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Burnt

This post contains minor spoilers. Not enough to ruin the film, but more than I would usually give, so proceed at your own risk!

burntBurnt is one of those great little films that really gets around your prediction instinct. The plot, in a way, is really quite predictable, but it disguises itself exceptionally well.

Essentially, the film is based on the formula for an action film. It utilises the late twentieth century chronotope of the gruff and superficially unpersonable hero, but casts him as a chef with a questionable history of drug use and alcoholism, determined to prove his value, in this instance, by attaining a third Michelin Star.

Bradley Cooper, of course is the perfect man for the job. Cooper embodies the masculine stereotype, but both his manner and his filmography allow him the leeway to delve into more unexpected waters, particularly as a sensitive and relatively accepting human being.

He is supported in this endeavour by much more nuanced casting. As a heroine, Helene (Sienna Miller) makes a shrewish entrance and, though following a similar trajectory to Shakespeare’s Kate, develops in a much more textured manner to matching Cooper’s Adam. Daniel Bruhl completes a love triangle, with his character Tony engaging with Adam’s obnoxious quest out of an unrequited love. His depiction of this character is exciting in being so understated. Neither his appearance, nor his portrayal of Tony rely on gay stereotypes, and it is refreshing to see such a subtle portrayal of a queer character, especially when the character’s orientation is a key element of the plot.

Burnt may not be a brilliant film, it may not boast spectacular dialogue or a unique plot arc, but it does surprise with some beautifully drawn characters and the perfect ending.

 
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Posted by on Monday, 9 November 2015 in American Film, Film, Weinstein Company

 

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The Place Beyond the Pines

SPOILER WARNING: my apologies, but what I want to say about this film requires a spoiler, so if you’re going to see it, do so before reading, though I really wouldn’t bother.

place beyond the pinesI’m not quite sure what to make of The Place Beyond the Pines. It’s not a bad film, really, but I did come to the end and wonder what it was I’d just watched, and why. I don’t insist that every story needs to have a point, a story can certainly be just a story, but I can’t help thinking that all the writer really wanted was that elusive excuse to kill a protagonist immediately after the exposition (the psychosis of writers’ innate desire to kill protagonists, though, is a subject for another post).

Said protagonist is, in this instance, Luke Glanton, a circus stunt motorbike rider played rather passively by Ryan Gosling, who discovers that the woman he had a fling with on his previous visit to an upstate New York backwater has given birth to his son. Quitting his job, he turns to robbing banks, which ultimately leads to his demise, and the rather flaccid cop who shoots him in the line of duty becomes the new protagonist. I couldn’t help but chuckle aloud when an inter title announced we were moving forward fifteen years and a pair of protagonists (the sons of the first two) emerged as a duo.

I’m not sure what I think, partly because this film does well what I think all stories need. It is driven by its plot, which is a tick, though the convolutions in that plot are are not really justified by what they return to the viewer who carefully follows them. It boasts some well developed and nicely performed characters, which is a tick, though none of the characters are very likeable, nor do they elicit enough empathy for me to care what becomes of them. The cinematography is beautiful and moody, which is a tick, but these lovely images don’t quite pull the disparate elements of the plot and characters together the way they should. And it has a subtle soundtrack that supports the mood, but doesn’t really take it anywhere new (not really a tick at all).

Really, this is a trilogy of short films with a contiguous plot. They might not be separable, as they share a single exposition, but they are three very distinct stories. I can’t be too harsh on the film because all three are interesting, but I’m not sure that they’re quite interesting enough for two and a half hours of slow-moving American angst.

And so what I’m left with is a film that I think I like, but I’m not quite ready to give it a tick. I guess what I fear most, though, is that I may write a little like this. My characters can be held aloof from their viewers and my plots aren’t always worthy of the effort required to follow them. I hope, therefore, that a decent number of people like The Place Beyond the Pines more than I do.

 

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Silver Linings Playbook

Silver Linings PlaybookThis is a romance story for those who don’t tolerate a lot of nonsense. And it is seriously one of the best romance films I’ve ever seen.

We meet Patrick, played by Bradley Cooper, in a mental institution as his mother delivers a court order for his release. It is soon revealed that he was institutionalised with bi-polar disorder following an incident following his discovery of his wife’s infidelity. Now on a restraining order to stay away from her, he seeks to prove that he’s worthy of his wife’s love and trust through positive living and a few trite aphorisms.

Before long, he encounters Tiffany, a widow suffering depression with whom he strikes a strong and immediate bond. From there the plot is basically predictable; they fall in love, he denies it, eventually changes his mind, yada yada yada. But it doesn’t matter, because these characters are so strong. Characters like these are hard to come by. There’s something so much more genuine than the average romance film offers.

The characters with the apparent mental illness offer great insights into humanity, and those without a diagnosis are shown to waver in their ability to control their senses also. We need more stories that depict varying degrees of mental health, rather than the old paradigm of being either sane or insane. This film does it beautifully, and is well worth a look.

 
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Posted by on Friday, 1 February 2013 in American Film, Film, Mirage Enterprises, Weinstein Company

 

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