Monday, February 15, 2010

[At the Movies] Life Story Edition

‘My Sister’s Keeper’

Summary: Cameron Diaz takes a detour from comedy to play Sara, the domineering mother of Kate (Sofia Vassilieva, MEDIUM), a young girl with cancer. Sara’s other daughter, 11-year-old Anna (Abigail Breslin), was conceived just to serve as a donor for her sick sister. On the outskirts of the family are father Brian (Jason Patric), who feels unable to stand up to his wife’s strength, and son Jesse (Evan Ellingson), who craves attention in the face of Kate’s illness. But the complicated situation gets more difficult when Anna hires a lawyer (played by the always excellent Alec Baldwin), so that she can control her own body and say "no" to giving a kidney to her sister.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 47% [mildly rotten]

Do I agree?: I am a sucker, when it comes to tearjerker movies. I identify the call of the moth as it peacefully flutters to the flames. It is something beyond my reasoning really, but I know when I spot a good or a bad drama movie. While the cast is more than capable, I feel that the focus of this production is not where it should be. ‘My Sister’s Keeper’ could have become an intense and tragic story as well as a debate on ethics in medicine, where should the line be drawn and can the love of a parent for his child become monstrous. Ultimately, this is what I found intriguing in the movie and was captivated by the storyline given to Breslin, who had to play the role of a child, who was conceived to be a donor. The reason why Anna exists in the first place is to be a bag of spares for her older sister Kate and exactly the lawsuit that follows about the medical emancipation of Anna’s is what held my breath. However, things get out of hand and the movie wobbles, spinning out of control. The fact that Anna’s mother is the other lawyer to oppose Baldwin complicates matters. Both have to live with each other as a family and be against each other in court? This is messy business and the result is an unconvincing string of scenes, which did not suspend my disbelief. Even so, I was inclined to give the movie around 60% freshness. But the second it became clear why Anna hired a lawyer, I was left with a bitter taste in my mouth, because it was just plain manipulative [punching almost everything that could make a person cry in those last scenes. I wonder how puppies were not drowned by accidents] and over the top. So yeah, I agree with Rotten Tomatoes.

‘Julie & Julia’

Summary: Meryl Streep is Julia Child and Amy Adams is Julie Powell in writer-director Nora Ephron’s adaptation of two bestselling memoirs: Powell’s Julie & Julia and My Life in France, by Julia Child with Alex Prud’homme.

Based on two true stories, Julie & Julia intertwines the lives of two women who, though separated by time and space, are both at loose ends...until they discover that with the right combination of passion, fearlessness and butter, anything is possible.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 75% [fresh]

Do I agree?: Hard not to. I actually expected to see 90% here or 100%. I mean this movie is the blend of everything I love: Meryl Streep, food, blogs and accomplishment via positive and constructive self-improvement. At first glance the story lines are not tied directly into one whole, because Amy Adams’ ordeal as a blogging cook take place in the 2000s, while Streep depicts the birth of America’s favorite cook several decades back. I had a few doubts that I will most likely enjoy Steerp’s performance and barely stand Adams’ storyline, but in the end it all worked out wonderfully. Because I live in Eastern Europe, my knowledge of important American cultural figures is modest to put it mildly and meeting Julia Child for the very first time was extraordinary experience. I am partial to stories about hardships on the way to acceptance by society for one’s own talents and merits and following the path Child took, before becoming beloved across the country, was an adventure accompanied with quite a few laughs and smiles. Streep has never been so versatile and this role cements her position yet again as ruling royalty. Amy Adams proved to be a good match for the role of Julie and add of that timid charm to the production with this quirky role. There is a subtle and unspoken parallel between life and cooking, which is clearly shown through her blogging year, while trying to cook all the recipes from Child’s cook book. Julie grows, accustoms better to her life that is changing and the consequences that are not in her favor and also manages t improve her perception of self. In the end, she has gained more in terms of her inner world and when the turmoil inside has resided, things on the outside fall into place as well.

Wonderful, indeed.

‘Whip it’

Summary: Drew Barrymore makes her directorial debut with this feisty, female-friendly action-comedy. JUNO's Ellen Page stars as Bliss Cavendar, a young woman who longs to break free of her small-town bonds by joining the rough-and-tumble sport of roller derby in nearby Austin, Texas.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 83% [fresh]

Do I agree?: Even if this movie lacked depth [it doesn’t], I would have loved it, because it had demolition derby. On skates. With women in skimpy uniforms. With awesome team names such as the Hurl Scouts and laugh-out-loud derby names like Smashley Simpson and Babe Ruthless. What makes this movie even better is that there is a believable and quirky coming of age story interwoven within the adrenaline packed spectacle that this exotic sport brings. This movie screams Drew Barrymore and she has made a monster out of the already kick ass script with a strong cast, most of which I could recognize. I came for the demolition derby, but stayed for Bliss Cavender, who finally finds something to be passionate about and even though her old life clashed with the new her, Bliss manages to strike compromise without sacrificing her integrity or hindering her development and place in the world. There is love and there are lies and betrayal. There is family drama and broken friendships. I admit that there is a slight formulaic approach to how all the elements in Bliss’ personal life are handled and you might experience a déjà vu that comes with the territory of modern teen life stories, but the pluses outweigh the minuses. In the end, I was left with a warm cozy feeling after this movie, energized and inspired, which is not a skill many movies acquire. So, yes. Totally fresh.

2 comments:

Carl V. said...

I am surprised Julie and Julia didn't have a higher Rotten Tomatoes rating myself. I loved it. Fantastic film. I hope Steep wins an Oscar for her performance.

I'm really wanting to see Whip It sometime soon. I know it will make me want to pull out my DVD set of Rollergirls once it is over, which I'm looking forward to watching again. Its been a long time.

Harry Markov said...

I am puzzled too. It seems that there are people, who do not like the movie. Imagine that. :)

And Whip It is sooo darn good. I just loved that movie. *grin*

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