Movie Review Tuesday: Maneater Edition

I only saw two flicks this week, dear readers. I suppose their unifying theme is man’s inherent loneliness in the world. Also, both of them sorta feature the dead rising from their graves.

Zombieland: From what I gather, there’s been a mini-wave of zom-coms after the success of Shaun of the Dead (one of my favorite movies). This one’s a road trip variant; the characters bond, learn to trust each other, and kill lots of zombies. The gore’s not too severe, though it’s not exactly family friendly. Sadly, this one uses the “fast zombie” model that makes for more action-adventure suspense but sorta defeats the purpose of zombie flicks. (hint: it’s the implacability)

Some sorta virus has infected just about everyone and turned ’em into cannibals. Jesse Eisenberg, whom I last saw sucking all the life out of Adventureland, is a bit better here, trying to channel all the Michael Cera he can. Woody Harrelson does a much better job “playing” batshit-crazy. Emma Stone doesn’t have quite the charm she had in Superbad, but Abigail Breslin’s just amazing to watch. It’s a wonder how self-possessed that kid is in whatever role she plays. ?There’s a celebrity cameo that’s absolutely hysterical, and a neat reveal for Woody Harrelson’s character.

It’s an enjoyable (albeit forgettable) flick, but it also has a big storytelling flaw: Jesse Eisenberg’s character narrates the movie. It’s not that he does a bad job; his voiceover has a jaunty style, relating the various rules that his character has developed to survive the zombie plague. These are accompanied by funny video overlays, one of which becomes an emotional cue at a pivotal moment. Now, I don’t have a problem with voiceover per se, but in this case, his narration is directed at an audience. The problem is, he’s one of the last people on earth! There’s no “viewer” or recipient for his charming narration. Who is he charmingly talking to? It’s like the “worm’s-eye” perspective in that movie Tremors, which missed on the fact that worms don’t have eyes.

Outside of that un-thought-out piece of hackery, it was just fine. I mean, it’s a light flick, with nowhere near the heart of Shaun of the Dead‘s wonderful zombie coming-of-age masterpiece, but what are you gonna do? It’s Hollywood.

A Single Man: This was Tom Ford‘s first feature flick. I have a post about Ford that I need to work on, when I get the time. Ford was the creative director who revitalized the Gucci brand, then jumped to YSL before starting his own brand. He’s a notorious control freak, so I wondered whether film-making, just about the most collaborative artistic endeavor, would be shit. (There was a good interview with him in Fantastic Man a few years ago, but they don’t put any of their contents online, so you’ll have to find it yourself.)

But it wasn’t bad! Sure, there were a couple of heavy-handed techniques, particularly the repeated use of color saturation to show emotional resonance in scenes that were prior shot in muted tones. His slow-mo scenes at times felt like an attempt at stretching the movie out to feature length. And there’s a scene that’s a cross between a CK Obsession ad and a Guess ad. Oh, and, there’s also a shot right at the end where my wife & I both said, “I didn’t know John Woo guest-directed this one!” (one reason why I love her so; another is that she’s willing to spend Saturday night watching a Tom Ford movie.)

But you can let all that go, because Colin Firth was just fantastic. He plays a gay British literature professor living in LA in 1960, a few months after his lover of 16 years has died in a car accident. He was a joy to watch, a man trying to keep himself in check, living in an era where his sex had to be kept secret, and wondering how he could go on living without the love of his life. Ford must’ve had a field day recreating the period fashions, and we’re meant to luxuriate in the clothes and the decor. And in Nicholas Hoult, who’s like Zac Efron with depth.

As I think back on it, the story is slight: a gay man’s partner dies and he plans to kill himself. But the subtly spectacular visual environment, combined with Firth’s bravura performance, brought the world to life. And Julianne Moore’s British accent was much better than the Boston one she sports on 30 Rock.

2 Replies to “Movie Review Tuesday: Maneater Edition”

  1. Hmm… I rather liked Jesse E in Adventureland, but then, I’m a girl, and one who had a thing for lanky, intense, witty, overly cerebral young men in search of themselves when I was just out of college. Remind me why we’re friends again, Gil?

    I was just talking about A Single Man the other night – a visual feast in which I certainly did luxuriate. Did you already know that Nicholas Hoult was the kid from About a Boy, and would you have remotely recognized him if you hadn’t? Most of my friends who saw it were genuinely startled when I made the connection for them.

  2. Well, we knew about Hoult’s transformation by watching Wah-Wah, Richard E. Grant’s directorial debut about his childhood in Rhodesia/Zimbabwae. Because I’m the world’s biggest Richard E. Grant mark (“World… domination!”), that’s why. Anyway, when his character appeared, Amy said, “I think that’s the kid from About A Boy,” and I laughed.

    (The correct term for a child actor’s growth spurt is the verb of “Philip McKeon.” As in, “He Philip McKeoned up to 6 feet tall in one year.”)

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