2011: We Need to Talk About…
I’m wishing that We Need to Talk About Kevin, the movie based on the Lionel Shriver bestseller, came out on DVD already so I can share with you the film’s first two images. The first one is of a translucent white curtain slowly being blown by the air. The second of an inevitably erotic nature, of muscle squashing together tightly, painted red by tomatoes and tomato juice, those bodies ion the streets that we see from the air in the Tomatina festival in Spain, one of its participants being our protagonist Eva Katchadourian (Tilda Swinton). Seeing these I inevitably compare this work of Lynne Ramsay’s to artist-turned director Steve McQueen’s, both seemingly having the same meditative pace and construction. The movie doesn’t live up to those expectations although we get a few visual treats – Eva hiding behind carefully stacked Campbell Soup cans, jagged ones of meeting her husband Franklin (John C. Reilly), her troublesome six-year-old son Kevin (Jasper Newell) making her office room wallpapered by maps into a ‘special’ Jackson Pollock of a mess – to clarify I’m not a Pollock hater but I would equally freak out if my kid dripped and shot paint all over the walls – and countless ones where mother and son (the teenaged version played by Ezra Miller) awkwardly share opposite sides of the same uncomfortable space. Eva, and sometimes Kevin, live in middle American kitsch suburbia, these poppy images drowned under fluorescent blandness. These images satisfy, the rest of the compositions mixing the elfin Swinton with middle American motifs, an unlikely pair that we get used to.
But I keep going back to the first two images, the second set pushed to the back burner as the happiest moment of Eva’s life while the first is the gateway and culmination of her worst. The movie’s intertwining plot lines mostly show us that her worst moments continue. Her new, shabbier house is often vandalized, surrounded by distant neighbours, their suspicious children and the occasional Jehovah’s Witness missionary, oblivious to her eternal damnation. But the movie also return to her relative misery as a wife/mother of two in a rich neighbourhood, their house funded by her best-selling travel books. She’s the town’s pariah, having to apply for a lowly travel agent job while her skeletal face gets clocked by another housewife after her job interview. We find out why the townspeople hate her so much as she has to, out of obligation, visit him in jail. When her family was intact, there seemed to be an alliance between Kevin and Franklin while Eva asks for the sympathy of her daughter, which he gets. But in her present situation, mother and son are stuck together.
Despite the images, this adaptation, as a medium, can’t help but be more one-sided than I imagine the novel to be. We the audience see Kevin as a baby alone with Eva – she takes his stroller to a construction site to drown out his incessant cries as opposed to, you know, feeding him or changing him or whatever actual good mothers should do. Then he magically stops crying when daddy comes home. She even tells him that she would be in France if he wasn’t born, these impulsive words heard by the disapproving Franklin. Speaking of changing, six-year-old Kevin is seen wearing diapers, and eventually we discover that she has to accidentally injure him in order for him to be potty trained. Until this section of the movie Eva seems like a passive character but even with punitive action she can’t discipline the boy or make him be nice to her. There is an exception when, after the hospital visit, she reads “Robin Hood” to her child, only realizing that hell take up an archery obsession that eventually drives her crazy. As the torture continues to his teenage years, Kevin giving her the cut eye to let her know that something would be amiss in the house for which he’s responsible. There’s also a sequence of her as she takes teenage Kevin for a golf and dinner date, when he combats her every attempt of small talk, Miller delivering each line with vehemence as Swinton is exquisite even while reacting. But I keep replaying the dialogue in that sequence in my head, since there are possibilities that his words aren’t that mean, that he’s just holding up a mirror to her hypocrisies and performed motherly warmth.
There’s also this unnecessary nihilism to the movie, especially with introducing Eva’s daughter. The movie, especially with its flashbacks and forwards, makes us wait for what he does that puts him in jail and for why her daughter has to wear an eye patch and the way the movie develops makes us feel that these events will be obscenely portrayed. This also makes me curious about how parents of juvenile criminals in reality are treated because it can’t be as bad and extreme as this. It is about the labourious plastering of how Kevin affects Eva. I’m not necessarily asking for a sugar-coating of the grisly subject it’s as if Ramsay and those involved in this movie are making it more difficult to reach these characters’ and environment’s humanity.
Crazy, Winslet Links
Well the links lead from me to me. Let me begin with the new character posters for Steven Soderbergh‘s Contagion, which I talked about for Nathaniel R’s The Film Experience. Blythe Danner has seen her daughter’s poster, apparently. The comments went beautifully, as people remembered the Gwyneth and Winona frenemy situation and surprisingly, Matt Damon‘s poster is competing to be the second favourite along with Laurence Fishburne‘s.
Speaking of Kate Winslet movies, she’s playing the role of She-Hulk in Roman Polanski‘s new film Carnage, a movie I won’t shut up about until its release. I didn’t like the poster, but it’s a surprise hit for the commenters at Anomalous Material, where I’ve also been busy writing news and reviews. I think that John C. Reilly has the best colouring here, while I’m not into Jodie Foster and Christoph Waltz‘ orange so much although yes, there are loathsome orange people out there.
I also reviewed Crazy, Stupid Love at YourKloset, a website that I write for when movies and fashion collide, which thankfully happens often enough for me.
Vacay Series: Richard Jenkins…
…has been in ‘terrible’ movies.
(Sorry for the hiatus, by the way.)
Adam McKay‘s Step Brothers came out in 2008. In the same year Jenkins, not to be mistaken with the guy from Third Eye Blind, had movies out like The Tale of Desperaux and was nominated for an Oscar in The Visitor. Despite the many “Six Feet Under” episodes he’s been in, Adam McKay’s Step Brothers is actually on the upper half of the movies that have better votes on his long CV on iMDb. someone out there who would call Hall Pass his Norbit, but I imagine more people think that his movie choices are getting better because of the Oscar boost.
But you know what, I actually enjoyed this movie that I saw for Easter with my family, flipping between this and the Game 4 between the Lakers and the Hornets. Jenkins plays a step/father to the titular step brothers, played by Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly. This movie falls in the same sutured structure as Anchorman – although Anchorman does it better. Ferrell’s character clashes with person who takes things more seriously, a random epic back/side street fight involving Ferrell and secondary/tertiary antagonists, amicable dénouement between Ferrell and his foil. I do enjoy their antics, the two of them wearing Chewbacca masks, crashing their father’s boat, wearing racist costumes to detract a douche of a Realtor (Adam Scott) from making a sale and burying each other alive. Watching a comically rendered sex scene with my younger cousins was awkward.
This is the third movie for the past week that I’ve seen that involved dog poop, and the second involving eating it. I’m not sure if this dog poop marathon is better or worse than the movies I’ve seen earlier this year that had many close-ups of genitalia.
The Vacay Series is intended for AnomalousMaterial.com. I’ll continue the series there for movies with which I can actually say something about, unlike Step Brothers. The first on the series, is here.
[ETA: I’ve lately been obsessed with the Feller-Gasteyer-Gellar dinner sketch on SNL in 1997. Here he reminds me of Steve Martin in Planes, Trains and Automobiles. I wish Ferrell would do a movie where he’s the straight man to someone else’s goof, but that’ll never happen.
Supporting roles also include Ken Jeong before The Hangover, Rob Riggle, Seth Rogen and Mary Steenburgen.
- Exit ‘Anchorman 2’, Enter ‘Step Brothers 2’? (latinoreview.com)
All I Care About Is Love!
I’m not gonna be the Debbie Downer who talks about how this movie is a satire of the demonization of women who vengefully act against the abuses they face from their partners. Or that the musical and its adaptations came out within different contexts, the 1970’s urban prurience, the 1990’s circus trials and the cynical escapism and ‘reality’ crazed 2000’s reflect the prurient, circus-y crazy escapism of 1920’s Chicago. This movie’s too fun and campy for that.
Not like I can cite these opinions I’m talking about, but Chicago today is treated as a shallow visual exercise, that other films deserved the Best Picture trophy better, and that it’s dated. How terrible of a fate for a film to be called dated. It’s only eight and a half year’s old! I don’t have the problem with the separate worlds of gritty jail and colourful cabaret fantasy, the transitions between the two are seamless. Maybe because both worlds are as colourful, unlike the drastic cinematography changes between the fantasy and ‘real’ segments in director Rob Marshall’s later work, Nine. My problem on that department is that the takes are too short and quick, sometimes the audience can’t see the actors perform their song and dance, especially with Richard Gere‘s Billy Flynn. Sometimes it shakes too much, like when Kitty Baxter (Lucy Liu) is arrested, stealing Roxie’s thunder, or the last number.
There’s been also been many discussions about the casting. Sometimes I think about what Goldie Hawn, Liza Minelli and Frank Sinatra would have done under Bob Fosse. I’m also pretty sure that some of you are slightly bitter that Charlize Theron, Toni Collette, Hugh Jackman and Kathy Bates weren’t in the movie version we have now. Yes, I’ll admit that Gere is the weakest link of the cast. Sometimes he doesn’t know what to do with his arms. He gets a showy role but like every capable actor given a boisterous character, he doesn’t always turn it up to 11. it’s Although his renditions of his songs border on sprechgesang, his voice is still nice to listen to.
And he may be Mr. Cellophane all right, but John C. Reilly can outsing Gere any day.
I’m probably one of the people who will defend Renee Zellweger‘s casting and performance as Roxie. Yes, her face is a bit twitchy, but her dancing not that’s bad. Although I do have to see a stage adaptation for comparison in the triple threat department. She has a wiry, sinewy body, not as voluptuous as her co-star Catherine Zeta-Jones, like she’s lived a life of poverty. Her voice is also a little hoarse, like a female version of a schmoe. My favourite song from the film is starting to change to ‘I Can’t do it Alone,’ or ‘We Both Reached For The Gun.’ Nonetheless, Roxie’s songs always catch me, like ‘Funny Honey’ and ‘Roxie,’ because there’s anger and delusion to them. The latter number, when we see her body from tilting close-ups to wide shots of her body into the darkness of her fantasy, or when she looks to the right and finds a mirror, and more mirrors. Those are my favourite images of this film.
Zeta-Jones’ Velma Kelly needs the least defense from me, because her Oscar-winning turn’s pretty much well received even now. Some regard it as the best Supporting Actress win the past decade. Zellweger’s hoarseness matches Zeta-Jones’ raspiness, reflecting the anger and toughness that comes with her situation then as a dancer who had to make her way to the top and her desperation in jail. Egyptian dancers and her theatre background would be proud.