Adapted from Don Winslow’s acclaimed pulp novel of the same name, Savages’ occasionally changes from black and white to glaring, grainy 8mm-like colour, worrying me that it is as visually schizophrenic as his better movies. And I understand why Stone chose this reliable technique in depicting the ocean’s waves slapping the rocky shore and the character watching the waves, Ophelia or O (Blake Lively), the latter venerating closeups as the epitome of the blonde Californian bombshell.
O has the same amount of passport stamps, credit limit and invisibly rich parentage as Lively other famous character, Serena van der Woodsen, but she attempt on range by playing O, just like her characters in other movies, as trashy as she can. She narrates playfully, that quality mixed with what I assume are director Oliver Stone‘s notes telling her and the younger half of the cast that “You’re stoned. Tone it down a little!” which hampers whatever life they could have injected – oops, wrong drug! – into their characterizations. She is 33% of a business cooperative/bigamous arrangement that also includes Chon (Taylor Kitsch) and Ben (Aaron Johnson), all three of them based in Laguna Beach. The two men are similarly passionate with their weed business, O and sharing the same muscular body type.
But as O insists, they’re different and she needs their opposites as a guiding influence for her or something. Ben is a loving botanist, Chon is the no-nonsense payment collector. Chon thinks that Buddha is a ‘fat Chinese guy’ like every tenth grade drop-out does, Ben corrects him and practices Buddha’s teachings. And most importantly, Ben makes love in the spirit of mutuality, Chon fucks while he’s in some vampiric state.
Now here’s my question or set of questions – why is O tolerating this from Chon? Why is Chon having sex with her without eye contact? It’s the hair isn’t it, his buzz cut more aesthetically pleasing and less pungent than Ben’s annoying Rastafarian dreadlocks. Let me tell you, hair is not a good enough reason to have sex with a guy as if he’s some gay for pay prostitute having sex with a man twice his age and weight. And white guys with dreadlocks are the kind of men you avoid in a Bushwick party, but Johnson accomplishes a Samson-esque feat in making them look attractive. During and after sex O looks like she can never smoke enough weed for the pain on the inside part of her belly button piercing to stop. She proves nothing about her love for Chon or Ben for that matter other than her saying it. She should have just friend zoned the guy or at least admit that she sleeps with both of them to keep the peace instead of pretending that she actually loves them equally.
After Ben and Chon’s failed negotiations with Mexican drug lord middle management (Oscar nominee Demian Bichir) and a shopping mall scene that tries too hard to make Blake Lively seem like Danielle Darrieux, both call each other the titular savages, reminiscent of that musical segment in the Disney version of Pocahontas. The middle management’s boss, the Reina Elena (Oscar nominee Salma Hayek) decided to use a henchman named Lado (Oscar winner Benicio del Toro) to kidnap O.
This event becomes the turning point where some characters get more compelling. Elena has a daughter, Madgalena, who shares the same mall with O, but Magdalena rolls her eyes while talking to her on the phone while O actually wants to talk to her. She becomes maternal, while her amoral pragmatism calling O’s ‘needing my independence,’ lost rich free love white girl BS. She might make a better evil queen than Julia Roberts or Charlize Theron, playing Elena with enough camp to sustain the comparison to equally veteran actresses.
On the other hand, Ben and Chon use their differences to guide them. Chon has had tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan and uses that experience to help get O back from Elena’s cartel. Strangely, Chon speaks as if he is a jihadist instead of fighting them. Ben’s Eastern ethos loses to Chon’s urgings to become just like latter’s past and present enemies, and watching the former transform from altruist to criminal is seamless. But let’s look at it this way, this is a story burdening Elena with the onus to prove that she is compassionate while giving Ben and Chon as much leeway into ruthlessness. As if stooping down to her level is punishment enough for both.
This all adds up to a double standard but there’s something fascinating with these characterizations, or enough to latch on to, even if the ending comes too late and too terribly. John Travolta and Emile Hirsch also appear in supporting roles. 2.5/5.
- Chris Jancelewicz: Review: ‘Savages’ Overdoses On Itself (news.moviefone.ca)
Sandra Bullock is serious business at my guest post at The Film Experience.
TIFF just announced their Gala and Special Presentations line-up which had many lovers and some doubters, but over at Anomalous Material I chose around ten of the fifty films that they announced. I suppose I could have written about more films that I was excited for, but I believed that it wads better to write about the why as much as the what. Although I’m ambivalent about not including Eye of the Storm, the image of Chloë Sevigny‘s friend Charlotte Rampling is captivating enough as her character, Elizabeth, chooses everything about her life including her ‘society’ and her own death. I then hesitated because of that synopsis but a cast that includes Judy Davis and Geoffrey Rush are good enough for me.
I’m equally ambivalent about Hick, a coming of age story where a young Chloë Moretz finally plays a real person in a movie and Blake Lively might become a great talent, as potential and hype about her was around for a TIFF release two years ago, The Private Lives of Pippa Lee.
- TIFF 2011: U2, George Clooney, Brad Pitt and more (thestar.com)
Isn’t today Guy Fawkes day? If yes, then those guys are doing it wrong.
Yes, The Town is a masochistic Boston Tourism film. Also, for some reason, screenwriters today have to add vulnerability or worse, neediness to get two unlikely people like career bank robber Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck) and assistant bank manager Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall) into a relationship, especially since the former robbed the latter. Thankfully, ‘rebound from a bank robbery’ is better than ‘he’s so gruff and masculine,’ the former being an assessment that Claire’s off-screen friends have given her. I didn’t hate it as much as Dana Stevens, despite having the same gripes as I do.
This movie also reminds me of LA-set film Set It Off. Spoilers: Desmond Elden (introducing Owen Burke) is Kimberly Elise, Gloansy (Slaine, rapper?) is Vivica A. Fox, Coughlin (Jeremy Renner) is Queen Latifah – for more than one reason apparently – and Douggie, as his ex and Coughlin’s sister Krista (Blake Lively) calls him, is Jada Pinkett. Yes, I know the main cast of Set it Off by heart while I had to iMDb the names of the robbers in this movie. Also, for some reason, with a lust-worthy cast that also includes Jon Hamm, I thought Burke was the cutest. My working class east-end formative years really screwed me up.
And yes, Hall and Lively’s growing talents are no match for Gone Baby Gone‘s Michelle Monaghan and Oscar-robbed Amy Ryan, but then arguably the women in this film didn’t get to do much. But for some reason, the men in this film are better than the male veterans in Affleck’s first film. Hamm and Renner gave great soliloquies that seem more convincing than Morgan Freeman and Ed Harris.’ The ‘we’re gonna get you’ or ‘I took you in’ that I would normally hate in other less-polished scripts. The camera somehow also makes their close-ups dimensional, thanks to DP Robert Elswit. Affleck’s head and neck bobs are still distracting and his delivery is the weakest of what is still a decent bunch of male actors.
The film’s last job takes place Fenway Park, reminding me of the big urban settings of the 70’s urban crime films that it’s been compared to. If there’s anything close to revolutionary about crime/action/western films – not saying this film is a western at all, by the way, so calm down – it’s how a film lets the audience see and hear guns. Not a gun expert here, but the weapons are bigger and badder than I remember them, the lower interior of the stadium muffling the gunshots, firing dozens of rounds a second, breaking the edges of SWAT shields. The casualties also look more realistic, when a man’s face swells after being hit in the cheek, looking like the old photos of gangster crime scenes.
In a conversation that occurs when Douggie visits his father Stephen (Chris Cooper) in a federal pen, the latter destroys the former’s perception on his supposed ‘angelic’ mother. In a way, Stephen touches on Doug’s perception of women. Claire and Krista are both Cressida, betraying their man. the consequences for Krista aren’t spelled out.
Doug also knows that Claire has betrayed him, yet he isn’t cruel to her. He doesn’t point out her betrayal since he has lied to her just the same. He also gives her two gifts, understanding her decision and maintaining his perception of her ‘angelic’ nature despite of what she’s done. The Town doesn’t have the character and moral ambiguity of his earlier effort, but Doug and his treatment of women are good enough for me. Maybe, knowing this about him, his doomed relationship with Claire isn’t unconvincing after all.
- Movie Review: The Town (blogcritics.org)