Juliette Binoche

Three Colors: Blue (1993, Krzysztof Kieslowski)

From the first few minutes of Blue, the entire thing seems conventional. Not exactly predictable, though it’s often somewhat predictable, but definitely conventional. And when it veers away from being conventional, it soon returns to it. Director Kieslowski figures out punctuation marks to draw the viewer’s attention to lead Juliette Binoche’s conflict and reuses them over and over again.

So maybe Blue is predictable. I guess conventional just sounded like less of a pejorative way of saying it.

Because Kieslowski isn’t trying for conventional. A good portion of the film is really just Binoche suffering after the death of her husband and child and rejecting her need to grieve. She’s forcing herself to persevere and Binoche does a wonderful job showing the conflict. There’s a lot of symbolism for those conflicts too, but Kieslowski offsets them with some fantastic scenes. Binoche’s relationship with her neighbor, sex worker Charlotte Véry, is peculiar and seems like it might lead somewhere interesting.

That lack of interesting destinations is Blue’s biggest problem at the end. Kieslowski wraps everything up rather neatly–shockingly neatly–by the last shot. Even though Binoche’s character tries hard not to lead a generative life anymore, she does. Only Kieslowski doesn’t want to deal with any of those threads for the conclusion.

Blue could have run thirty minutes with the story Kieslowski and Krzysztof Piesiewicz go with. Of course, the story of Binoche’s listless wandering could have taken three hours.

Beautiful photography from Slawomir Idziak. Great acting.

Just… eh.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski; written by Kieslowski, Krzysztof Piesiewicz, Agnieszka Holland, Edward Zebrowski and Slawomir Idziak; director of photography, Slawomir Idziak; edited by Jacques Witta; music by Zbigniew Preisner; production designer, Claude Lenoir; produced by Marin Karmitz; released by MK2 Diffusion.

Starring Juliette Binoche (Julie Vignon – de Courcy), Benoît Régent (Olivier), Florence Pernel (Sandrine), Charlotte Véry (Lucille), Hélène Vincent (La journaliste), Philippe Volter (L’agent immobilier), Claude Duneton (Le médecin) and Emmanuelle Riva (La mère).


Godzilla (2014, Gareth Edwards)

Instead of focusing on the giant monsters fighting, Gareth Edwards tells his Godzilla from the human perspective. It's too bad because Edwards occasionally will set up an action shot well–he's inept at following through with these setups and actually doing a good action scene, but he's always terrible with the actors. The most interesting question Godzilla raises is in regards to its character actors… why can David Strathairn keep it together with Bryan Cranston looks increasingly more humiliated to be delivering Max Borenstein's terrible lines?

There's nothing good about Godzilla. There's not some gem of a little performance, there's not some fantastic sequence to partially redeem the film. Borenstein rips off a plot point from the last American remake (with some garnish) but it's all right because most of the first half has Edwards ripping off everything he can from Steven Spielberg. Poorly, of course, because Edwards, Borenstein and Godzilla are all terrible.

Particularly bad also is Alexandre Desplat's score. There's not a single good note of music, but given the film's atrocious sound design–which is usually meant to heighten the emotional impact of leads Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen's lousy acting–one would be unable to hear it.

Real quick–Taylor-Johnson's awful, Olsen's awful, Cranston's embarrassed–Sally Hawkins looks like she's ready to cry being in this turkey. Ken Watanabe gives the second best performance (after Strathairn); Borenstein gives him the most idiotic dialogue.

Godzilla's truly American now. The film would fail a fourth grade science quiz. It's exceptionally stupid. And bad.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Gareth Edwards; screenplay by Max Borenstein, based a story by Dave Callaham; director of photography, Seamus McGarvey; edited by Bob Ducsay; music by Alexandre Desplat; production designer, Owen Paterson; produced by Thomas Tull, Jon Jashni, Mary Parent and Brian Rogers; released by Warner Bros

Starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Ford Brody), Ken Watanabe (Dr. Serizawa), Elizabeth Olsen (Elle Brody), Juliette Binoche (Sandra Brody), Sally Hawkins (Graham), David Strathairn (Admiral Stenz), Richard T. Jones (Captain Hampton) and Bryan Cranston (Joe Brody).


Dan in Real Life (2007, Peter Hedges)

Is there a dearth of WASP family dramas right now? I guess there must be. Dan in Real Life certainly fills the void–and is probably the only time I’ve ever thought about a movie in terms of it being a WASP affair (that accusation against Wes Anderson is, for example, one I find unfounded).

It’s a bunch of shiny happy people–shiny happy family–who get together once a year to play charades, do crossword compositions, do a talent show, on and on. No television in sight. John Mahoney’s the wise and all knowing father, Dianne Wiest is the wise and all knowing mother. There’s the good son, the good daughter, the wild but good other son and then there’s the titular Dan. I think that character’s position in the film is the most interesting thing about Dan in Real Life–he’s suffering and no one’s helping him. There’s the silly suffering of the present action, but it’s a long-term thing and it’s never implied he gets any support. Dan in Real Life only makes sense in its present action, anything before and anything after… it’s too complex.

Watching the movie, it occurred to me the French could do the story well (people off in a relative isolation–Rules of the Game for a multiplex) but Hedges just can’t handle it. Everything’s too perfect, but Hedges doesn’t seem aware he’s not giving the film any texture. It’s like one of the Meyers/Shyer Disney movies without the tacit agreement of a Utopian setting.

As a director, however, Hedges is fantastic. Technically, down to the music by the Norwegian pop star, it’s perfect. Sarah Flack’s editing is incredible. It’s just fantastic.

Lots of the acting is good. Dane Cook (who everyone hates for some reason) is decent as the wild but good brother, Juliette Binoche is fine. Wiest and Mahoney, though neither of them are doing much different from what they’ve both done countless times before. Amy Ryan is criminally underused. Matthew Morrison is memorable in a small role.

I was going to save a whole paragraph for Steve Carell, but it’s probably impossible to describe how good a performance he gives here. Even when he’s spouting the ludicrous dialogue (he’s going to consign himself to misery for his kids–it’s like Superman II!), he’s great.

Unfortunately, Hedges hired the three actors playing his daughters on their cuteness and precociousness instead of their acting. Brittany Robertson gives the worst performance, though Alison Pill is the most annoying.

The movie never has a high potential–the mediocre plotting kicks in before the opening titles I think–and it’s impossible to think of it working on a higher level, so it’s not really a disappointment. It’s a watchable WASP comedy-drama with some outstanding particulars.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Peter Hedges; written by Pierce Gardner and Hedges; director of photography, Lawrence Sher; edited by Sarah Flack; music by Sondre Lerche; production designer, Sarah Knowles; produced by Jon Shestack and Brad Epstein; released by Touchstone Pictures.

Starring Steve Carell (Dan Burns), Juliette Binoche (Marie), Dane Cook (Mitch Burns), Alison Pill (Jane Burns), Brittany Robertson (Cara Burns), Marlene Lawston (Lilly Burns), Dianne Wiest (Nana), John Mahoney (Poppy), Norbert Leo Butz (Clay), Amy Ryan (Eileen), Jessica Hecht (Amy) and Frank Wood (Howard).


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