Sunday, September 11, 2005

Film Days IV

Just to wrap up the Film Days entries, a few words on the last two movies I watched. At this point, I was more than pleased with the amount of films seen, if not completely satisfied by their quality. The last two didn't exactly raise the average by much. Doxa (Leif Magnusson, 2005, con+) is a new Swedish movie shot in my home town of Malmö, which in and of itself made me a more alert viewer. I think they used the locations reasonably well, including a run-down abandoned lot which I instantly recognized as a location our film crew used back in 2001, when we shot parts of a failed feature there (buy me a drink and I'll tell you all about it).

In Doxa, a young woman called Jessica (Eva Rexed) is watching her father slowly fading away in a hospital, terminally ill with cancer, which he may or may not have gotten at his former working place, an industrial site. Ridden with personal troubles of her own, and increasingly prone to conspiracies, Jessica begins to trace the tracks back to her father's employer, only to find that more people have become ill. The plot thickens, but at the same time it doesn't; the protagonist's deteriorating mental state and paranoia is used by the director to blur the line between truth and fiction, which is a good idea until you realize how lazily written the script is, and how ultimately wasted all the good ideas are. Characters come and go, leads are never really developed, scenes materialize and fade away without reason. There is a larger picture looming here, dealing with the decline of Sweden's social democratic welfare state and the sense of confusion caused by it; a very interesting thing to explore, to be sure, but unfortunately it's rather clumsily executed.

I will gladly admit that the primary reason I watched In Her Shoes (Curtis Hanson, 2005, mixed) was because of its director. Curtis Hanson's post-LA Confidential projects have been rather puzzling - Wonder Boys was amazing but then he picked up the Eminem showcase 8 Mile for some reason like a regular director-for-hire guy, and now he's at the helm of a Cameron Diaz rom-com bestseller-adaptation chick-flick thingy. Funny that. But since he actually injected some quality into 8 Mile I was curious to see what he could add to this - and I was pleasantly surprised. In short, In Her Shoes is about two sisters (Diaz and Toni Collette) living very different lives - one has a career, is tidy, reliable, and boring; the other is a flaky, irresponsible slut without job or education. Guess who plays who? The sisters are despite their differences very tied together, but when the shit hits the fan one time too many, courtesy of Diaz, they part ways. The End. Or is it?!

Despite being filled to the rim with cheap symbolism and countless life lessons for people of all ages, for the most part, the film actually works. Not in a flawless way - it's a bit too long and the narrative suffers from its literary roots (an assumption on my part, since I haven't read the novel - long-winded split narratives tend to work much better in a novel than in a film), but we're spared many of the tired rom-com clichés, or those associated with overly weepy families-come-together dramas. The cast is decent all around, but although servicable, Diaz is simply unable to reach that higher level of acting that Collette so effortlessly achieves whenever she is onscreen.

2 Comments:

At 7:23 AM, Anonymous Andrew Theiss (Aesop) said...

Come to New York, and I'll gladly buy you a drink. I'd like to hear about this "failed" feature production. Plane fare might not be a worth a drink, but come on: America is the land of opportunity.

 
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