for prospective young lovers? Teeth tries to be a lot of things, but all those tonal shifts can get a little distracting. While it's hard to fault a film in this day in age for being too ambitious, that's definitely the case here.

Lichtenstein's unbridled enthusiasm notwithstanding, there is a lot to like about Teeth. The film's concept alone should at least make it worthy of a rental whenever it hits the shelves. And flawed as it may be, Teeth is easily one of the most unique, haunting and unabashedly strange film experiences I have ever had.

Swedish Rating:



I should warn you that if you see Teeth with a friend, get ready to spend the next few days entangled in a myriad of endlessly exhausting discussions about vagina dentata. Be prepared to answer completely unanswerable questions such as: Do you have to brush your vaginal teeth? or If your vagina has teeth, does it also have a tongue? And, if so, can your vagina talk? And, if so, what would your vagina's voice sound like?

And so on.



You're a Genius all the time
[IMG]http://i177.photobucket.com/albums/w201/movie****/dreamers20SPLASH.jpg[/IMG]

The Dreamers (Bernardo Bertolucci - 2003)

I'm a little ashamed to admit that this is the only Bertolucci film I've seen. But then, if his other films are as superficial and self-important as this one, do I really want to see them?

The Dreamers follows young American cinephile Matthew (a bland Michael Pitt) as he studies abroad in 1960's Paris. He spends most of his time in the front row of the Cinémathèque Française, taking in countless films, contemporary and classic alike. It's there he meets the uber-hip brother sister duo of Theo (Louis Garrel) and Isabelle (Eva Green), with whom Matthew eventually takes up residence. Despite their relatively destitute living conditions, everything is just peachy for the culture-obsessed trio. They ramble on endlessly about their place in society and the merits of Jimi Hendrix. And when Matthew discovers the siblings' deeply rooted incestuous relationship, Isabelle and Theo have few qualms about letting their new friend in on the fun. But it all comes to a crashing halt as their secret is let out and violence erupts around them.

The film fails on so many levels I don't even know where to start. As a love letter to cinematically-impassioned young people and the French New Wave movement itself, The Dreamers is a pretentious dud. The inclusion of the 1968 student riots is both superfluous and mishandled. And the love triangle, the core of the film, is an inauthentic mess. All three main characters are unlikable, contemptuous pomps who say a lot without actually saying anything. It doesn't help that the three central performances are, like the film, totally lacking in subtlety and real emotion.

Everything The Dreamers tries to accomplish is ultimately either half-realized or poorly executed.

Certain scenes do work, at least on their own terms. The exuberant run through the Louvre (in tribute to Godard's Bande À Parte) especially stands out. And yeah, Eva Green is pretty easy on the eyes. It's hard to imagine I came close to walking out on a movie in which she's naked for more than half of her screentime. But it doesn't take very long for this heavy-handed salmagundi to overstay its welcome.

Swedish Rating:




The People's Republic of Clogher
Keep 'em coming.
__________________
"Critics are like eunuchs in a harem; they know how the Tatty 100 is done, they've seen it done every day, but they're unable to do it themselves." - Brendan Behan



You're a Genius all the time
Originally Posted by Tacitus
Keep 'em coming.
Originally Posted by linespalsy
Yeah, do. These are good reviews, I just haven't seen any of the movies you've written up so far.
Originally Posted by christine
Teeth sounds hilarious, if a little painful mebbe
Thanks a bunch for reading and the kind comments, folks. And yes christine, Teeth was hilarious at times. It is, however, the only theater-going experience I've had that compelled me to apologize to my penis on the way out.



You're a Genius all the time


Ghost World (Terry Zwigoff - 2001)

I am a huge, slobbering fan of Daniel Clowes' brilliant graphic novel, Ghost World. It's a classic commentary on a disaffected generation. It's a subtle, nuanced portrait of teenage life, encompassing everything I remember from that time. The angst. The overwhelming urge to rebel. The social awkwardness. Everything. And while it may not seem like the ideal candidate for a transition to celluloid, director Terry Zwigoff hits all the right notes in this inspired adaptation.

Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson) are life long friends. They share the same kind of caustic, world-weary view on life and enjoy nothing more than making sardonic observations of satanic diner patrons or the meaningless nature of existence. Having recently extricated themselves from their miserable high school and all the walking stereotypes that inhabit it, Enid and Rebecca prepare to venture into the real world side-by-side, just like it's always been for them. They make vague plans about settling into throwaway jobs and renting an apartment together. They convince each other that their lives will take care of themselves. But it becomes increasingly clear that Rebecca is much more willing to embrace conventionality than Enid. Eventually, this rift in the friendship becomes irreparable. Enid doesn't know what she wants out of life, so she continues to amble about aimlessly. Instead of getting a steady job and condo-shopping like Rebecca, Enid prefers to dye her hair green, listen to The Buzzcocks or hang out with endearingly nerdy record collector Seymour (Steve Buscemi).

The real strength of this film is the level of connectivity we have with Enid and her wayward journey through life. Alienated teens who choose to live on the societal fringes have not fared well in film. Too often presented as caricatures, Ghost World develops Enid into a believable, three dimensional character. Scarlett Johansson’s Rebecca may be a tad underwritten and a little cursorily drawn. But Enid is perfect, helped immeasurably by Thora Birch‘s fantastic take on the character. In fact, other than Johannson’s usual vanilla performance, everyone in the cast shines. Buscemi, playing decidedly against type, gives a performance that is probably the best of his acting career. Ileana Douglas’ airy art teacher and Bob Balaban’s lovable, yet disconnected dad are pitch-perfect in support.

While it’s not a completely faithful, panel-by-panel adaptation of the graphic novel, Ghost World is remarkably true to the vision of its source material. And some of the film’s additions, such as the unconventional relationship between Enid and Seymour, actually improve upon it. Ghost World is a timeless, painfully authentic representation of teenage existence that should be required viewing for any high schooler wary of the world before them.

Swedish Rating:



Well, your review sounded really good, but that girl has successfully ruined every film she's been in apart from Lost in translation. I may bite the bullet though...one day...



The People's Republic of Clogher
Well, your review sounded really good, but that girl has successfully ruined every film she's been in apart from Lost in translation. I may bite the bullet though...one day...
Personally I'd say that Ghost World is a hell of a lot better than Lost In Translation so that's two films that Miss T!ts, Hips & lips hasn't stunk out. At least.

Thora Birch has a much bigger role than the lovely (but, I agree, drastically limited) Scarlett anyway.



Welcome to the human race...
Ghost World, both the novel and the film, have been on my to-do list for a while now. Definitely going to see the film now. Does it matter much whether I watch the film or read the book?
__________________
I really just want you all angry and confused the whole time.



Good review. Makes me want to see it again
I quite like Scarlett Johansson, but I'm not sure whether she's a decent actress or she just mesmerises onscreen with that face. Specially like in Girl with a Pearl Earring



Nice review. Have you seen Art School Confidential yet, Mr. Chef? I like both of these movies, they're kind of like encyclopedias of stereotypes.

And adidasss, give it a shot, even if you don't like Scarlet. One of the points of the movie is to show how everyone is acting a made-up character (sort of a life-as-performance/cliche thing) so it's not a movie that's really hurt by having a little bit of range in acting talent/type to show the different levels of awareness/different ways the characters have of showing it. I agree with the others who have said Thora Birch is really good here, too.



You're a Genius all the time
Thanks for reading, everybody

Originally Posted by Iroqouis
Does it matter much whether I watch the film or read the book?
Personally, I'd check out the graphic novel first. But really, they're both tremendous. And they're different enough that it's definitely worth tracking down both of them.

Originally Posted by chrsitine
I quite like Scarlett Johansson, but I'm not sure whether she's a decent actress or she just mesmerises onscreen with that face. Specially like in Girl with a Pearl Earring
Oh, yeah, I know what you're talking about. People inexplicably believe she has talent because of that "Scarlett Johansson Effect" thing she's got going. Match Point is a perfect example of the "Scarlett Johansson Effect". The first time I saw that, I actually thought Johansson was quite good in it.

The second time...

Originally Posted by linespalsy
Nice review. Have you seen Art School Confidential yet, Mr. Chef? I like both of these movies, they're kind of like encyclopedias of stereotypes.
I have not seen Art School Confidential, Mr. palsy. It's got a long way to climb on my netflix queue, but I'll get to it eventually.



Bright light. Bright light. Uh oh.
Anybody who watches Ghost World, make sure to stick around to the end of the credits. Steve Buscemi has a hilarious scene. I always watch the credits straight through, and I've been rewarded enough times with some goodies.
__________________
It's what you learn after you know it all that counts. - John Wooden
My IMDb page



Great reviews, Chef!
__________________
MY Work!