Category Archives: Romance

Her (2013)

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As most of you should know, at the moment in the most general sense, we as a species are not headed in a good direction. Somewhere along the path, we lost our way. Our priorities and morals are misshapen and failing, the technological and political advances we make are cancelled out by our abuse of our planet and each other, and we’re struggling to co-exist, to keep our progression afloat. All in all, our future does not look bright. That being said, the ship is being righted somewhat, you know…we are getting there, even if it is just one maladjusted step at a time. We’re beginning to consider the consequences and outcomes of our actions and creations just as heavily and frequently as we marvel at them. And it looks as if our continued existence, harmony, and evolution is significantly greater in importance, well…at least mow more than it has ever been.

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Sadly however, despite this new growth and consciousness of how important our cohesiveness is, we continue to conjure up new ways of interacting with one another…quicker, inhuman, artificial ways. Devices, methods, and intelligence that instead of drawing us together, instead of doing what we intended them to do, is distancing us, alienating communication, both physical and verbal. It’s becoming a bit excessive and ridiculous, at least to me anyway. I get that with these tools we are also bringing the world together, but, I mean, at what cost? And where do we draw the line? We’re losing what makes our very presence in this universe so extraordinary. It feels as if these easier ways of connecting are hampering our intellectual ascension, creating an inability to converse face-to-face, and leaving us unable to read one another. “I fear the day technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.”

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That’s an Albert Einstein quote, by the way, just thought I’d let you know so I don’t get tagged with plagiarism, but I digress. The quote, along with the personal rant before it was ignited by Spike Jonze’s transcendent film “Her.” I feel it’s important to convey what exactly a film evokes in me and the end result is often something like the rant above. Just so you know, “Her” centres around Theodore (Phoenix), a lonely, romantic writer who winds up falling in love with his new operating system (Johansson). I figured I’d let you in on the plot so you could know the reason behind my rambling. So, now that you understand where my blurb stems from, I bet it makes a lot more sense. To be honest though, there’s a hell of a lot more to this film than just singling out our mistakes and how we are going to pay dearly for them. So enough of my blabbering on, let’s get into the film.

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Unlike any love story you’ve ever experienced. “Her,” written and directed by the aforementioned Spike Jonze, is a bizarre concoction of comedy, science-fiction, and of course, romance. Its premise is a bit obscure and might take a little time to settle in. However once it does, the confusion and hilarity of what you are actually watching will will wear off and the film’s immersive, heartbreaking, foreshadowing nature will haunt you, make you ache. The script is genuine, disheartening, and completely captures the lyricism and poetic inconsistencies of the language we use everyday. It’s extremely difficult to recreate such instinctive, calculated emotions and dialogue, but Jonze does a superlative job in doing so. The soundtrack for this lovely film, which I am currently listening to, was composed by none other than Arcade Fire, amongst others. It’s one that’ll stick with you and you’ll be listening to it consistently long after the film is over.

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Jonze, whom you might know as the director of such masterpieces as “Adaptation” and “Being John Malkovich,” brings exactly what you’d expect to the table. His form is as impeccable as ever. The camerawork is really an achievement all its own. Shifting from the close, emotionally strong, driven performances to endless skylines and scenery. He displays this ambient, smart, poignant, vulgar, atmospheric, sexy, unflinching yarn flawlessly. The story moves swiftly and effortlessly. Transitioning from a simple tale of a lonely writer into an intricate, veritable look at our expanding knowledge and existence. Jonze does this while eventually, occasionally simultaneously, providing the reason why this growth will be our downfall…unless we come to terms with the truth. That being, no matter how we break our bounds and overcome obstacles, our structure, our very make-up will always bring us back to one another.

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Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have one of the strongest ensembles 2013 has to offer keeping your footing. “Her” features Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson in the lead roles with Amy Adams, Olivia Wilde, Rooney Mara, and Chris Pratt running support. We all know that Adams has the chops, so her magnificence shouldn’t be that big of a surprise. Nevertheless, somehow, she still manages to bewilder and her performance here is nothing short of perfection. Wilde, who I feel finally won her critics over with one of my favourites this year, “Drinking Buddies” continues to move forward with another strong effort. Pratt plays the quirky, visceral, long-time friend infallibly, something he’s done for a long time. As for Mara, who still remains on the periphery of the mainstream for some odd reason, gives another powerful effort here. She’s that odd, house-hold name that everyone seems to push to the back burner.

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Phoenix and Johansson, our star-crossed lovers, search endlessly for a way to make their unconventional romance work despite all the restrictions. And I must say, they look…and sound I should say, quite striking doing so. It’s utterly remarkable how the two play off one another. Johansson might not be able to garner an Oscar nomination due to some idiotic stipulation, but in my books, she’s got the award wrapped up. As for Phoenix, there’s no doubt in my mind he’ll grab a nod himself, possibly take it home all together. I know it’s simple fiction, a movie, but the chemistry, the sparks these two create is something of such authenticity, it has to be seen to be believed.

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Spike Jonze’s “Her” is beautiful, smart, disconcerting, and depressingly emotional. “Her” will be fighting for nominations this award season, there’s no doubt, the only question is, how many will it win?

Her: 9.5 out of 10.

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Blue Valentine (2010)

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An unflinching look into a faltering marriage as it evolved from a chance encounter. Blue Valentine doesn’t shy away from the tribulations and although at times it may be difficult to watch, there is no arguing with the authenticity on display here. Featuring a pair of unprecedented performances of unbearable depth and astounding accuracy from its two leads. Blue Valentine is a veritable gaze into the consequences of young love and other uncontrollable emotions. Directed and written by breakthrough visionary Derek Cianfrance. This uncompromising, atypical fairytale is both heartbreaking and enlightening. Blue Valentine is as potent and persuasive as they come and should be viewed with caution. Consider your current emotional state, Blue Valentine should not be taken lightly or inconsiderately trifled with.

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Dean (Gosling) is a high school dropout currently working for a New York City moving company. Cindy (Williams) is a pre-med student living at home with her parents and grandmother. Upon meeting by change, both fall in love with one another immediately. Cindy soon discovers she is pregnant and there is a distinct possibility it is from a previously relationship. Regardless, Cindy and Dean rush into marriage. Fast forwarding roughly five years, we now see the evolution of their relationship, their struggles, and the growth of their daughter. Dean currently works as a painter while Cindy is a nurse. As their lives continue to progress, the more they distance from one another and begin to crumble under their youthful, reckless decisions.

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Despite a staggering amount of sadness and sacrifice. At times, Blue Valentine is equally as pleasant and rewarding. Trying not to weigh the viewer down with a significant amount of melancholy that is relentlessly constant, as well as boasting a pair of portrayals that are strong enough to bring its viewers to tears. Blue Valentine never loses direction and always keeps its heart beating for all the right reasons. While most films would falter under the restriction of having only two characters carry the story throughout, Blue Valentine always keeps its content fresh and progressive. Cianfrance provides a grounded, realistic entry into a genre that seems to continuously, albeit unsuccessfully shoot for sky and easily lose sight of what really matters, thankfully Blue Valentine is not the norm.

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Cianfrance’s direction is near impossible to critique. When you’re able to snag a harrowing tale of utter sadness and regret, let alone a few moments through a lens, you’ve hit your stride. Cianfrance pulls double duty in Blue Valentine as he also scribes the screenplay. The main reason why Blue Valentine succeeds is its faultless attention to detail. This is directly related to Cianfrance’s outstanding script and heart-bursting direction.

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However powerful and poignant Cianfrance’s script and direction may be, Blue Valentine would be lost without its two leads. Starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams as inwardly star-crossed lovers on the verge of catastrophe, Blue Valentine makes the most of its stars remarkable chemistry. Not only undergoing significant changes to their personalities and characteristics. Gosling and Williams outward appearances are shifted to accommodate their roles exhausting demands. While it may not always be pretty to look at. Gosling and Williams construct a formidable, more importantly believable relationship that isn’t your typical “happily ever after.” Gosling beautiful acts the growing frustration in reaction to Williams indifference of their relationship. In summary, It is exceedingly difficult to review their performances separate from one another because they are so connected.

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Never hiding the foundations weaknesses and cracks or the fading sparks. Blue Valentine is a realistic romance that will render your insides torn and eyes far from dry.

Blue Valentine: 8 out of 10.

Like Crazy (2011)

Warning: What lies ahead is the most personal, incoherent, ambiguous review I’ve ever written. Proceed with caution.

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That inexplicable venom that swirls around in your head when you’re sleeping. It fills your gut with air until it rises into your throat, suffocating your chest cavity. Those tiny pricks that feel like sparks tingling your extremities. This is love, and it’s what Like Crazy desperately tried to create and at times, succeeded. Maybe I’ve been shell-shocked and most likely, I’m not too bitter. But Like Crazy’s authenticity is never in question and for such a universally recognized and understood force, as love is, nothing can even remotely seem falsified. Starring Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones, two youthful and capable leads. Written and Directed by Drake Doremus and featuring an amazing supporting performance from Jennifer Lawrence. Like Crazy shows the foundation and the setbacks in building a fortified relationship.

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Anna (Jones) is studying at a college in Los Angeles. Originally from Britain, Anna meets Jacob (Yelchin) in one of her classes overseas. The two hit it off on their first date and fall in love. When they graduate, Anna decides to violate her visa and remain in Los Angeles with Jacob for a little while longer. Later when Anna travels home to London, she is denied a return flight back to the United States because she overstayed the allotted time given by her visa. After Jacob ventures to Britain for a short period of time, he must return to his business in America. The two decide to part ways as it is impossible to continue their relationship with the massive distance between them. When Jacob returns, he begins a love affair with a coworker named Samantha (Lawrence). As time passes, they realize they cannot be away from one another. Trying to devise a way for Anna return to the United States permanently, Jacob and Anna soon realize their problems are just beginning.

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I’m not going to lie. Yes, at times it tore me apart and yes it gave me misty eyes. I’ve probably fallen for Felicity Jones just from watching it. It isn’t so much the love I’m calling into question because it is very apparent Yelchin and Jones conducted chemistry. The issue I find with Like Crazy, is it’s very much a young love driven film and for some, that can alienate. Don’t get me wrong, Like Crazy is miles ahead of the seemingly weekly releases of Nicolas Sparks adapted pictures. Yet, the ending and ambiguity of the film in its entirety is enough to make you want to rip out your heart and never use it again. If you end up watching Like Crazy and feel nothing, there is something wrong with you, not the film. The heart of Like Crazy is something we all wish we had and it destroys us to confront, arguably the reason we were put on the planet.

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If I’m to be honest, I’m going crazy writing this review because I am sitting on a fence, debating if I hated it or loved it and I can’t come to a conclusion. I don’t like to burn bridges and if I jump too hastily, I could be condemning a film I’d grow to appreciate. This is getting too personal but I’m starting to lean to the positive side. I don’t think I’ve ever been so morose after watching a romance film. For all the right reasons, Like Crazy is difficult to watch, I mean it really hits home. Forgive me if I am too personal, preachy, or disconcerting in my review. Like Crazy is a very personal film and it is hard to separate oneself from it.

The acting is superb. It is very difficult to force or fake such a deep emotion and Yelchin and Jones do nothing of the sorts. The majority of their brilliance stems from their slight facial expressions, eye movements, and silence. Which, much the same as reality, are important tactics when conveying an emotion, especially one as complex as love. Jennifer Lawrence, in a sparse amount of screen time, manages to steal every minute she’s visible.

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I don’t really know what else to say about Like Crazy. The story is fairly straightforward, the acting is terrific, and it aches to watch it. Which, I guess is essential to romance films. All cards on the table, this is one of the more favourable romance films I’ve seen.

Like Crazy: 7.5 out of 10.

Beginners (2010)

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Beginners is a rather bleak look at relationships, the destructive effect of terminal illnesses, and sexual indecision, but its somber approach is captivatingly efficient. Watching Beginners you feel as if you’ve been in at least one similar situation at some point which makes the film translucent and rewarding to connect with. Ewan McGregor and Melanie Laurent, Beginners two leads, seem easily and inexplicably drawn to one another and empathize on similar wavelengths making their performance as a couple utterly realistic. Directed by Mike Mills and also featuring brilliant Canadian Christopher Plummer as well as Goran Visnjic who is exceptional, Beginners is both heartbreaking and affirming, sturdy yet flexible, overall a breath of fresh air into a genre that is over saturated and lacking.

In the year 2003, Oliver (McGregor), a graphic artist has just become aware that his father George (Plummer) has cancer. In addition, George reveals that he is gay despite the fact he was married to his mother, Georgia until her passing. George has found a partner in Andy (Visnjic) although he is uncomfortable with the fact that the relationship is an open one. Oliver later attends a party with his friends where he meets Anna (Laurent). Anna is a french actress who lives a rapid life and soon becomes taken with Oliver. As his father condition worsens, Andy becomes distant and Oliver and Anna’s relationship begins to turn sour.

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It’s as if every weekend there is a new romance or rom-com released and it’s up to the viewer to filter the good from the weak and monotonous. Beginners is definitely one of the good ones. Rarely do we witness a romantic film that shatters your heart then persists in breaking the shards into dust. There is no miraculous intervention or quick fix, it simply takes its time in reassembling the pieces as real recovery would. Ewan McGregor adapts to his characters reluctancy and silent optimism, eventually willing to emerge from his cave of depression with his trusty dog as his sidekick, who is also quite the chick magnet. I don’t think I’ve even been more persuaded into believing the honesty in a performance. Melanie Laurent and Christopher Plummer are spiritual and outgoing in their own ways, regardless of whether that’s the way they’ve always been or just realizing their existence. Beginners may be daunting and dispiriting, but its simple and raw script and approach is appealing and hopeful.

Beginners: 8 out of 10.