A blog about movies and filmmaking.

Nothing John Hughes-ish Here | EASY A and NEVER LET ME GO Talked About Here

In comedy, drama, romance on September 10, 2010 at 1:31 am

So, I’m kind of at a loss for words. My initial plan was to talk about two movies that revolved around kids; learning lessons about growing up and dealing with relationships and possibly even being clever. Well, one movie did that and the other one delivered but in way that I don’t know I was prepared for, nor capable of fully discussing at the moment. One is an amazingly, light and breezy comedy with nary a shred of cynicism to be found. The other is a heavy, lumbering study in life and death, with barely a shred of action taking place. (And I don’t mean that as in, punches thrown or items exploded; but just in that nothing of import, really seems to happen. Which, I don’t mean as a criticism.)

What the movies have in common is that they both focus on kids facing choices that come with adulthood. Dealing with the unhappy truths and the unrealistic ideas that others set for us. I’m also breaking my “post a trailer after the review” thing, as both of these movies might be better served going in cold. Neither for any twists or turns, but it felt good walking in knowing, literally, nothing about a movie for once. So I’m recommending that.

EASY A, which is going to be the far easier movie to talk about, is about a girl who tells one little lie and winds up branded with the same stigma as the oh so conveniently discussed book in her English class. The Scarlet Letter. It’s full of terrific actors – from it’s lead Emma Stone (SUPERBAD, ZOMBIELAND) and Amanda Bynes (I’ve never seen her in anything, and she looks funny, but was in SHE’S THE MAN, apparently.), to the grown-up roles of Thomas Haden Church (SIDEWAYS – it just seems wrong to reference a movie that old, but it’s gotta be better than SPIDER-MAN 3), Stanley Tucci (the only thing worth seeing in THE LOVELY BONES, or dozens of other movies), and my one true love, Patricia Clarkson (SHUTTER ISLAND, SIX FEET UNDER, and also dozens of other movies).

There are moments where the movie feels like it’s on saccharine overload – only to then throw in some fun, subversive stuff. But the great joy of the movie is that it pays it’s respects to the works that have come before it and even includes a great segment of clips from some of my favorite movies as a kid growing up in the eighties. It’s fun, and filthy, but never reaches into the gutter. There’s no gross-outs, there’s no aiming straight for the lowest common denominator. Instead it’s a steady flow of pop-culture references (Haden Church actually spends about two minutes going through a number of “authoritarian quotes” from the likes of THE BREAKFAST CLUB, and a couple others.), solid humor derived from character interaction or just action. There’s also some heart to it.

Some of the self-awareness gets cloying – in the first five minutes they actually talk about all the cliche things said in these exact kinds of movies, and then go ahead and say them anyway – and while the “cool parents” here are much more entertaining (as much as I loved Allison Janney and J.K. Summons) than in JUNO, they also come off as just a little too, understanding and cool. Though there is a part of me that thinks that the whole parents thing is part of the joke of where the movie is set. (Ojai, California; let me know if my suspicions are correct.)

But overall, a surprising, coming-of-age story that’s light on the cynicism (which might mean a lot of people will hate it), but strong on laughs. As someone I know said, it’s really surprising that the studio didn’t think this would hold up in a Summer release. This movie could have killed.


Then there’s NEVER LET ME GO, a possibly even smaller indie-movie making the rounds at lots of festivals right now. And if you thought that my description of Easy A was light; wait until you find out how little I’m going to actually say about this movie.

Directed by – and quite the sticking point for movie-nerds, like myself – Mark Romanek; who in 2002 directed his only other major feature release, ONE HOUR PHOTO. (Okay, I just double-checked and apparently he made a movie in 1985, called STATIC, which also sounds pretty fascinating.) One Hour Photo was a study in tension and the invasion of privacy through taking your photos to get developed at little photo huts or labs in grocery stores and malls; something that has seemingly almost vanished with the advent of digital cameras. So, I wonder how well that movie holds up. But, with his newest movie – written by the always excellent Alex Garland (28 DAYS LATER) – he does away with the tension and suspense. Just over-casting the movie with the same gloom you come to expect from the British isles.

Starring Carey Mulligan (AN EDUCATION and the upcoming WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS), Andrew Garfield (the upcoming THE SOCIAL NETWORK, and earlier this year’s THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS), and Keira Knightley (seriously, you know who she is); this movie doesn’t really pack a punch as much as it makes you feel like your puppy just died…No, that’s not right. It makes you feel like you just watched someone else’s puppy die.

Seriously, I can’t go into the story for this movie – not because it’s a giant spoiler, as much as it’s all just part of the experience. But, it involves the three actors named above playing characters that grow up together. They each fall in and out of love with one another, and throughout the story they live the lives that people of that age and disposition would. The major surprising thing about this movie, is how it really doesn’t provide any of the conventional zigs and zags of a movie like this.

I’ve not read the novel it’s based on, but the movie is literate and meandering in a way that feels like it’s from a book. That’s where the “lack of action” I spoke of before comes in. As heavy, and sad, and all that, that this movie might be. It doesn’t really drag. There are some moments of levity shown, and ultimately it’s not really depressing as much as just telling us all that no matter how different our lives may be; or what our purpose here is – whether guided or just bumbling through our experiences – we all wind up leading similar lives. Then we all die; which, yeah, is kind of depressing.

The performances from the main actors, and especially their child counter-parts, are amazing. Also showing up in the movie are performers like Charlotte Rampling (SWIMMING POOL) and Sally Hawkins (HAPPY GO LUCKY). Seriously, this movie makes Sally Hawkins seem sad…She was in a movie called Happy Go Lucky and you know how incorruptible her optimism seemed there. This movie breaks her! It’s like that movie where Audrey Tautou, after playing Amelie; played like a prostitute or something. It’s disturbing.

But, you should find this movie and see it. I’ll admit that I was hoping it was going to be a new CHILDREN OF MEN – which it’s totally not. I don’t know that I could possibly, properly reference what it’s like. It’s like breaking up with a girlfriend, but you know you had a good relationship while it lasted…Does that make sense?

I can’t talk about it anymore. I feel like I’ll need to see it again, but I kind of don’t want to.

It’s effecting.

  1. i see what you did there

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