Again, I write this from some imaginary parental perspective. “Speak,” writer/director Jessica Sharzer’s adaptation of the Laurie Halse Anderson’s novel of the same name, shows that if your child is being obtusely silent, it’s not because they hate you. Yes, they might hate you but they might also have experienced something, and they won’t tell you what it is because they’ve gotten in trouble for telling or trying to tell people what happened to them. It’s this thing that adolescents do that I probably talked about here before that seems like an honour code but is more of a shaming strategy.
The shamed young person, Melinda Sordino, is played by Kristen Stewart, who isn’t as silent as the book’s protagonist. It’s the voice-over. I was at first malicious about the voice-over, much-needed to express Melinda’s contemptuous snark, yet the device shows the cracks within what should have been a deafening wall between her and everybody else. She also comes with clichéd hair and costume combinations. During the present she wears cool colours and has occasionally frizzy hair, which means that she’s angsty, while during the flashbacks she’s one of the girls, has a perm and wears orange which, as we know, is a chiller version of pink. Her orange self goes to a party, knows how to kiss a guy, calls the police, and gets called a squealer by a student body who thinks she was just snitching on her fellow underaged drinkers.
The voice-over and the soundtrack are reminiscent of a Lifetime movie, but it’s understandably a more sombre affair because a louder, more fashion conscious and zeitgeist conscious movie, like many teen movies, would have blasted over Melinda’s universal trauma.
The name Kristen Stewart might sound all-too familiar to you but this is a different Kristen Stewart, before she was handed to jaded directors-for-hire. She’s now known for her mouth twitch acting but in 2004, there’s an intensity in her eyes. There’s also that primal scream that has the mature timbre that we also hear in “New Moon.” What more could we want from a young actor trying to extend her physical capabilities and still looks like she’s surviving? She’s also surrounded by actors like Michael Angarano, Elizabeth Perkins and Steve Zahn whose supporting presences don’t diminish their characters’ own problems.
And I can actually relate to this. I don’t tell my parents things and I’ve gotten trouble for having told and not told. The solution in breaking her silence comes in slivers. It could easily have been artistic expression, fostered by her teacher (Zahn). Just because she doesn’t speak or looks like she’s listening doesn’t mean that she’s not learning. Or that eventually the silence, the ostracizing stigmatization or any inward violence just builds anger. For better or for worse, there isn’t a clicking moment that makes her decide to tell her ex-best friend about why she called the police – it’s the natural; order of things for her to start speaking. It is the right thing to do and no one else can make this happen other than the person enduring an unspeakable horror. I just pray that there are more people who break their silences than those who don’t.
- Kristen Stewart: Will She Be Up For A Golden Globe? (hollywoodlife.com)
Channing Tatum brings the first great quotable of 2012. As privately contracted secret agent Aaron in Haywire, he says “I’m hungover…and you’re really starting to cut on my vacation time so can we go,” being straightforward about the state of mind that he says he’s in.
In short he’s there to propose that his former colleague Mallory Tate (Gina Carano) to surrender herself. That’s a contrast from the flashbacks – she narrates the events to some bloke name Scott (Michael Angarano) – they seemed to get along like a perfect couple. He looks good for someone who might talk with his mouth full, she sounds like a robot trying to hug me after my father died.
They’re assigned on a rescue mission in Barcelona and cross professional boundaries when they finish the job. Days and oceans later, they kick each other’s butts, letting us know that this isn’t a love story. It’s one of professional betrayal, as each man in the field tries to kill her while she uses her training for self-defence.
Steven Soderberghthe same drained digital color schemes as he did in Contagion. I forgive directors who ‘improve’ on themselves but he’s more ubiquitous, inadvertently letting his audience see him as derivative of himself. Two years might make us look at four movies conflated into a phase instead of each one being able to stand up on their own.
The choreography of the fight scenes are also noticeable. Punch, unfurl, weapon, punch, kick, wall, unfurl, repeat, choke hold, death (I actually don’t mind how he films fight scenes, as wide shots and no sound make limbs do all the good work).
Despite of Soderbergh holding on to a list of obsessions, a few end up working. If Contagion felt like the angel of death with a coach ticket, Haywire finds the B-spy action (sub)genre perfect for cinematic globe-trotting. A chase scene in Barcelona is exhilarating partly because we’re going through strange city streets.
The action also brings out the sadist within all of us, the audience with whom I watched the film laughing when Carano injures her sparring partner. Soderbergh as usual finds humour within confrontations between professionals.
Haywire also plays around with the feminine action hero. Unlike others, it lets Carano – a MMA fighter in her movie debut – be a lover, eye candy or the cool-headed avenger. She softens up during dialogue or when she’s with her father (Bill Paxton) but becomes intimidating when she needs to.
The other male actors including Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor – I love his bunny-like grin as he asks Paul (Fassbender) if ‘the divorce is final’ – and Antonio Banderas, who plays a philanderer, eventually cower under her fists. Just the way we like her. 3.5/5
- Grizzly Review: Haywire (grizzlybomb.com)