Saturday, February 11, 2012

Nothing a Good Smack to the Head Wouldn't Fix

I can only hope our senses will be treated to something better than what they have been lately; surely we are cinematically due.

The last two films we've seen come from opposite ends of the film spectrum - one is nominated for an Oscar1, and the other...isn't. But neither even really lived up to what they billed themselves as.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close not only tries to bank on the precociousness of a young child, but also shoehorns in a plot device revolving around September 11 (or "The Worst Day", as it's annoyingly called). I haven't read the book, but I've read enough lukewarm reviews of it to make me understand the reviews of the movie.

The movie's really quite straightforward - spazzy little Asperger's case Oskar's father dies in the September 11th attacks, and Oskar embarks on a journey of self-discovery after finding a key hidden in some of his father's things. On the surface, that seems heart-warming, but when you take into account the fact that he barges into people's personal lives, treats his mother like absolute rubbish, and basically thinks the world revolves around him, it loses some of its charm.

There is little resolution to the drama of the key, Oskar hoards memories of his father (including his last words) from his mother, but gets away with all of it due to his A+ for Effort orienteering skills. It's sickly sweet in parts, but it's major failing is in thinking that the audience members wouldn't take the opportunity to slap Oskar if he barged into our lives.

And speaking of head injuries - The Vow is a movie that exists purely because Nicolas Sparks-esque treacle is pure box office gold in February. Hell, the movie even had a trailer for some piece of flotsam called The Lucky One - featuring a water-soaked kiss, a North Carolina setting, and a girl with "complications"2, all Sparks staples. But, believe it or not, The Vow is not actually written by Sparks (although I'll bet he wished he had).

Instead, this offering from director Michael Sucsy3 switched North Carolina for Chicago and...keeps everything else, even the daddy issues and the wet kiss. It's apparently based on a real couple (the real wife's name is Krickitt, which isn't quite as obnoxious as the movie) who are still together 20 years after an accident robbed the wife of her memory of her husband.

The film version features a more specific erasure - conveniently right before Rachel McAdams and Channing "Give Me A Heavy-Knit Sweater or Give Me Death" Tatum meet. Also conveniently, she still thinks she's engaged to Scott Speedman, who looks a solid 15 years older than her (which is nothing, considering Jessica Lange looks like her child-bearing years would have been well behind her when she had McAdams).

To make matters worse, her parents are super-rich, and McAdams used to be a snobby little WASP before going all hipster chic and abandoning law school for art school. Inexplicably, she and Channing are able to afford a giant downtown apartment despite her being an artist and him owning his own business (there was one "Past Due" notice on the table, which I guess was to indicate that there were money problems), but her brain trauma makes her reconsider her new bohemian lifestyle. Will she remember how to love her pre-Channing douchebag again? Yes. Don't be shocked.

Gentlemen, do not be afraid to go see this film - there are worse things in life than looking at Rachel McAdams for 104 minutes. And, if you've got an understanding female to accompany, she'll let you make snide comments about Channing Tatum's denim outfits. At least it won't be up for any Oscars. We think.

1 - Although that nomination has received some mixed reactions
2 - Undoubtedly, father complications
3 - Who essentially undoes any goodwill he'd earned from Grey Gardens

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