The one & only time you will hear me talk about the Millenium series (that is until -of course- the next one comes out)
I caught up with a movie that has been all the craze worldwide, mostly cause of the best selling novels it is based on. The Millennium series was concocted in Sweden by late writer Stieg Larsson, man that never got the chance to see the immense success his trilogy would have on avid readers worldwide, due to the fact that he died right after sending the book to his publisher.
The first part of this trilogy takes place in Sweden and revolves around two characters that cannot be further apart in similarities. They try to solve a family murder that has been a mystery for close to 40 years and that has haunted a wealthy man that wants to know the facts before his death.
I have not read the novels, so I cannot compare page to screen with this one but I'm quite sure -after having seen Girl With The Dragon Tattoo- that it must surely be a better read that viewing. Not to say this isn't an intriguing film, it's just that it all felt like The Da Vinci Code redux. Not to mention the numerous twists that kept getting thrown at me are were mostly very preposterous and -dare I say it- boring in execution.
Director Niels Arden Oplev tries to tighten the screws -and the plot- but has too much to handle in his ultimately failed execution. He does some things right, especially in the film's first half which introduces us to characters that I swear I had seen before in other much more qualified pictures- man and woman played respectively by Michale Nyqvis and Noomi Rapace. The main actors are fine but never astounding or brilliant- in other words they do the job but not in any highly qualified way.
What we are left with is a movie competently made by professionals but far from being the risky project it intends to be and more lenient towards Hollywood formula than it would lend itself to believe (so much so that a hollywood remake is in the works). It's a professionally well made film that had me thinking about better foreign movies that are more deserving of word of mouth.
I guess disturbing is the right way to explain two of Deliverance's creepiest scenes. One is @ the beginning and somewhat of a simple & non threatening scene -involving an inbred kid playing a banjo- although there doesn't appear to be much of a threat, the scene sets up a tense sense of dread to come later on, especially the so called Piece de Resistance which has to do with Image #2: a disturbing rape scene that sets up a nasty and paranoiac chain of events in the film.
What Greenberg has going for it is originality and a great performance by Ben Stiller as Roger Greenberg- a schlub that likes to do nothing in life. After having gone through a mental breakdown he resorts to his brothers house in California to house sit as his sibling visits Vietnam with his fam.
This is a a complex character study that comes from writer director Noah Baumbach's imagination. Baumbach -a frequent Wes Anderson screenwriter that penned the more recent The Fantastic Mr Fox- has had a decidedly mixed venture in his directing career so far. His triumph came in 2005 when he released the miraculous Squid & The Whale. Greenberg is not that good of a movie but it is nevertheless an interesting attempt that Baumbach delivers with mixed results. Stiller has never been this complex and artistic. He gives his role a cetain je ne sais quoi that truly is the heart of the movie. Ditto Greta Gerwig as his love interest -or sort of. Gerwig is one hell of an actress and I loved every minute she was in the movie. In fact the movie is dedicated to her just as much as Roger Greenberg.
Because we live in an ADD generation, most people will shun off Baumbach's movie because they will likely ask themselves what is the point? Sadly those people are the same ones that will likely churn out their big bucks for Transformers 5 & drool over Michael Bay's explosive delight. This movie is not for them. There isn't much in the way of polt & -in fact- plot is substituted for character in Baumbach's film. It is the study of a man -& woman- that have no idea where their life is taking them and in which direction they actually want to go. The confusion is there and shown with an indelible flair for comedy.
The comic centerpiece is a frat party happening at Greenberg's household. Can I take this if I'm on Zoloft? says Greenberg before taking a line of coke. It's a hilariously awkward series of events that brings authenticity and improvisation. It's there and then that Baumbach's movie wakes up and energizes you into the film's structure. Before that it was a mixed bag of things.
I don't mean to say I dislike director Paul Greengrass but I think he might have to film his movies in different circumstances and form. I was annoyed by the last Bourne movie with its frenetic handheld camera and preposterous pacing & this Green Zone is very similar, except it takes place in Iraq. If anybody has seen United 93 they know how good this man can be when tension and feeling come hand in hand with a good screenplay. This latest one does not have a good one, which is why I recommend a pass on it.
Polanski's new movie is all about mood. A tense, dreary mood & it resonates because of the way Polanski tries to hold your attention til the film's very last frame- which albeit i was not too impressed by. Let's not go all gaga and say this is as good as his triple peaks in cinema(Chinatown/Rosemary's Baby/The Pianist) but there's a very similar feel that he brings to The Ghost Writer as he brought to the great movies listed above. Polanski is all about the tension of building and creating an atmosphere filled with the dread and darkness his characters feel.
This is not a movie for someone looking for an entertaining blockbuster. It's a different, intricate kind of movie- one where its structure and feel are very much part of the plot. In essence nothing happens but everything happens in Polanski's delicate intricacies. There may be burning problems that slowly evolve near the film's climax but Polanski -just like recent Scorsese- is very much in Hitchockian territory here and pulls the viewer in frame by frame (& check out that incredible chase scene halfway through involving car and -yes- ferry.
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