24 December 2010

Coming Back to the Five and Dime and a Carey Mulligan Double Feature

I've been so overwhelmed with being back in school that I have hardly had time to watch movies, let alone keep up with this journal. I'm going to try to fill in some of the gaps over the next couple of weeks, with all due respect to any friends who may have enjoyed the sudden decrease of activity on Google Buzz that coincided with my Rodney Dangerfield back to school moment. For my second post today I present a double feature that illustrates that it takes more than a delightful turn by Carey Mulligan to rescue a weak script.

I can't remember why but I expected more than this from Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. I feel like I heard an interview with Oliver Stone talking about Gordon Gekko and about how his new movie was going after Wall Street. The final product is far too silly and poorly written to worthy of its subject matter. Not even a charming performance from Carey Mulligan can redeem this movie. Shia Leboeuf is serviceable here and could have seemed better if the material hadn't been so rotten. Michael Douglas, on the other hand, manages to be worse than the screenplay. His anachronistic hamming that might have served the original Wall Street (which I also dislike) render this 2010 film as absurd, particularly since he looks like a withered sack of reasons to take it easy on the cosmetic surgery. Maybe it isn't even just Michael Douglas who's doing his best attempt to portray an old man in 2008 who's thinks he's still a young man in 1988. I feel like the whole movie is dated. The cameo by Charlie Sheen didn't help things, let alone the cheap gag about the 1980's cellphone. It almost seemed like the movie was waiting for Molly Ringwald to show up and ask where's the beef. I haven't had the time or opportunity to watch Inside Job yet but I'm hoping that'll be the movie this should have been. D-

Never Let Me Go reminds me of Perfume in that it was a relatively faithful adaptation of a book that I found both dazzling and unsatisfying. It's not quite as faithful as Perfume of course, because otherwise the audience would have have sat there for half the film wondering where Carey Mulligan and Keira Knightley were. Ishiguro has an amazing gift for conjuring life and sensitivity but I wasn't really convinced by his book and I was probably convinced even less by the film, despite an effective performance by Carey Mulligan. The movie certainly lacks much of the depth and texture that made the book so enthralling but it doesn't even attempt to answer the holes in the book. In fact, the weaknesses of the book are laid bare when Ishiguro's sensitive prose and thicket-like progression are stripped away. When you aren't as invested in the mind of the character, the willingness to suspend disbelief falters detrimentally in this film adaptation. They needed to have found a way to trim less from the book. I understand that the stars of the movie needed to be at its center but even a cheesy solution like telling the story of her childhood in a series of several flashbacks would probably have been more effective. Other than adding depth, this would have given the excellent supporting cast more screen time. Sally Hawkins, Charlotte Rampling, and Nathalie Richard were perfect for this movie but their characters were robbed of the gravity they possessed in the book such that their performances emerge as odd curiosities that leave the viewer wondering what Charlotte Rampling is doing in this movie anyway. I don't know, the film struck me as much too morbid, where the book was haunting. I felt like the book failed in not providing an adequate justification for itself and the movie didn't even attempt to address this. C

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