Thursday, May 08, 2008

What You Should Be Seeing...

There are three films currently in limited release, slowly expanding around the country, that are probably the best things out there right now. Finals and end of semester/college activities have been fairly all-consuming, so I regrettably haven’t been able to get around to writing full, in-depth reviews for them, but I strongly recommend the following movies. When asked by someone ask of late what movie(s) they should go see, these three are the first titles out of my mouth:


A heartfelt, subtle film that functions as both a tremendously moving story of the possibilities implicit in basic human connection, and low-key tackling of our country’s ever-present immigration situation (in a much less nauseating, sentimental manner than “Under the Same Moon”), Thomas McCarthy’s follow-up to “The Station Agent” is really something special. It doesn’t hit you over the head with messages or bombastic emotion, but it always resonates as it tells the story of an introverted, buttoned-down writer/professor’s (Richard Jenkins) slowly evolving friendship with an immigrant couple he finds squatting in his Manhattan apartment. After years of playing scene-stealing bit parts, character actor Jenkins anchors this quietly compelling gem, and gives what is easily the best leading male performance so far this year. “The Visitor” is unquestionably a small film that doesn’t shoot for grand statements or widen its focus as it goes along, but it’s a rich character piece that really connects emotionally, and is the sort of film people complain we don’t get enough of.


I admit, I was resistant to this documentary purely on the basis of its gimmicky concept/trailer of adorable old people singing rock songs, but I wasn’t at all prepared for how touching, and rarely manipulative, the film itself is. The smile/chuckle moments are there (seeing a gaggle of geezers singing “I Wanna Be Sedated”), but this is ultimately a movie about a group of people who spend their remaining time learning various rock songs to challenge themselves and prove to everyone (not least of which themselves) they’re still alive, and won’t go quietly into the decrepitude of senility. Excelling in its human moments (e.g.: a friendship that develops between three seniors forced to carpool together) as much as in its stirring concert performances, I’d be remiss I didn’t also mention that this movie made me weep for about half its duration. I doubt you’ll see much more affecting moments in a movie this year than one of the group’s members (with breathing tubes coming out of his nose) singing a beautiful Johnny Cash-esque rendition of Coldplay’s “Fix You,” dedicated to two recently deceased chorus members.


Making a perfect companion piece with Michel Gondry’s “Be Kind Rewind,” Garth Jennings’ immensely charming, quirky ‘80s-set paean to filmmaking centers around two seemingly incongruous elementary school outcasts, quiet Will (Bill Milner) and delinquent Lee Carter (Will Poulter). Despite Will’s family’s deeply conservative religious forbidding television and film-watching, the two eventually collaborate on their own makeshift, homemade sequel to “First Blood;” the pair experience numerous complications along the way, chiefly the interference of too-hip-for-the-room French exchange student Didier (Jules Sitruk). By turns whimsical and sentimental, “Rambow” is more about the friendship between these boys and how they’re bonded through the filmmaking process than wacky “Rewind”-esque remake shenanigans, and that makes it more emotionally resonant than I was expecting (and it helps that both young leading actors are excellent). Coming equipped with an effectively oddball sense of humor, it’s probably not a movie for all tastes, but at the least, the last few minutes should put a lump in the throat of film aficionados and outcasts alike.


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