The titular Nell (Jodie Foster), gets discovered by the small town’s Dr. Jerry Lowell (Liam Neeson) after her mother’s death. The childlike feral virgin has unformed relationships with the outside world. Because the South needed another stereotype, she is awkward and has a distorted Dixie-like twin language that Jerry tries to learn and adapt as he camps outside Nell’s cabin. She can either be an institutional prisoner or an oddity splashed all over the media. She is unable to articulate her paranoia of a sexual threat, whether it be Jerry himself or the horny hicks who talk about her in a pool hall nearby.
Dynamics get more complex as Dr. Paula Olsen (Natasha Richrdson RIP) wants Nell to be locked up in a ‘caring’ institution, and she camps out near Nell’s sanctuary to prove she’s right. Again, there’s this lingering possibility that Nell can become Jerry’s lover. Paula even suggests Jerry to ‘educate’ her because, as a phobic, Nell has to ‘face her fears’ – to that we say, ‘please don’t.’ However, Paula’s presence partly directs Nell asserts herself to the role of Jerry’s surrogate child. Which, by default, Paula becomes Nell’s surrogate mother, and you know where this leads.
We fortunately don’t see the worst case scenario, and besides these lingering threats, the story’s mostly about two lonely people who try to communicate with each other. That the story leads me to these different tangents and alternate fates shows that the script isn’t insipid. Nonetheless, it was a queasy journey before the end. And here’s hoping that Trey Parker or Seth McFarlane hasn’t made fun of this movie yet.
Laurel Canyon, the perfect boring couple, Sam (Christian Bale) and Alex (Kate Beckinsale) talk at each other and sometimes lie to each other. Sam has to move back to the titular Laurel Canyon to practice psychiatry in a great hospital there, and Alex comes with to finish her dissertation. temporary bunking with Sam’s mother Jane (Frances McDormand) and her lover Ian (Alessandro Nivola), the environment proves to hinder work and shake up relationships.
It’s funny that 60% of the major players in this film are British but make for more convincing Californians than Julianne Moore and Mia Wasikowska. And that bale and Nivola could have changed roles but the American Nivola does fit the hairy-chested, childlike Chris Martin-eqsue role better.
Alex is such a complex character that Cholodenko has to justify the script’s choices within and around her. When she gets invited to join Jane’s group, Jane explains that she can judge Jane’s work because common sense drives popular music, thus anyone can judge it. When Sam pours his heart out to Sara, it follows with a scene when Alex misunderstands everything he’s been saying to her. A question is often followed by an answer, thankfully those answers aren’t too expository.
And oh Lord, Kate Beckinsale. I’ll always love her for her deadpan fierceness, if that exists, in The Last Days of Disco. Her MUBI profile doesn’t show how derided she is after The Aviator. As the soft-spoken Alex, her retreat with Sam lets her go through a sexual awakening at the same time as Sam, but hers is more intense, later on explaining that she’s never experienced fucking up. Within the film, she goes from routine lovemaking to romantic desire. It’s sad that they didn’t go through the full experience together. And she smokes a joint like a true beginner. I miss this girl.
Would it be fair to say that Cholodenko almost perfectly encapsulates the white experience? She doesn’t have the Holofcener/Fey guilt thing, but Cholodenko puts the straight-laced and the wild ones within the same square inch, or in this case, the same family. Most of the movie shows Sam and Jane treat each other passive aggressively until the big explosive scene in the denouement, which air some raw emotions out.
And again, time to download me some Mercury Rev.
The trailer for The Kids are All Right shows Manohla Dargis calling it a ‘near note-perfect portrait of a modern family,’ in a way that it shows complex implications to the words ‘biological’ and ‘parent,’ there are clashes, affairs, dinners with people who are having affairs, cathartic speeches of redemption. It’s a typical formula if not for the slow pacing, the script, tick-y acting from the major players and the hand-held cam close-ups in group scenes, all giving the impression of a balance between improvisation and direct delivery.
Basically, two teenagers from lesbian parents look for the sperm donor, and whatever ensues, ensues.
Annette Bening as Nic is the best in show without trying. I’ve only seen her in crazy parts (American Beauty, Running With Scissors). Other reviews have tried to sell her as the stable one in the relationship, and she is that. She can also be ‘not my real self,’ be acidic, be the embarrassing drunk one, be the one who has to deal with the headaches just like a parent. Her first line at the first dinner conversation about Jules’ (Julianne Moore) truck makes the audience follow her more. Her calm reaction to a shocking revelation proves that Bening’s performance becomes the greatest one within greatest performances.
I’m ambivalent about Laser (Josh Hutcherson) as a character. It was his idea to contact their sperm donor Paul (Mark Ruffalo). A little selling point for the movie and his character that he might or might not be ‘too close to his loser friend Clay,’ that subplot being really hilarious. He also doesn’t know how to talk to Paul, being directly hostile about Paul’s opinions about little things, this approach somehow different from his sister, college age Joni (Mia Wasikowska) just smiling at him. Despite of those things, I don’t feel like I got to know the guy. He must have had female friends, unless that’s what ticked off Nice and Jules. I think Laser just fades into the background after the scene with the talk.
O hai, HaySpayTu. Tanya (Yaya da Costa) is a bit Earth Mother Archetype to me, just like a grown-up version of the real Yaya da Costa we know.
And hai, Peggy’s lesbian wooer (Zosia Mamet) from “Mad Men!”
I also wanna talk about the Susan G. Cole critiques to this movie. A) Mark Ruffalo doesn’t even act like a stoner in this movie and the last time he did that was in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I think he actually does his best to defend his character – a lesser actor would have just laid there and portray Paul as the dirt bag that he is on the script. B) Bisexuality exists. I’ll concede that the film uses a Degrassi: TNG storyline, and that she’s not alone in thinking that the Jules and Paul thins is BS, but a plausibly realistic one. But then I’m not a lesbian so I don’t know how strong their fortitude is against Mark Ruffalo. Mine isn’t.
Now that that’s all out, time to download the rest of the soundtrack!