Saturday, May 23, 2009

Revolutionary Road.

Revolutionary Road (2008) is not the movie for you, if you're searching for feel-good romance, or light-hearted comedy, or even witty dialogues. It has none of that. Instead, it gives you a rather realistic look at marriage, and shows how it can be anything but a bed of roses. Frank and April Wheeler have been married for around seven years, have a lovely big house, two children, Frank has a job in New York City - but all's not well. Their marriage is falling apart, Frank hates his job, April is struggling with the fact that she was never able to make it as an actress, and the complication of life seems to be closing in on them. Their plan to move to Paris for a better and happier life does not work out, but April wants to escape from the horror her life has become, at whatever cost.

I have seen one other movie directed by Sam Mendes, which was American Beauty, and that too, dealt with a similar theme- how a life that seems perfect can actually be far from it. Revolutionary Road is perhaps an inversion of the illusion of the American Dream. It portrays how life can bring with it marital and emotional collapse, job dissatisfaction, and a pervading sense of unhappiness.

Leonardo DiCaprio, it is needless to say, has matured tremendously as an actor. I found it hard to believe this was the same actor who played pretty-boy-Jack-Dawson in Titanic. Kate Winslet is simply brilliant. Her dialogue deliveries are right on cue, with just the right emotion, and her expressions are flawless. Truly one of the best actors in the industry today. Together, they are dynamite - their chemistry is wonderful. And here I shall make special mention of Michael Shannon, who plays the neighbour's mentally unbalanced son, but who seems to talk more sense than expected from a madman.

Revolutionary Road is a very powerful movie, one that explores the pressures and dilemmas of suburban life. The artistic sets, the costumes, and the music score are just about perfect as well. Perhaps the ending is a little too dramatic, but then again, perhaps it is the only way the movie could have ended. Frank and April represent each one of us, who have often thought that things will work out, that we shall be happy and content, only to find out life is much more twisted than that. It's a very honest film that forces you to rethink your idea of 'a perfect life', and urges you to reconsider whether anyone truly gets their 'happily ever after' ending.

Saturday, May 9, 2009


From Brad Bird comes a delightfully and comically fresh family movie - Ratatouille (2007). Remy is a rat with discerning taste in cuisine, who has rather unusual culinary talents. His misadventures lead to him getting lost, and then finding himself in "the city of the best food in France" - Paris. From then on, it's a hilarious turn of events as he achieves his dream - cooking in a top-class kitchen, but not without some rather funny mishaps along the way.

First up, the animation is simply great. Hats off to Pixar! They just seem to get better and better. The creases and crinkles on the Chefs' uniforms, the fur of the rats, the shimmering liquid texture of the soups and sauces - everything's drawn down to the very last detail. I don't profess to be an expert on animation, but Pixar's work is wonderful. At certain moments, you're bound to wonder whether it's an animated movie you're watching, or just a regular one. The visual treatment of the movie is truly incredible.

The plot is a little choppy in the middle of the movie. Perhaps a little forced. But it's more than made up by great voicing, by Lou Romano as Linguini (the garbage-boy who is discovered to be Gusteau's son), by Patton Oswalt as Remy the rat, and Ian Holm as Skinner is simply wonderful as well. Credit goes to Peter O'Toole too, for putting in some spectacular voicing work for the character of Anton Ego, the coffin-shaped food critic.

Janeane Garofolo, however, stole the show, I thought. Her French-accented English, her witty one-liners, and her easy changes from the friendly Colette to the angry Colette are something to watch out for. Also, she manages to make the character of Colette show - a girl intent on making her mark in a man's world - and managing to do that to an animated character, I suppose, is not easy.

Apart from offering some great comic moments, Ratatouille is also a rather sarcastic critique on food snobbery. I've seen food snobs and gourmet critics in my line of work, and Anton Ego is a caricature of these two types, right down to his immensely complacent "I know everything about food" air. Gourmet food may be great, but Ratatouille seems to suggest that sometimes, simple food can be just as effective as working its way to our hearts - for didn't Ego love the simple and traditional peasant dish that was served to him?

I could go on and on about Ratatouille. It's one of my favourite films (and not just for its cooking-theme). I'd dragged my then-boyfriend to watch it when it released, simply because the trailer itself captivated me. And I wasn't disappointed.

It's a rather unusual movie, one that children should definitely watch, but also one that has some important messages for adults. That talent and creativity can come from anywhere, even from the most unexpected of places, and we should give them their due credit. That sometimes, it's the most simple things in life that really matter, and it's not the money or the fame, but just the warm buzz of memories, that can make us happy. And lastly, that following your heart is essential, for selling out beliefs never did anyone any good - like Shakespeare put it so well: "To thine own self be true".

Monday, May 4, 2009

Love Actually.

Love Actually (2003), directed by Richard Curtis, is one of those heart-warming romantic comedies I just can't get enough of. The humour is always fresh, a la You've Got Mail, and the romance is as sweet as its gets, but not overly so. I've watched Love Actually a countless number of times, and what strikes me is the fact that I never get tired of it. Every time I watch it, I find myself warming to the characters, smiling at the jokes, and when the film's over, I'm left with a warm fuzzy-happy feeling.

The movie follows the stories of separate people, all inter-related somehow, set in and around London. It's about love in its many manifestations, about love in different forms. Love that knows no class boundaries - the Prime Minister falling for the tea-lady. Unrequited love - the man who has a crush on his best friend's wife. Love with an obstacle- the woman unable to continue a relationship with the man she loves, because of her mentally ill brother. Love with a language barrier - the writer who is taken with the charms of his Portuguese housekeeper. Love despite being cheated on - the wife who chooses to stay with her philandering husband for the sake of her children. Love in an unusual place - two actors taking to each other on the sets of an erotic film. Love in mourning - the husband who cannot get over his wife's death. Love in terms of friendship - the old rock ' roll star who begins to appreciate his manager's efforts. And childish love - the boy who has just lost his mother, falling for the 'coolest girl in school'.

Love Actually
is a movie with soul - it's a movie that reaches out to you, makes you feel good, and makes you feel that really and truly, love is all around us. It shows itself in the strangest of places and situations, often it may not be romantic - it may be a childish crush, or it may even be lust - but the point is that it exists.

Is there blatant stereotyping in the film? - possibly. Does one need suspension of disbelief? - Yes, in certain parts. Is the story a little forced at times? - perhaps. But that doesn't change the fact that Love Actually is a very genuine film that speaks to you, it's enjoyable, the script is great, and there are some fantastically funny moments that leave you laughing - like when the Prime Minister (Hugh Grant) dances down the stairs, and when Jamie and his Portuguese housekeeper jump into the water to recover his manuscript. The cast is a great one - watch out for the likes of Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Keira Knightley, and many, many more. Rowan Atkinson's guest appearance, too, is extremely memorable.

This movie has character. It has depth. Yes, perhaps the plot is unrealistic at times (would the US President try to grope the tea-lady? No way. Would the UK Prime Minister go door-to-door with only one bodyguard? Yeah right!) But at the end of the day, it is a movie, and sometimes, cinema is allowed to stretch itself, to be slightly unreal, because often, what we want in cinema is not reality, we want to be convinced that what we do not feel in the world around us does actually exist, in some way or another.

Love Actually
is an absolutely delightful homage to love. Whenever I watch it, I find myself warming up to the characters, no matter if I don't identify with them the slightest bit. While it was made specifically for the holiday season, I think it's relevant to any time, any place - it's a film that has the power to convince you that love exists - fulfilled or unfulfilled, happy or sad - it doesn't matter. It's a strong emotion that reaches out and grips you, and Love Actually does exactly that.

Don't classify this is as a chick-flick, or sweet-as-sugar romance. I think it's much more than that - it's a commentary on life itself. Watch this movie for an instant pick-me-up, some great laughs, a general feeling of happiness, and if you're a girl- you're bound to be swooning at Firth, Grant, and Neeson! Just when you thought things couldn't get better, eh? *grin*