When I say that Dane DeHaan is cute, it doesn’t make sense since people who don’t go to film festivals might only know him from In Treatment (pardon the elitism). But I first saw him in Amigo, with his wide-blue eyes and blonde hair and as a young man, this time named Andrew, who still doesn’t know how to talk to girls. John Hughes would have made a star out of him, although it’s arguable whether Hughes has done that for anyone.
He stars in Josh Trank’s Chronicle, which I saw in two sittings. It’s better than The Craft by the way, as it gambles by depicting teenage boys who – higher stakes here – have magical powers. How to depict these phenomena? Well, they do so by making baseballs and Lego pieces and cameras float in the air. These seem like antics that any group of teenage boys would do if they had powers. And so I could have reacted like an old person watching juvenile activity or actually enjoy myself and be like one of the them. I reacted like the latter, having the same fun as if I was up in the clouds with my new friends. The movie definitely taps into that sense of relatable boyhood that I never had but wanted to have. Even the handheld cam and the CGI as conceits don’t hinder me from liking the second childhood that he and his two Seattle-area friends are genuinely experiencing. In a deeper sense we’re also watching adolescents, trying to figure out their bodies and abilities. Andrew’s even tells his friends how to make things float the same way we pretend to be armchair experts on any new physical activity we’re watching or doing. But of course, the metaphor of physical rediscovery is that the three get magical – no, telekinesis through some glowing rocks underground a stone’s throw away from a rave they all just went to. There’s also an effortless yet dangerous poetry to the camera movements, no matter how self-aware they are, as the depict the push and pull of Andrew’s sad and happy moments.
The second sitting was a month later, starting at the fifty minute mark when I turned off the movie. The scenes steer towards a direction more certain than the movie’s first half. We’re sure that Andrew’s going to be a more destructive character, not abiding by the rules that his friends have given him. The conflicts are as high as a rollercoaster and need the CGI to depict them, and thus the jump between the quiet moments and the louder fight scenes are widely distracting. The lightfootedness of the magical moments of the first half are replaced by something I’m not necessarily comfortable with. It makes me realize how much I’m watching too much TV. I expected a movie and its scenes to be as parceled as TV is, and some movies from the past two years are adapting to the same impressionistic approach. You can call this movie impressionistic but only within the few moments when it’s lulling before its valley-like arcs. It’s always wanted to be big and tried to to use the smaller moments to ease us into its ambitions, which it does achieve, although not without flaw.