Reviews of Juliet, Naked (stars and fans), Searching (stories via computer) and Generation Wealth (examining excess)
It’s that time of year when the studios bring out the leftovers. Two this week didn’t even get previews here to let us know they’re coming. I heard such good things about one of them, I went out and caught a regular early show last night. I’m glad I did.
And there are other good films new in town. Read on.
Juliet, Naked: 3 ½ stars
Searching: 3 ½
Generation Wealth: 3
Becoming Who I Was: 4
We The Animals: 3 ½
Trench 11: 2 ½
JULIET, NAKED: You’ll find a lot to delight you in this romantic comedy, but there’s substance too. Together they’re enough to let you overlook the coincidences that drive the story. It’s from another novel by Nick Hornby and like previous adaptations, especially High Fidelity, works with a sharp understanding of the popular music industry, some of the people in it and the people who follow it obsessively.
The delight is thanks to the amiable performances by the three leads. Rose Byrne is the wife of a college instructor in England. Chris O’Dowd, as her distracted husband, is almost totally fixated on studying the music and lyrics of an obscure recording star in America. Ethan Hawke is that singer-songwriter, long past his glory days, disappeared from the business and now living in the garage of one of his ex-wives. When a stripped-down (hence “naked”) demo of his last album shows up, and Rose posts a negative review on a website, two things happen. Life with hubby turns sour and the artist comes for a visit. He conveniently happens to be coming to England anyway. More than the plot though, it’s the full and rich character portraits that make this film enjoyable. The manchild and the put-upon wife. He wants no children; the artist has many by different women. Rose is caught in between. The film is light, often funny and quite charming. (Fifth Avenue) 3 ½ out of 5
SEARCHING: Sony brought this to town completely unheralded, just plunked it down in a few theatres starting last night and that’s a shame. They’ve got a little gem here chock full of something we’re always looking for: innovation. Imagination. Different story telling. This one is also smart and, although marred by a few problems, believable, very modern and engrossing. What’s new is that it uses exactly what we see and do on our computers every day to tell its story. It plays out on screens, with skype conversations, google searches, texting exchanges, YouTube videos and occasionally some TV newscasts. A couple of other films have tried the same; this one succeeds.
John Cho plays a dad in California whose teenage daughter doesn’t come home one night, can’t be found through the few friends she had and has left no trail. Debra Messing as the missing person cop on the case can’t find her so Cho joins the search. He breaks into her laptop to find out what she’s been up to. You get entirely involved at every step of the search, even though it’s only on computer screens. Actually, we find so much information there these days, that the film doesn’t feel unusual at all. What’s more as it unravels its mystery, it keeps tossing in surprises. Even when the case is solved, there’s more to come. The final answers are somewhat vague and the very structure of the film restrains the emotional impact but you can’t help feeling for the dad when he comes to realize he really didn’t know his daughter very well. (Scotiabank, Marine Gateway and suburban theatres) 3 ½ out of 5
BECOMING WHO I WAS: One of my favorites from VIFF last year is finally back. This is a charming and emotional documentary with an endearing young boy at its centre and religious faith, belief in reincarnation and even international politics in force around him. Padma Angdu is nine, although we see him at other ages too because the filmmakers, Moon Chang-Yong and Jeon Jin of South Korea, watched his life in India over seven years to get these enthralling scenes. He’s a “rinpoche,” the re-incarnation of a Buddhist spiritual leader. He can recall his previous life in Tibet and since his followers aren’t arriving to join him, he wants to go back there. A warm bond develops between him and a kindly doctor who has become his teacher and guide.
Being a rinpoche gives him rights, including acting like a master over his teacher. “Stop nagging me,” he says at one point. We get scenes of him as a normal boy, laughing, playing badminton, sometimes turning petulant. He’s fed up with ritual; his monastery expels him and he’s anxious to make the trip “home”. The last part of the film shows the two on an arduous trek through the mountains and deep snow towards Tibet. And the Chinese-controlled border. Intimate scenes closely observed, then a road trip with tension growing, make this a very absorbing film. (VanCity Theatre) 4 out of 5