Drama, Reviews

The Double

The Double

Copyright © 2014 by Magnolia Pictures

Story
The existence of Simon (Jesse Eisenberg) goes unnoticed both personally and professionally. He is disrespected by his colleagues and superior (Wallace Shawn), loathed by his mother (Phyllis Somerville) and the woman he loves, Hannah (Mia Wasikowska) is oblivious to such intentions. When newly employed James who bears an exact semblance to Simon begins arrogating Simon’s life through his confidence and manipulation, this shy outsider will now need to stand up for himself and reclaim his stolen identity.

Review
I must admit that going into this piece of adaptation from literary artiste Fyodor Dostoyevsky, I have set certain expectations of where Richard Ayoade’s interpretation will take the viewer on his examination of a brilliant mind whose incompetence to human contact is bizarre yet make for a fascinating watch. The verdict after completion is still a riveting look on the extremities one would take to be noticed but the ambiguity in its resolution is a little perplexing and leaves a lot of room for discussion.

Supposed that is the whole point; it is fodder for long and introspective conversations not meant to provide any definitive explanation rather as an outlet to bask in the merits of a thorough observation on an isolated and scorned individual. On that matter alone is almost worth the price of admission. The writing is crisp and the portrayal of said loner versus his doppelganger is both disturbing and charismatic, played out by the multi talented Eisenberg.

The entire character study is anchored solely by Eisenberg in a duality so unique from one to another, you would think that they are from two different actors who happen to share one common mug. The interactions between himself are far more lively than the insipid love story which comes off unrequited. Not much light is shed on the girl that Simon is pining for – she is not particularly a conventional beauty or even the life of the party, so why all that admiration?

It is not because Wasikowska or Shawn are incapable of emoting the proper responses, they are just not given much to do here in their limited screen time (more so for Shawn). They are fittingly reduced as support for ‘The Social Network’ star to stamp his mark on a trade he has been refining since his breakthrough in ‘Roger Dodger’. He seems faintly uncomfortable at first restraining Simon’s mousy loser but as he is pushed further to the edge, the pain and anguish gets translated more coherently.

He is positively at ease most when he is able to let loose as the smooth operator, James. There is no withholding Eisenberg for his customary fast-talking and intelligent repartee to emerge as the only redeeming qualities of a lying bully. Even with such momentum, he can still sometimes be derailed from the distracting and oddly loud score courtesy of Andrew Hewitt. It is a minor gripe if what you are seeking for is a noir-esque tale with touches of Terry Gilliam and David Lynch thrown in for good measure.

Rating
Entirety: B+
Acting: A+
Plot: A-

Rated R for language

Advertisements
Standard
Drama, Reviews

The Great Gatsby

Great Gatsby

Copyright © 2013 by Warner Bros. Pictures

Story
From the 1925 novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, it chronicles the life of Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his undying love to the woman he met five years ago, Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan). Due to circumstances, the couple is separated and Daisy eventually marries Tom (Joel Edgerton). More resolute than ever, Gatsby regularly throws extravagant parties hoping to meet her again. With the help of his new neighbour, Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), they are reunited but the happy occasion is short-lived when tragedy strikes.

Review
“It’s perfect. From your perfect irresistible imagination”, says a playful Mrs Buchanan to Mr Gatsby of his lavish and elaborate parties. It also sums up quite aptly about Baz Luhrmann’s stylised influences on his latest production. Only a Luhrmann can put grandiose and grounded into the same sentence. The successful experimentations that married the new and the old are the contemporary versions of ‘Romeo + Juliet’ (another DiCaprio starrer) and ‘Moulin Rouge!’, a musical set in 1899, Paris to a collage of radio-friendly tunes.

The latter was nominated for a staggering eight Academy Awards including ‘Best Picture’ and ‘Best Actress in a Leading Role’ for Nicole Kidman. Those winning sensibilities are repeated here but the camp may prove too much for fans who prefer a more subdued approach. This latest remake suffers from another bout of overstuffing the viewers with frivolous antics of the rich and famous and their ‘pitiful’ lives while overlooking the book’s view on social status and racial (in)tolerance. The leads’ shenanigans and bad decisions do feel tiresome after a while.

However, it sheds some light on the eroding morality from the corruption of wealth with aplomb. I could not care less of the Buchanans’ hypocrisy and infidelity if they did not come in the form of Mulligan and Edgerton, two rising stars we hope will endure in an industry not known for longevity. Mulligan’s vulnerability and sincerity are the biggest attributes used in conveying the conflicted and weak Daisy while Edgerton’s commitment to character as the philandering husband is so repulsively good, it even upstages DiCaprio’s bravura feat.

And brilliance is what he brings every single time. The camera sure loves a man dressed in his finest (Gatsby’s first facial close-up to the climax of George Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ is a great introduction to this suave and usually cool entrepreneur with a mysterious past). Channeling the best of Clark Gable and Cary Grant, DiCaprio’s interpretation is the definitive catch women all over will clamour for. His earnestness and loyalty to his former flame add on to the growing list in his ‘wow’ factor; a surreal return to more romantic fare.

A film of such distinct style would not be complete without the caliber comprising Catherine Martin and Beverley Dunn, the Oscar-winning team for the ‘Best Production Design’ and Martin’s sole winning costume designs. The details are simply exquisite and vibrant – well supplemented to Jay-Z’s executive produced-hit soundtrack. The fusion of dance, pop, soul and rock into the sound of the Roaring 1920s set for a rollicking good time. Though it may be a case of style over substance, the sprawling picture has at least regenerated an interest in the novel and started a fashion frenzy among the uninitiated.

Rating
Entirety: B+
Acting: A
Plot: B+

Rated PG-13 for some violent images, sexual content, smoking, partying and brief language

Standard
Drama, Reviews

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Copyright © 2012 by Summit Entertainment

Story
Charlie Kelmeckis (Logan Lerman) has just lost his only friend from committing suicide a year ago and is jittery about commencing his freshman year in high school. He is the aforementioned wallflower and has difficulty connecting with his peers. The only bond he has initially is with his English teacher, Mr. Anderson (Paul Rudd). He eventually befriends with two seniors, Sam (Emma Watson) and her stepbrother Patrick (Ezra Miller) who help him overcome his introverted nature to live and enjoy the remnants of his teenage life with no regrets.

Review
After the end of Harry Potter’s reign in the box office, many have wondered where our trio of wizards and witch would head next for their upcoming project. Daniel Radcliffe as Harry himself went on to headline ‘The Woman in Black’, a huge hit in the horror genre whereas Rupert Grint, who played Ron Weasley opted for more indie fare. And which route did our beautiful Hermione Granger take to further cement her acting career in Hollywood? By taking on another bestseller, of course!

Touted as a potential Oscar nominee with many speculating that Watson would get her first acting nomination, it was ultimately shut out from the race in all competing categories although it did receive a warmer reception from the critics’ film awards. She continues her winning streak here of effectively blending critical and commercial success in her ever expanding repertoire. While the drama did recoup the budget spent, it is quite a shame that Stephen Chbosky’s literary effort (he adapted and directed this feature as well) did not reach audiences from beyond the book.

‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ could have been overly melodramatic and sentimental but in the author’s sure-handed direction, what we get is a realistic depiction of the growing pains that all teenagers face and how the power of friendship triumphs over anything else. The direction may be subtle but Chbosky hits us head on with weighty issues i.e. teen violence, homosexuality, child molestation and the toll it takes on one’s state of mind. They are not watered down or hastily sidelined to adhere to more mainstream sensibilities. The solemn tone is beautifully complemented with Chbosky’s flair for playfulness, thus creating an entertaining coming-of-age tale that never lets up until its final disturbing twist is revealed.

Each harrowing and light-hearted moments are brought to perfection by the flawless cast. As what you would expect from Watson, she delivers a class act that continues to showcase her growth as an artiste. She rightfully shares the credit with her co-star Miller as the flamboyant and charismatic Patrick. Together, this dynamic duo’s stance on the unorthodox is an inspiration to many who have always been too bound by the rules of conformity. With such sturdy performances, how does our third musketeer hold up against his counterparts? After a rather rocky start to his previous big screen appearance, Lerman’s depiction as your regular shy guy is immaculate and he instantly brings a likeable charm to his very suppressed and wounded character.

As it is a character-driven piece, even the supporting cast turn in compelling performances with deserved recognition from Nina Dobrev as Candace Kelmeckis, Charlie’s sister, Mae Whitman who is the over-bearing Mary Elizabeth, Joan Cusack playing a brief but pivotal role of Dr. Burton and Rudd as Charlie’s kindly English teacher. The understated realism of how these events unfold may echo Charlie’s mannerism but just like him, the movie’s observation on typical adolescent problems are seen through a fresh and intelligent perspective, joining fellow alumni that include Juno, Easy A, Mean Girls, Adventureland and 90s classic, My Girl.

Rating
Entirety: A
Acting: A
Plot: A

Rated PG-13 on appeal for mature thematic material, drug and alcohol use, sexual content including references, and a fight – all involving teens

Standard