Sep 30, 2011

Review: Crazy, Stupid, Love

Director: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Release Date:  29 September 2011
Rating: (M)
Runtime:  118 mins

There are several defining features that point clearly to Crazy, Stupid, Love being anything but stock-standard. Female we may be, but our loathing for traditional rom-coms runs deep.  First and foremost, the end product benefits immeasurably from its high concept beginnings and a tautly plotted, emotionally complex script from Dan Fogelman, who recently penned Tangled (2011). 

Gosling and Carell have a Godfather: Project Runway edition moment.
In what is undoubtedly his best role since Dan in Real Life, Steve Carell's 40-something Cal Weaver has lost his man-grapes: his kahunas, if you will. His wife, Emily (Julianne Moore), is in the grips of a mid-life crisis and and asks him for a divorce, after cheating on him with a work colleague. The friendship Cal forms with Jacob (Ryan Gosling) as he uncertainly claws his way into the dating world (after exiting it promptly at the age of 15) will make you cringe, laugh, and at times, tear up a little. Gosling plays it camp in showing Cal the ropes, but not to the point of disbelief. Steve Carell extends his repertoire, making Cal as accessible, warm, and real as he is lonely and a tad pathetic. 

Seriously though, what an absolute cracker of a year for Ryan Gosling; early reports on both Drive and The Ides of March are stellar, and his turn as Jacob, womaniser-with-a-heart-of-gold in Crazy, Stupid, Love has with certainty earned him that well-deserved hat trick. It's his Pretty Woman, if you will. His initial attraction to downright goofy (but obviously smokin') Hannah (Emma Stone) really burns up the screen: he can't quite believe it, but she's a set apart from any other girl. 

A walk in the moonlight with the Bacon is all anyone could ask for, right?

The high-calibre ensemble cast, including Kevin Bacon as Emily's maybe love interest, David Lindhagen; Marisa Tomei as primary-school teacher and seductress Kate (it's her high heel you see in the promo poster); Analeigh Tipton as the Weaver kids' babysitter Jess; and Jonah Bobo as Robbie Weaver, the strangest, sweetest 13-year-old boy to light up the silver screen this year. 

Jonah Bobo: off to meet E.T.
Audiences won't bawl like they might'a in Blue Valentine (2010)—another Gosling gem—but there's still enough of that genuine 'well fuck, I've really messed up' feeling to resonate clearly with audiences of all ages. Seeing Crazy, Stupid, Love on a big screen doesn't add all that much visually, but it definitely doesn't hurt seeing a 20-foot-tall version of Ryan Gosling's abs or Steve Carell windmilling.


Sep 28, 2011

Review: Project Nim

Director: James Marsh
Release Date:  29 September 2011
Rating: (M)
Runtime: 93 mins

In almost every way, documentaries are tough going: a challenge to drum up funds, difficult to make circumstantially, tricky to judge how the final version will emerge from the editing suite, and hard to sell to distributors and cinemas. It seems vitally important and wholly miraculous that excellent feature-length documentaries such as Project Nim, the new offering from James Marsh (Director of 2008's Academy Award winning Man on Wire), are made at all.   

Nim as an infant in Stephanie LaFarge's house.
The true star of this wacky ensemble is of course Nim, the chimpanzee who was taken from his mother at a research facility in Oklahoma at just two-weeks of age in the 1970s. The reason: to act as the research subject for Dr. Herbert Terrace, a Professor at Columbia University interested in studying communication between chimps and humans. Brought to New York (an apartment on the Upper Westside) to live with Stephanie LaFarge and her family, Nim was initially raised in a very loving, relaxed environment: he was unequivocally part of the family. The documentary tracks his subsequent move to Delafield Estate in Riverdale (owned by Columbia University, 'estate' is putting it mildly), where he lived with a number of teachers and researchers and learned how to sign and communicate, only to be ripped away from this safe haven: the ordeals he had no choice but to endure thereafter are absolutely heartbreaking. 

Bill and Nim, playing on Delafield Estate.
What could have been a fascinating look at pioneering research—the quest to share and experience language between different species in a coherent, grammatically correct way—becomes so much more with a prodigious Director like Marsh. The people in this documentary are so very everyday and yet they're also portrayed in a light and a way that makes them complex characters, driven by desperate desires and emotions. Marsh effortlessly builds and captures these personas over the course of the narrative. His near-seamless exposition feels like a silk scarf that has slipped past in the wind: only visible momentarily.

Dr. Herb Terrace seems to be competing with a number of notable public figures for the title of 'most odious person alive': finding a more egotistical, self-serving, spineless person would indeed be difficult. Nim's first carer Stephanie LaFarge means very well, but perhaps suffers from a lack of common sense that was never destined to stand her in good stead in the long term. 

Bob and Nim: friends for life.
The audience also has the pleasure of viewing Joyce and Bill in action, teachers who were at Delafield Estate during the project whose expansive minds match their enormous hearts. Perhaps the most welcome surprise is Grateful Dead fan and all-out hippie Bob—out of everyone who cared for Nim over the years, Bob truly would stop at nothing to make sure he was safe, happy, and treated with respect. This man (and probably he alone) seemed to understand what it took to be part of the life of a creature outside our own species. We as viewers are fortunate to have shared even that small amount of time with Bob and Nim: most certainly mirroring how Bob felt about the beautiful, intelligent friend he found in Nim Chimpsky.


Sep 25, 2011

And Cut!: Updates and such

So, we've been moving interstate and must apologise for the rather protracted hiatus. Things are, however, afoot.

First: we've joined The 500 Club - a most excellent film review blog run out of Brisbane (snickering is verboten!). They're really into their film (and TV over at The 400 Club) and we're so happy to have joined their ranks.We'll still be blogging here, but our contributions to The 500 Club will just mean more writing, more often. It's also nice to be part of a collective and share the writing experience. To take a phrase from the less-desirable Sheen, #winning.

Second: check out our aticle 'They Should Make a Movie of That!' in the September issue of FILMINK, the one with Hugh Jackman on the cover. We talk about Leanne Hall's wonderful YA novel This is Shyness and its filmic possiblities. In extremely exciting news, our second article in 'They Should Make a Movie of That!' is now out in the latest issue of FILMINK with Ryan Gosling on the cover. This month, we're talking about Patti Smith's beautifully written rock/poetry/art/life memoir, Just Kids. Our dearest hope is that the woman herself gets to read the article (it doesn't hurt to dream!), as she and playwright John Logan are currently in the process of writing the screenplay

Third: expect new reviews on And Cut! this week. We're previewing Project Nim, the new documentary from Man on Wire (2008) Director James Marsh, as well as the new romantic comedy Crazy, Stupid, Love, with an extremely likable star-studded cast in Steve Carell, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, and man-of-THE-moment, Ryan Gosling. At the very least, it promises not to be a movie containing traces of Katherine Heigl: a triumph for the ages, if you're into hyperbole.

And cut!