I watched I Want You Back and some other films recently. Here are my thoughts on them;
Men is one of the most pretentious films that I’ve seen in a while. It was sold as a horror film but it is not a horror film. There are moments were it seems like you’re supposed to feel spooked and revulsed but it veered into comical. It reminded me of Darren Aronofsky’s Mother and Lar Von Trier’s Antichrist. It’s like the story is more of a metaphor than an actual story with a plot. This feeling is emphasised by having Rory Kinnear play the majority of male characters.
Even though I didn’t like Mother the metaphor was clear, in Anti-Christ it imagery goes balls to, or should that be severed clits, to the wall. Again it’s not a film I would say I enjoyed but it sticks with you. Men lifts the opening of Anti-Christ but again comes across as comical rather than unsettling.
The imagery isn’t as extreme as Anti-Christ and the metaphor isn’t as clear as Mother. The big problem is Men suffers from being vague and coy. What is any of it supposed to mean? Because it’s too vague, you’re not invested enough to care to answer the question.
The soundtrack is creepy and it is hands down one of the most beautiful looking films. There’s just no story or emotional hook to keep you invested. It feels like the film is wheel spinning until the third act arrives. Having Rory Kinnear in multiple parts does not add anything. What are the storytellers trying to say? I will concede that maybe I’m a bit thick and literal minded when it comes to these things so there’s a chance that this has all flown over my head. But I don’t think that’s the issue. The thing is I enjoy Garland’s work. Dredd is hands down one of the finest action films of the last ten years and you can keep your Raid. I also liked elements of Annihilation too. Men feels like a misfire.
The Way Way Back
I watched this straight after Men as a pallet cleanser. I watched The Way Way Back years ago and had immense enjoyment first time round. If Men is one of the most pretentious films I’ve seen in a while then The Way Way Back is the polar opposite.
Do you remember that episode of The Simpsons were they go to the Flanders’ beach house and Lisa reinvents herself? Imagine that as a feature length film. A young boy goes on holiday with his mother and her new boyfriend. Over the course of the summer the introverted boy finds his confidence working at a water park under the guidance of Sam Rockwell’s character.
It’s just a pleasent film, the equivalent of reading a good book by a quiet lake in autumn. Does that make sense? It’s not laugh out loud funny but then it’s not a full on comedy. It’s a coming of age story with a couple of funny moments all held together by Rockwell’s magnetic charisma. Steve Carrell plays the mother’s boyfriend and it’s good to see him playing against type as a bit of an asshole. Toni Collette is in it too and she is one of those actors who the more you see the more you realise she has never given a bad performance in her life.
There is one moment of leeriness that even when it came out felt dated but overall this is just a wonderful film. It’s not for everyone, it might be a bit too slight for some but I enjoy it so much.
Devil Wears Prada
This was my first time watching this. I’m going to let you in on a secret, I have a real soft spot for these kinds of films. To be specific, I love films about a young woman who comes to the city to redeem a version of their parent in the workplace. These films get mislabelled rom-coms but they’re not that. There’s a romance element but it’s relegated to sub plot.
For what it’s worth Morning Glory and Working Girl are the gold standard of these kinds of films. The protagonist in these films is doing things for their own betterment. They want something and they go about getting it, they’re an active hero. Usually this job is a stepping stone as they have their eyes on bigger and better things.
Devil Wears Prada should have been a home run with me but it struck out. The problem was that the protagonist did not change. In these kinds of films the hero has to change or at least get seduced by the magic world she’s in, lose herself only to somehow be reminded and leave better for having the experience. The main character doesn’t change much and because of that there’s no real stakes.
For a film criticising the shallowness and vapid sensibilities of the fashion world the film is all surface level. It’s almost 50% montage too. Yes she has more clothes but how is she changing? She’s not, so why should I care?
Popstar: Never stop, never stopping
This is a rewatch and I have been blasting the soundtrack ever since too. The first time I watched this I thought the second half dragged but I found the second half to be just as funny this time round. “Imagine if a garbage man was smart” Is still making me chuckle a few days later. When this came out I think it bombed and I can see why. Popstar is the most specific type of mockumentary.
There was a series of puff piece documentaries following the flavour of the month. There were ones done about Justin Bieber, Katy Perry and One Direction. They were all dull with the exception of Katy Perry because her marriage to Russel Brand fell apart during the filming. Compare to Justin Bieber’s main drama which was he had a tickley throat. Popstar apes their style but who the heck is going to get the joke?
Anyway back to Popstar, it has fantastic soundtrack and some fantastic jokes and a good setpiece involving a marriage proposal Seal and wolves. The film is not without flaws. It suffers from the “If one punchline is funny then seven must be hilarious” school of comedy. There’s also drug humour which I find so lazy and even at eighty six minutes there is bloat. There’s some chuckles in this.
I Want You Back
Have been listening to the It’s Always Sunny Podcast and saw this on the front page of my Amazon. I like Charlie Day so thought would give it a shot. The trailer looked terrible, I never have high hopes for someone from a popular TV show going into film. Also it’s a romantic comedy which I’m not a big fan of.
My expectations were low and I am pleased to say that I was wrong about I Want You Back. There were moments when I laughed a lot, can you imagine that? Laughing at a comedy film, I’m as surprised as you are. It managed to navigate the cliches of most rom-coms and put a unique enough spin on it. Some of the line delivery was perfect in particular “Her dad SUCKS” had me laughing. I Want You Back is a recommend.
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