27 March 2010

The Misfortunates / De helaasheid der dingen (Felix Van Groening, 2009, Belgium)

This was Belgium's submission to this year's Academy Awards. It's a dingy movie about a boy in some small town in Belgium in what might be the 1980s, based on the Limahl haircut. He lives with his father, his grandmother, and his three (two?) uncles. The men are all drunks and deadbeats. The grandmother more or less silently makes the best of things. The kid's about puberty age and he's having trouble at school and things at home don't seem very healthy. The story of his youth is intercut with the story of him as an adult, a struggling writer who knocks up his girlfriend. The movie is funny sometimes but it isn't all that engaging because it's hard to care about the characters a lot of the time. Most of the publicity stills from the movie are from the town's yearly nude cycling contest. There's also a yearly event where all the men dress in women's clothing and drink for three days. The movie isn't attractive or engaging or enlightening, to my mind, but I think it was really honest so it has that going for it. You don't see many honest depictions of these kinds of people, I guess, and this one seems relatively unsentimental, which was nice. It seemed to ramble though and I'm not sure it was consistent philosophically. Maybe it is and I just didn't think it through rightly because it didn't sing to me and because I thought the story about the kid as a grownup was kind of weak. C

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