What does love really mean? It’s not an easy question to answer, but there’s an expectation you have an inkling when you name your film “Amour.” Director Michael Haneke explores the darker side of this question.
At first, Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) seem to have it all. They’re happily married octogenarians who live in a gorgeous Parisian apartment (indeed, sometimes the film seems like a real estate ad.) Love and affluence cannot save you from death, though, and one day Anne fails to respond to Georges at breakfast. She has suffered a minor stroke, but it’s enough for her to implore Georges to kill her if her condition gets worse. What follows is two hours of watching a woman deteriorate, and a man suffering a moral dilemma of deciding what his duty as husband is.
“Amour” asks some important questions. What does the marriage vow of in “in sickness and in health” actually entail? What is love and what is selfishness? Yet, it’s excruciating to watch and not just because of its subject matter. No one is supposed to “enjoy” a Haneke film; it’s not entertainment. Yet Haneke’s intentionally disquieting style doesn’t change the fact that “Amour” is painfully slow and fails to engage us. The cinematography is stagnant and overfilled with long shots meant to be unnerving but instead lead to boredom.
Haneke relies on his actors to carry the film when he cannot. Anne is riveting in her attempt to maintain her pride despite her health, which makes it all the more heartbreaking when she cannot avoid succumbing to it. Playing a character who can barely move or speak by the end of the film takes passion and skill; Riva deserves all of her praise. Trintignant, however, should not be overlooked as her obsessive caretaker. Georges is just as stubborn and in denial as his wife and ultimately the most intriguing character in the film. Trintignant’s subtle performance ensures you will still be dubious of his character’s motives by the end.
“Amour” proves that maybe we never want the answer to the question it poses. If so, was it really worth 127 minutes of our time? In my case, no.
WANTED: Nicholas Sparks
CRIME: Emotionally manipulating readers and moviegoers for years while turning an insane profit.
REWARD: The price you would’ve paid to see the insipid “Safe Haven.”
Nicholas Sparks needs to stop. The author is a homicidal maniac who kills off characters right when things get good or creates plot twists more windy than the roads of North Carolina. Yet just like that overpriced and over-salted popcorn at the theater, he knows we’ll buy it even if we’re left unsatisfied. This explains why something like “Snooze Haven” got made.
It’s a dark and stormy night when Katie (Julianne Hough whose hair colors are more varied and interesting than her acting) runs away from Boston, feet still bloody from whatever crime she committed, and boards a bus that pulls up in Southport, NC. It’s a small seaside resort town but just big enough to have a sexy widower, Alex, (Josh Duhamel, who is one of the best parts of the film. How often do you hear that?) with two adorably precocious kids. Katie and Alex’s romance plays out like a bad Jimmy Buffet song but with less chemistry. Life isn’t all a walk on the beach though (although, there are quite a few of those), when a crazed cop tracks Katie below the Mason Dixon Line and things heat up. Does it sound familiar at all?
You’ve seen this Lifetime movie before. The only thing you weren’t expecting is the twist at the end that is so absurd you don’t tear up but instead, laugh out loud. This time, though, we’re laughing at you Sparks and not the other way around.
Side effects of seeing “Side Effects” may include:
1. Discovering that Channing Tatum can be in a film with his shirt on, and he’s not half bad in it.
2. Appreciating Jude Law’s smarmy nature
3. Disorientation from plot twists
Just like those obnoxious prescription drug ads that list every side effect but death because they have no idea how the medication will actually work, “Side Effects” is hard to write about without giving too much away.
“Side Effects” starts off with bloody footprints in a hallway that lead you into a movie that’s much more complicated than a Clue murder mystery but more reminiscent of Hitchcock. Our protagonist, Emily (Rooney Mara), is far from a Hitchcock blonde, but her life is just as just as complicated. She should be happy when her husband, Martin (Channing Tatum), gets out of a four-year jail stint for insider trading, but instead she falls into a deep depression. Every drug that her psychiatrist (Jude Law) prescribes her just muddles things more for Emily right up until she finds the body in the kitchen. Director Steven Soderbergh respects that his audience is intelligent enough to follow a sharp thriller, but he’s not so patronizing as to deliberately confuse us, making “Side Effects” both suspenseful and satisfying.
Although it may borrow tropes from black and white films, the characters are anything but. In some respects, Emily and her psychiatrist have a more intimate relationship than she does with Martin. Mara, who was sleek yet strong in “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” is a delicately complex protagonist in “Side Effects.” Normally, having a perpetually insincere caddish demeanor doesn’t do you any favors, but in Law’s case, it helps him give one of his better performances. None of the characters are innocent or guilty, but they probably deserve a special ring in Hell or at least a different prescription.
“Side Effects” twists more than the snakes on the caduceus, and it’s 106 of the most entertaining minutes you’ll spend at the movie theater this side of January because of it.
The most pivotal plot point of “Rust and Bone” is a freak orca accident. Yes, during an orca show, a rogue whale flops up on deck, taking out his trainer in the process. Well, I guess they’re called killer whales for a reason. The trainer Stéphanie (Marion Cotillard) wakes up the next day to find her legs amputated below the knee. Then, she starts a romance with a boxer, Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts), who is also a single father. It’s such an absurd plot that it just might work.
Well sadly, it doesn’t.
That’s because there isn’t much of a plot. We watch Stéphanie and Ali decide whether they’re friends with benefits or lovers. We watch Ali confuse where punches belong, in the ring or at home. These could be compelling plot points given the tragedy and uniqueness of the story, but director and co-screenwriter Jacques Audiard doesn’t give us enough back story to make us care about Stéphanie and Ali.
All we know about Stéphanie before her accident is that she liked to party and had a controlling boyfriend, so we don’t really know what she had to lose. However, Cotillard gives a subtly strong performance that manages to elevate her under-drawn character above melodrama. She is wholly raw and at her most riveting in scenes in which she doesn’t even speak.
Ali, on the other hand, is so fleshed out that he is often far from sympathetic. He’s brash, bellicose but also surprisingly tender. Schoenaerts’ performance focuses on the former two though. It takes an extremely emotionally-manipulative scene toward the end of the film to get us to truly care for him, and I can’t help but resent Audiard for such a gambit.
“Rust and Bone” has some beautiful sun-flared cinematography and some very intense, well-acted scenes but somehow lags even in its melodrama. It’s one of 2012’s most original films but also one of its flattest.
I’m the girl who finds ticket stubs and popcorn in her purse. Yes, I’m addicted to seeing movies. When I was the film editor at The Student Newspaper, I reviewed a movie a week. Even though I can’t get into free screenings anymore, I haven’t been able to break the habit. Instead of opening up a direct debit to the theater, I decided to start reviewing again to justify my weekly fix. Enjoy!
As you can see, not all of the posts below are reviews, but some are about my experience as a Missourian reporter. For the reporting class I took in the fall 2012 semester, we had to keep a blog where we discussed our reporting experiences (read mistakes) and linked to our articles. You can probably skip reading my riveting accounts of highway ribbon-cutting ceremonies, but I couldn’t bring myself to delete these posts either. As much as I never want to repeat that experience again, I need some record that the blood, sweat, tears and occasional vomiting were worth it.