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The first third of High-Rise, the new movie based on the J.G. Ballard novel (he also gave us the autobiographical Empire of the Sun and the unautobiographical, we hope, Crash—no, not that Crash, Ballard gave us the one where people get turned on by auto accidents), has a nice quirky, what-the-hell sort of quality to its writing (Amy Jump, of Kill List and Sightseers) and directing (Ben Wheatley of ditto); they both seem to be having a great deal of fun, if nothing else.
Laing, a 30-something who likes to fall asleep on his balcony in the nude, moves into one of five of a set of state of the art apartment complexes that reach to the skies like the fingers of a hand. As he interacts with his neighbors, the conversation is realistic, yet off just a little. The actions of the characters are also realistic, yet off just a little. It almost feels like a kitchen sink version of a Monty Python sketch.
I more than suspect the whole thing is supposed to be allegorical with the high-rise an encapsulation of all the classes in England. Well, not quite, perhaps. The middle class live on the lower floors and the upper class live much higher, but the lower class seems restricted to a single building superintendent. While such dystopian allegories as Metropolis and Snowpiercer have no apparent middle class, High-Rise seems strangely void of a lower one. Read the rest of this entry »
Susanne Blier and Anders Thomas Jensen, who have collaborated on such stűrm and drang films as After the Wedding, In a Better World and Brothers, go the way of rom com with their new film Love is All You Need and don’t do a half bad job of it. They take the basic approach to the genre as such entries as It Happened One Night in which two people not only have no intention of falling in love, they don’t remotely want to, and of course, find themselves hopelessly attracted to each other.
Trine Dyrholm plays Ida, a woman who has undergone treatment for cancer and who has lost her hair. She comes home to discover her husband in flagrante delicto with his accountant just before they are to travel to Italy to see their daughter get married. Pierce Brosnan plays Philip, a man who has never forgiven the world for the death of his wife years earlier and has closed himself off emotionally from everyone (he lives in a frigid, minimalist building that looks like the inside of The Guggenheim sans the art); he’s going to Italy to see his son get married. When Ida decides she doesn’t want to really park in the disability space at the airport parking garage, she backs up and…well, I think you can see where this is going.
For the most part, it’s a charming film. Dyrholm and Brosnan carry this somewhat traditional romance on their more than sturdy shoulders. It’s amazing how loose and talented an actor Brosnan has become since he left Bond, James Bond behind (Daniel Craig, take note) and Dyrholm is radiant. And there’s something absolutely wonderful about these two people who, having left love behind, find it thrust upon them, no matter how much they kick and scream to keep it at bay. The ending may be obvious, but that doesn’t stop the suspense from killing you.
At the same time, Blier and Jensen also only do a half good job of it. While Ida and Philip’s story is delirious and transcendental at times, it is backed by the less than dramatically (or comically) satisfying sets of through lines that one often sees in farces where families gather together for holidays, funerals and weddings. This humor is mainly based on gauche people acting gauchely (and not that originally), though there is one major subplot that changes the course of human events that is telegraphed so obviously from the moment a secondary character appears, it’s one of those “if you didn’t see this coming, you need to get out to the movies a bit more, or at least watch a few television series”. This subplot is actually rather insulting to a certain minority class because it’s not remotely believable and seems to come out of nowhere, only there not because it’s true to the characters, but because the writers need an arbitrary plot turn to force the ending.
But we’ll always have Ida and Philip.
Sightseers, the new import from director Ben Wheatley and written by Amy Jump and the movie’s two stars Alice Lowe and Steve Oram, is also a rom com, though a bit darker in hue perhaps. Lowe plays Tina and Oram plays Chris, two misfits who go on a caravan trip to Chris’s favorite tourist traps. They’re young, they’re in love, and they kill people. But while Bonnie & Clyde goes somewhere and paints an indelible portrait and breathes new life into the man and woman gangster on the run genre, Sightseers doesn’t quite rise to the occasion.
It starts out well with some sharp characterizations and piercing dialog. But after the first couple of killings, the movie sort of stops going anywhere, except to more and more, well, killings, and it all pretty much stays on the same level of tension. Tina and Chris don’t even change, not really. They’re both as sociopathic at the end as they are from the beginning. Well, that might not be completely true. They do change in one way. As the two go one, they more and more begin to resemble a conservative’s few of the working class: two losers who can only whine about not getting anywhere, painting themselves as victims and blaming everyone else for their own failures. In turn, the two take their frustrations out on the annoying and/or petit bourgeoisie, and other vague representatives of the haves. But other than that, it all becomes a bit of a slog to get through.
Tell me what you think.