Thursday, April 21, 2011

Quick Takes: I Love You Phillip Morris, Fish Tank, Hereafter

Things have been very busy in recent weeks and I haven't been keeping up with my rentals lately. But quality easily trumps quantity as my three most recent viewings in the past two weeks have been nothing short of superb.

Jim Carrey does it again. He throws himself into a larger-than-life role and runs away with it. In his best performance since The Truman Show, Carrey is Steven Russell in I Love You Phillip Morris (2010), an outrageous true-life story about a con man who goes to great lengths to be with his boyfriend Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor). Problem is, he always getting himself in trouble with his conning ways. The script by John Requa and Glen Ficarra (who also wrote the brilliant Bad Santa) had me howling with laughter at every turn and, at the same time, incredibly moved by Russell's dedication to Morris. Carrey and McGregor are perfectly cast, utterly convincing in their devotion to one another. Requa and Ficarra, assured in their directorial debut, managed to find just the right comic edgy tone. I Love You Phillip Morris is fresh, brazen and ridiculously entertaining. Easily one of the year's best and most original offerings. 4.5/5

Michael Fassbender first caught my eye in Inglourious Basterds, in which he played Hickox, the Lt. with the suspicious German accent. In his sole scene (Tarantino's bravura basement bar set piece), he made a terrific impression. Apparently, Hollywood agrees since he is slated to appear in 6 major new movies in the next two years, according to his IMDb profile. Meanwhile, he has received positive notices in the new Jane Eyre adaptation and last year's buzzed about indie, Fish Tank (2010). In the latter, Fassbender plays Connor, a friendly, handsome Irishman who changes the lives of three harsh, bitter women. The film focuses on 15-year-old Mia (Kate Jarvis), the older daughter of the woman Connor moves in with. Mia has a bad attitude towards everyone she knows; she spews vitriol and hatred to anyone who crosses her path. Jarvis, in her film debut, took a very difficult role (you just want to slap her during most of the movie) and turned Mia into a complex, compelling individual. Fish Tank is not an easy film to watch, but under the artful eye of writer/director Andrea Arnold and the alluring presence of rising star Fassbender, it deserves to be seen. 4/5

I continue to be amazed at Clint Eastwood's ability to evolve as a filmmaker. Hereafter (2010), a drama in which three disparate tales of loss and afterlife intersect, is his most mature movie yet. The deliberate pace turned off some viewers but the subject matter -- and the sensitivity in which he handles it -- is fascinating, whether if you are a skeptic or a believer. I fall somewhere in the middle and was enthralled by the three stories Eastwood and writer Peter Morgan have crafted. Matt Damon, a terrific actor who continues to stretch year after year, is a lonely man who has the ability to connect with those in the afterlife. Some consider this a gift but for him it's a curse. Cecile De France plays Marie, a successful career woman who has all she wants in life. When she goes through a near-death experience, everything begins to slowly slip away. And Jason and Marcus (Frankie and George McLaren) are twin brothers who do everything together; they even succeed to derail child services from taking them away from their alcoholic mum. When Jason dies in a freak accident, Marcus struggles to be indepedent. He cannot escape from his brother's shadow. These stories do intersect not in a grand, magical way, but rather in small, quiet moments just potent enough to stir some riveting emotions. Hereafter is a sad film, yes, but it's also a sincerely hopeful one. It is beautiful work by a master filmmaker. 4.5/5

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