Sunday, December 01, 2013

Love, from the Beginning to the End

This year's thanksgiving was a time with family, friends and movies. We watched three movies with R and S, and then another movie when we got home last night. The Big Wedding (2013), directed by Justin Zackman who also co-wrote the screenplay, suffered from a lack of direction. The best thing, and the cutest thing, in it was Ben Barnes, who played the Columbian son adopted by white parents. When his religious biological mother came for his wedding, the family bent over backwards to hide the fact that dad and mum were divorced. It was a flimsy premise for a film, and it showed.

Bahz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby (2013) more than made up for the disappointment. I loved the excess of it, the garish house, the lavish parties, the rap music, the over-the-top art direction. I was not looking for a faithful rendition of a great novel into film. I was looking for, from Luhrmann the director of Romeo and Juliet, and of Moulin Rouge, a re-envisioning of the world, and he gave us one, tarted up, and dared us to disavow it. Leonardo DiCaprio surprised me by depicting Jay Gatsby with sufficient complexity. Tobey Maguire was out of his depth as Nick Carraway. Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan was a fairy princess; we see her through Gatsby's eyes, as one who can wipe away the past and restart one's life at a pure beginning.

I also enjoyed The Way Way Back (2013), which we watched the next night. Directed and written by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, the teen comedy had the distinction of not condescending to teenagers and not sentimentalizing them. Liam James played a shy 14-year-old Duncan, whose face was not so much blank as uncertain. The story had the expected happy ending, but James's acting lifted it above the ordinary.

Last night, we watched Be with Me, the 2005 film by Singapore director Eric Khoo. The film wove together three stories with beautiful cinematography and minimal dialogue. The parts were all played by non-professional actors. In the first, a lonely elderly shopkeeper fell in love with a blind and deaf woman when he read the story of her extraordinary life. The second story traced the love and then the break-up of a teenage lesbian couple. In the third, a security guard matched his obsession with food with his obsession with a woman in his building. One of them would die looking for love.

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