Archive | November, 2010

Winter’s Bone

30 Nov

Title: Winter’s Bone
Year:
2010
Director:
Debra Granik
Writers:
Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini, based on the novel by Daniel Woodrell
Starring:
Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Lauren Sweetser, Garret Dillahunt, Dale Dickey, Shelley Waggener
MPAA Rating:
R, some drug material, language and violent content
Runtime:
100 min
Major Awards:
1 NBR Award
IMDb Rating:
7.5
Rotten Tomatoes:
94%

Winter’s Bone is a film that lasts 100 minutes and grabs your attention for every last one of them. The sophomore directorial effort from Debra Granik, whose 2004 debut Down to the Bone was phenomenal and boasted an impeccable performance from the great Vera Farmiga who’s gone on to great things since.

This film is even better, and its young star Jennifer Lawrence gives an even better performance, which is saying something, and I’m sure is an actress that will go on to seriously amazing things. The talent on display by Ms. Lawrence in this film is tremendous, a true star-making performance in every sense of the word, and if she doesn’t get an Oscar nomination then there’s something seriously wrong with the Academy because it’s not every day that a 20 year-old gives this sort of powerhouse showing.

This is dark film, one that will haunt you throughout because of Ms. Granik’s scrappy style of filmmaking, she gives this a very naturalistic feel, that makes this just a very powerful film through and through. A sparse kind of film that has a performance from Ms. Lawrence that won’t leave my mind any time soon, and that tells a very different sort of coming-of-age story, one that’s set in a very real place and that tackles a very real issue in a very real culture, and it tackles all of that with an unblinking precision, and how Ms. Lawrence captures the emotions of her character, everything she goes through, the fear, the decisiveness, I just want to see what she does next, because, trust me, the one she’ll get for this will only be the first Oscar nomination for her, because with a talent like this at such a young age you can’t help but think she’ll eventually win one. And this really isn’t just me talking because I’m still infatuated with her performance because I just saw the film, this is just me stating facts.

When you hear people talk about the power of film, you will hear people say that films are an experience that will transform you for a while, an escapist entertainment, that the ideal film will no doubt crawl itself under your skin and fully transport you somewhere else, only to leave when the end credits start rolling, and even then leaving a bit of it left with you. That’s the supposed power films should have over one, and every year there are a few films that have that power, and Winter’s Bone is one such film. This is just a beautiful work of art.

What’s so lovely about Winter’s Bone is how understated it is, even when it’s deep in one of its moments of relentless urgency it goes by gently, there are obviously some very harsh scenes here courtesy of the crime backdrop this one’s set against, but the way they’re handled is absolutely remarkable.

When I watch a small film that I love so much all I want is for more people to experience it. And I hope Ms. Lawrence’s possible Oscar nomination and other awards season love that will surely be bestowed upon her will get more exposure to this film, because I seriously fell in love with it, it’s a moving film, one that in all its darkness has a huge amount of hope and life in it.

Winter’s Bone is also a  great addition to the long line of films about ordinary people who are pitted against an extraordinary situation and must face it head on. Such a person in this film is Ree Dolly, the character that Ms. Lawrence so sublimely embodies. She lives in the tough part of the Ozarks, her mom is mentally ill and her father is gone because he was a meth manufacturer and got busted, so she’s the boss in the house, raising her younger siblings in seriously abysmal conditions while only just 17.

How Ms. Granik displays this part of America is truly astounding to watch, her approach is so rustic and naturalistic that it conveys exceedingly well the harsh realities that Ree is facing living here, it really feels like no man’s land, like a deserted place that you couldn’t believe existed, when in fact it’s very real, and you can’t fathom how Ree grew up there with absent parents and became the strong-willed girl we see.

Then comes the catalyst even of the film as the sheriff of the town comes around and informs Ree that her deadbeat father has skipped bail, and not only that, but that he had put up her home as bail bond, and that if he doesn’t turn up during the next week, she’ll have to vacate the premises. And that’s when Ree becomes so extraordinarily fierce and determined, and you can tell that she never had anybody to depend on as she decides that she’s going to have to track her father down for the sake of her brother and sister.

And so Ree embarks on a dark journey through a torn up landscape in the search of her father, whether he’ll be dead or alive she doesn’t know, but she just wants to find him either way so that they won’t be able to take away her home.

She starts meeting all sorts of characters along the way, and Ms. Granik does an amazing job at exploring them. She doesn’t judge them, she doesn’t make clichés out of them, she just explores them, their psychology, she explores how they got to be where they are now, living in a place that seems like it barely survived some sort of apocalypse. The Ozarks region is easy to caricature by now, but it’s evident that Ms. Granik and her team spent a lot of team doing their research and really immersing themselves into this culture, and this feels as authentic as they come.

One of said characters Ree encounters is Teardrop, played by John Hawkes, who’s her father’s very scary older brother. The performance by Mr. Hawkes is seriously stunning, he terrifies us like crazy, his eyes, his demeanor, everything about him just sets your nerves on fire. If Ree is the one that gives you hope, it’s the people like Teardrop that make you realize just how special hope is in such a place, a place in which people like him exist is one you’d want to stay as far away from as possible.

Just a beautiful film all around, Winter’s Bone will suck you in like crazy in the despair, but keep you going because of the hope the girl exudes, because even though she grew up in the worst conditions she’s still an optimist on life.

Winter’s Bone is definitely one of this year’s strongest films, Ms. Granik gets a very compelling performance from Ms. Lawrence, and from everyone else involved for that matter, and that’s what makes this such a tremendous achievement. This is a film that counts with a star-making performance, that depicts a slice of culture to perfection and that feels real in its sadness and in its hope, a strange feat to achieve but one that’s conquered with grace by Winter’s Bone.

As I write this, Winter’s Bone just won the Gotham Award for Best Feature and Best Ensemble last night (though Jennifer Lawrence somehow lost in the Breakthrough Performance race), and was nominated for a whopping seven Spirit Awards this morning. Hopefully the same success will translate come Oscar night.

Grade: A+

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Animal Kingdom

28 Nov

Title: Animal Kingdom
Year:
2010
Director:
David Michôd
Writer:
David Michôd
Starring:
Ben Mendelsohn, Joel Edgerton, Guy Pearce, Luke Ford, Jacki Weaver, Sullivan Stapleton, James Frecheville, Dan Wyllie, Anthony Hayes
MPAA Rating:
R, violence, drug content and pervasive language
Runtime:
113 min
Major Awards:
1 NBR Award
IMDb Rating:
7.7
Rotten Tomatoes:
96%

I saw Animal Kingdom already having heard it was superb, and I was still amazed at just how great a film it ultimately was, and I can’t help but envy those who saw the film with no such great expectations and came out with their minds blown. Because this really is an amazing film, one that is tightly scripted and that has an unbelievably good cast all around, and that may well just be the best Australian film ever made.

This is one the most compelling films I have seen all year, one that gets under your skin and will hold you by the throat throughout its entirety. The film deals with a family in Melbourne that’s part of the city’s crime underworld, and it’s a very dark film, a very gritty film that counts with performances so perfect that you’ll fall in love with just how good it is. The fact that this is David Michôd’s first feature film directorial effort is astounding, the talent he shows here, in a film he also wrote, is terrific. He crafts a movie that has this very realistic feel to it, both in what it shows and in the naturalistic performances it boosts, one that’s dense and patient and, most importantly, one that’s plain out great.

The title of this film is also great, I loved the metaphor it presented, because the world Mr. Michôd presents is indeed a wild one, one with a definite hierarchy and one in which anything goes. The film actually opens with shots of lions, imagery for the family we’re about to meet, in which drug dealing and armed robbery are commonplace and in which they make their own law. We hear the story from the perspective of J. Cody, who narrates this to us years after the story took place, he’s the one part of the family that’s not so much into the family’s business, and he is thrown into the midst of it all when his mother dies from an overdose and he’s sent to live with his grandmother Smurf and her three sons, Pope, Darren and Craig.

Smurf Cody is played by Jacki Weaver, and this is the MVP performance out of a film full of stand-outs and Ms. Weaver is being mentioned alongside Melissa Leo and Helena Bonham Carter as one of the front-runners for the Best Supporting Actress race this awards season, as well as she should be, she’s seriously riveting here. Smurf is the mama lion of this dangerous clan, and she’s a very polarizing character, she’s very loving towards her sociopathic sons, perhaps a bit too loving, and yet there’s something in her blue-eyed stare that pretty much assures your mind that she’s the worst one of them all. And that’s saying something considering her sons, the eldest is Pope, a drug-addled crazy man who’s the leader of the three brothers; then comes Craig a coke dealer and user; and finally the youngest one, Darren, who’s Smurf’s favorite and, as usual considering he’s the youngest one, the one that gets crap from his brothers and does their bidding.

This is a film with an amazing mood, one that fills you up as you watch it and keeps you totally enthralled for its duration. The bad blood between the family and the cops is amazing to watch develop on this story, and it all goes nicely along with the evolution of J. as the brothers try to initiate him into the family business, which goes against his own ideals. This one starts building up slowly, adding dense layer after layer to the film’s plot and by the time the first half’s over it’s already cooked up a boiling sense of thrills and tension that’s what makes this film so wonderful.

You get to see the three brothers starting to fear for themselves because of what they’ve gotten into as the police comes into the picture more noticeably, led by sergeant Nathan Leckie, played by Guy Pearce, who’s been in a fair share of good Australian movies and is an actor I really like. Sergeant Leckie is just a cold-ass motherfucker, to put it lightly, apparently the only moral person in the very unmoral town he protects, and the scenes in which he’s seen interrogating J. are seriously awesome to watch unravel. This is a very dark tale that Mr. Michôd decides to tell, but the way in which he tells it is stunning, the film is gripping from beginning to end, a genre film executed to the highest of levels with a man with serious promise in the film industry and cast filled with the best talent his home country has to offer.

I don’t really know if there was a single thing I didn’t like about Animal Kindgom, the film just completely wrapped me up with the amazing mood it set, the cinematography, the lighting, and especially the music, everything goes on to make a seriously amazing experience out of this Australian gem. I guess one could potentially find fault with the ending, the most vital part of it never actually being shown to us, but even though that’s the case, this one didn’t feel any less complete to me.

And that’s thanks to the awesome cast this film gathered. Ms. Weaver especially is amazing, and she should have no problem getting that Oscar nomination and if the win comes, I think it would be deserving, though honestly I’ve still to check out any of the aforementioned two contending performances, but still, hers is still one commanding performance. Her character is the more complex one of the story, and Ms. Weaver seems to understand every single one of the layers Smurf has to perfection. And the rest of the cast is also amazing, Mr. Pearce rocks it, Mr. Frecheville, who plays J., does a fantastic job as the kid in a tough man’s world, just trying to make it out alive and narrates this film to perfection. Simply put this is just a seriously incredible film through and through, Animal Kingdom is one of the better debuts to come out in a while, and will surely fascinate every one who watches it.

Grade: A

Made in Dagenham

27 Nov

Title: Made in Dagenham
Year:
2010
Director:
Nigel Cole
Writer:
Billy Ivory
Starring:
Sally Hawkins, Miranda Richardson, Rosamund Pike, Jaime Winstone, Bob Hoskins, Richard Schiff, John Sessions, Kenneth Cranham, Daniel Mays
MPAA Rating:
R, language and brief sexuality
Runtime:
105 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating:
6.9
Rotten Tomatoes:
82%

 

I guess I always knew Made in Dagenham was going to be good, there was a nice amount of buzz surrounding the project early on which has subdued a bit by now, but still, the thing is, while I knew this was going to be good, which it really was, I wasn’t anticipating it be this fun and entertaining as well. And those two qualities add a lot to the film, and are attributed in their entirety to Sally Hawkins, who delivers a killer performance here. The buzz on the film was mostly surrounding Ms. Hawkins, who was poised as a contender early on, and was coming off her star-making performance in Happy-Go-Lucky a couple years ago, that amazing performance granted her the Golden Globe but the Academy failed to even nominate her, so a redemption vote for this one was thought to be in order. Now, after having seen Made in Dagenham I’m not entirely sure if she’ll get the nod, the performance is great and everything, but not like the one in Happy-Go-Lucky, and I can think already of some five other performances that in my opinion are more deserving of the nod by the Academy. But, nevertheless, this is still a darn good movie.

And it’s not just Ms. Hawkins who knocks it out of the park in this one, but rather every single actor involved, the film is just well-acted by every single player. This is, of course, a very feminist film, and it focusses on the real-life strike of the Ford sewing machinists in Dagenham, one that was absolutely vital in the Equal Pay Act in the beginning of the 70’s that ensured equal pay for both sexes. The film sees these women, who were really good workers, pissed off about making less than their male counterparts, and deciding to go on strike, against the desires of the general public, which included their own husbands.

Ms. Hawkins’ character is quite cool, and she makes her even cooler. She plays Rita O’Grady, who works under not-so-great conditions at the Ford plant in Dagenham sewing seat covers to cars. And the other characters are also very cool and, as I said, are played remarkably well by a slew of seriously talented actors. Bob Hoskins is amazing as Albert, the union organizer who actually sympathizes and respects the women workers, and knows deep down that they should be getting equal pay and helps their in their journey. Miranda Richardson also appears as the Labor minister who turns out to be one of the surprising supporters of Rita and her cause. And then there’s also Rosamund Pike, who delivers a fantastic performance as Rita’s unlikeliest supporter, a wealthy high-class woman married to one of the top executives at Ford.

And so we see Rita’s story unfolding. See how she, initially a rather quiet woman, eventually turns into the leader of this group of women who just wanted fairness in a world dominated by men. She’s confronted by her husband who doesn’t agree with her, she’s confronted by many more when the strike becomes the subject of media attention around the world, this would be, after all, the one that would change work conditions for women all over the globe, and it all started with a group of women working at a car manufacturer a small ways outside of Dagenham.

We all love these sort of stories when they’re real, when a huge historical breakthrough was started in the unlikeliest of places and led by the most unlikely of faces. These were women who were paid  unjustly and worked in a really hot sweatshop that got them all stripping to their underwear while the male workers did their jobs in much better conditions. And as I said, the magic of Made in Dagenham lies in the fact that it’s an honestly entertaining film, that’s thank to Ms. Hawkins who’s always so cheery and fun, and thanks to the director, Nigel Cole, who did this film a huge favor by not going into the darker territory that he could have so easily chosen to tread, but instead keeping this one light and fun, even the cinematography has a sort of fresh and light vibe that really works.

Maybe Ms. Hawkins will now be the go-to British actress for sweet and optimistic roles, and maybe she should be because she’s just really good at playing those roles. And the casting in this film is genius, not only is Ms. Hawkins perfect for the role of Rita, but Mr. Hoskins, Ms. Richardson and Ms. Pike all give wonderful performances. And if Ms. Hawkins ends up getting the Oscar nomination I will be very happy for her, not only will de Academy be atoning for their mistake two years ago, but it will also be rewarding a lovely performance, by a woman who makes Rita’s journey so damn good for us. However, as I said, my money for the five slots is different and goes: Bening, Portman, Lawrence, Kidman and Manville. But if there’s a Hawkins in there, I’ll be the first one clapping along.

Grade: B+

L’Arnacoeur

26 Nov

Title: L’Arnacoeur
Year:
2010
Director:
Pascal Chaumeil
Writers:
Laurent Zeitoun, Jeremy Doner, Yohan Gromb
Starring:
Romain Duris, Vanessa Paradis, Julie Ferrier, Andrew Lincoln, Helena Noguerra
MPAA Rating:
Not rated
Runtime:
105 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating:
7.0
Rotten Tomatoes:
70%

 

I thought L’Arnacoeur, or Heartbreaker as it’s being named in english-speaking territories, was actually a very fun little film. The plot is very fun and everything looks great considering it takes place in Monaco which is a gorgeous place to set a film in. The film centers on a group of people, a man, his sister and her husband, who have a business designed to break up couples, but only if they first deem the woman is actually unhappy in the relationship. They are then hired by a very wealthy man to break off his daughter’s engagement. There’s a catch though, the daughter is set to marry in less than two weeks, which gives them little time to do their work, and, more importantly, she seems to be seriously in love with the man she’s set to marry, which goes against the set of moral rules the company has.

However, Alex, the leader of the break-up business, is in debt and decides to take the job anyway, and starts doing research on the woman to learn the things she likes in order to try and impress her by liking them too, and this leads to more than a few funny situations. This all leads me to say how much I love french films, and how much I loved L’Arnacoeur , much more than I initially thought I would in fact. This is what commercial big-studio romantic comedies should all be, and of course it took the French to figure out how to do it well, Hollywood should take notice.

The stars are seriously appealing. Romain Duris, the male lead, is perfect as Alex, making him absolutely charming and believable. And then there’s Vanessa Paradis, known to most surely as being the woman who shares a home and kids with Johnny Depp, but also known to many of us as a really cool singer and actress who’s also really gorgeous. In this one Ms. Paradis looks beautiful as always, and shows a really cool chemistry with Mr. Duris as Juliette, the woman Alex has to get to break up with her perfect boyfriend.

This is just one fun film, that was really well done by everyone involved. When it starts with a nice little sequence to show how Alex and his team worked to break couples off it sets a nice mood to the film, and we are inclined to like them for their set of rules, “We only break couples. We never break hearts.” Alex says, and what ensues in the relationship he creates with Juliette is awesome. It’s awesome because Ms. Paradis plays Juliette like a really confident woman, one who can take care of herself and won’t fall that easily for Alex’s tricks and will make him try real hard. I just found this film to be all kinds of charming, all kinds of funny, and it stars two very likable stars who have terrific chemistry, not to mention the added bonus of it being in French. This is what romantic comedies should be like, two fresh leads with chemistry, a light and fun plot that’s planned to perfection and the rest is magic. There will doubtless be an American remake, and one can only hope the magic will be there too, though that may be hoping for a bit too much.

Grade: B+

Four Lions

25 Nov

Title: Four Lions
Year:
2010
Director:
Chris Morris
Writers:
Chris Morris, Jesse Armstrong, Sam Bain
Starring:
Riz Ahmed, Arsher Ali, Nigel Lindsay, Kayvan Novak, Adeel Akhtar, Craig Parkinson
MPAA Rating:
R, language throughout, including some sexual references
Runtime:
97 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating:
7.5
Rotten Tomatoes:
82%

When you hear that there’s a comedy about British jihadists you may become worried, because there’s a really fine line between crass humor and the awesome black-comedy that the British do so well. Four Lions is part of the latter group, a seriously smart and brave film that will also manage to have you laughing your ass off throughout the film. The film is a very dark comedy, one of the darkest I’ve seen in years, and behind the roaring laughter you will get to see a social reflection that’s actually something much deeper than you’d initially think if you’re just focussing on the comedy.

The thing about this film is that it sheds light on terrorism in a very different way. Movies that feature terrorists always see them as evil people, the ones who will fuck up the film for the good guys, the masterminds behind all the macabre stuff that goes on. Four Lions still acknowledges those horrible actions, but it makes a point to say that even though there are evil masterminds in every terrorist cell, there are also more than a few of dimwits and idiots that are also part of it. This is not a film that goes on to say that terrorists are good people, it just makes a parenthesis to that and says that those who do bad things can be regular guys and, more importantly, very stupid guys.

This is just one seriously sharp and witty British satire, about a bunch of dumb British jihadists who are not really entirely sure about how to go about causing terror. Definitely one of the funniest films I’ve seen all year, and I can count on the British to make at least one amazing satire a year that will make me laugh seriously hard, much like In the Loop did last year and this one this year. The stuff that goes on in this film is all very ridiculous but it’s still taking a look, and a very accurate look to many extents, at a very serious aspect of modern society. The four lions are actually five, five confused dimwits who want to blow stuff up for reasons not even they can make much sense of.

The five guys are all exquisitely idiotic, one wants to bomb a local mosque, the other wants to train cows to become suicide bombers, and there’s this one guy who decides to express his beliefs through rapping. No one in here is a criminal mastermind, I mean there is a leader of the group, that would be Omar, but he’s no “master” of anything, much less the mind. He is, however, a character you’ll find yourself sympathizing with, even though he has a desire to become a terrorist and inflict chaos, there’s a very humanizing aspect to him, more so in comparison to the other characters, that actually gets you to connect to him.

This is a fun movie that really doesn’t make light of a serious matter, it just takes a look at people who I’m sure actually exist. Sure, the idiocy of the five we get in Four Lions is probably exaggerated, but not all jihadists can be master criminals, there have to be some like this, so confused with their lives, and so focussed on their afterlives that they don’t pay mind to their present one. But this is all engaged in a very funny manner, kind of like The Three Stooges of terrorism, all of them doing very stupid stuff that will get us roaring with laughter quite a lot.

I just loved this film. Chris Morris, who directs and co-writes the film, definitely did a good deal of research for this, everything is shown in a fun light, that may be true, but that stuff he’s showing is far from fun, and the film knows that. Every joke or comedic moment has a more profound insight to it, as well, and that’s what makes this movie stand out from being just an ordinary satire. Plus, I love that the film never once condemns its characters, it does nothing close to supporting their actions, but it just lets them be, all of this done to perfection because they shot it kind of like a documentary which suits the story very well. Four Lions is a film that gets you laughing like crazy to stuff that’s actually horrible, but it’s a film that’s seriously well done, and as soon as you start thinking to yourself that the stuff you just laughed at is wrong, a new hilarious thing happens and you start the process all over again.

Grade: B+

Red Hill

24 Nov

Title: Red Hill
Year:
2010
Director:
Patrick Hughes
Writer:
Patrick Hughes
Starring:
Ryan Kwanten, Steve Bisley, Tom E. Lewis, Claire van der Boom
MPAA Rating:
R, strong bloody violence, and language
Runtime:
95 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating:
6.6
Rotten Tomatoes:
75%

Red Hill is a fantastic western set in Australia, and it’s also a thriller that unfolds over the course of a single day and that counts with impressive action pieces which are really violent in all their awesomeness, and that has a huge amount of suspense. Ryan Kwanten from True Blood ditches the Southern accent to don his real Australian here to play the main character. And he does a great job as Shane Cooper, a young police officer who relocates with his pregnant wife to the picturesque small town of Red Hill to start a family, but that ends up in the middle of a helluva lot of trouble. The result is really amazing, Red Hill is a tremendous film and the feature-length debut of writer-director Patrick Hughes, who I’ll be following very closely now.

I like it that all of Red Hill takes place in that one day, it meant the pacing of the film was going to be sublime, which it was, and as I’ve said in many other reviews, I like myself my violence served bloody in films, and the violence in here is just fun to watch because it’s bloody and because it never once feels gratuitous. The plot is fantastic, just as Shane gets to Red Hill thinking it’s just a small town in which he could peacefully raise his family in the future, and take care of his wife in the present who’s having troubles with her blood pressure, he finds out that Jimmy Conway, a very dangerous killer, has just escaped from a max-security prison.

This is obviously an homage to the western genre, it has all the stuff from all the cool westerns and it shows it proudly and loudly, and the action scenes I won’t get over because they’re beautifully made and shot. But this also works as a thriller, and a very effective one at that, and I love that about Red Hill, that it can combine those two genres so effectively because it tackles them at its core very simply. The western part of it is embodied by the clichés it represents and because it tells a very basic moral story, and the thriller is because it presents this sort of scary element to the killer that’s on the run, making his way back to town to tie up some loose ends.

There’s some social commentary here by Mr. Hughes, about some of the race issues aboriginal Australians may feel, and he’s seriously good at showing them within the context of his film. This is a really amazing debut from a filmmaker I will keep an eye on, the writing is tight, the direction is great, the editing is concise and perfectly to the point, and the cinematography exploits the beautiful landscape and the effective shadows. Just a well done film through and through, and a total surprise I’m seriously glad I got to find and watch.

Grade: B+

The Romantics

23 Nov

Title: The Romantics
Year:
2010
Director:
Galt Niederhoffer
Writer:
Galt Niederhoffer, based on the novel by himself
Starring:
Katie Holmes, Josh Duhamel, Adam Brody, Elijah Wood, Anna Paquin, Malin Akerman, Jeremy Strong, Rebecca Lawrence, Dianna Agron, Candice Bergen
MPAA Rating:
PG-13, sexual content, partial nudity, language and some drug material
Runtime:
95 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating:
6.3
Rotten Tomatoes:
16%

I had read a couple of reviews for The Romantics before I got down to watch it, and they were all pretty much universally negative, they said the characters were unlikable, they said that Katie Holmes sucked in it (though one review said it was the best work of her career, like the poster for the film insists on reminding us), and just plainly that The Romantics wasn’t a good film. I won’t go ahead and say that The Romantics is a great film, and I won’t be recommending it to friends or anything, but it wasn’t that bad. Really, I thought it was decent, and I thought Ms. Holmes (or does she go by Mrs. Cruise these days?) was good in it, too.

It’s a wedding movie. We must start by saying that, we have a few wedding movies a year and they all boil down to what will happen between the bride and the groom at the end of it all, that’s the formula these wedding-set romantic comedies so dutifully follow, unless you’re talking about Rachel Getting Married which is the most perfect wedding movie ever and is leagues apart from all the others. But considering this is just another generic movie of its kind, I thought it fared relatively well, at least the dialogue seemed totally fresh and not as clichéd as always, even though the meaning behind the dialogue was pretty predictable, at least it was said elegantly.

The couple getting married is Tom and Lila, the characters played by Josh Duhamel and Anna Paquin. Now, I normally love Ms. Paquin in anything she does, whether it’s her starring role in HBO’s awesome True Blood, or her supporting turns in smash indies like The Squid and the Whale or 25th Hour, I think she’s always awesome, yet in this film I couldn’t help but think that she wasn’t the right fit for Lila, something about her didn’t fit for that role. But maybe that’s just my head being too used to seeing her as Sookie Stackhouse by now.

The movie then goes to focus on Tom and Lila and a group of friends of theirs from their years at their Ivy League college who have reunited for the pre-wedding festivities. And you know how it will go down from there, they will at one point get drunk and spill all sorts of secret opinions of one another, and will look to us like a bunch of over-conceited and shallow group of people nearing their thirties. But again, that’s what happens in all movies of this sort,  and this one’s actually a bit better than the rest of the Hollywood romantic comedies. However, the problem is that it also thinks it’s superior to them, and because of that it at times goes ahead and acts like the quirky indie films of its kind, of which the aforementioned Rachel Getting Married is just one of the many good examples, and when it tries to be that it fails miserably, precisely because it’s still filled with those Hollywood conventions.

And I will go ahead and say one thing, even though some critics have gone on to say that Katie Holmes’ performance here sucks and is totally implausible, I actually thought hers was the best performance of the bunch, and certainly the best work she’s done since 2005’s Thank You for Smoking, or even 2003’s Pieces of April. She plays Laura, the most likable and best-written character in the film, who’s also the maid of honor and had actually dated Tom for a bit. So you know she’ll play a big part because there’s obviously still some feelings between her and Tom, and she’ll have a sort of competitive friendship with Lila throughout the film which will conclude in some nice confrontation.

The rest of the cast is comprised of some pretty cool actors including Adam Brody, Malin Akerman and Elijah Wood, but they’re not given enough space to shine in this one. But still, The Romantics is substantially better than the Hollywood romantic comedies, but considering it tried to be a quirky indie, in that respect it fell a bit short. But I still liked it far more than apparently everyone else did. I thought the writing was really smart, and I thought the ending was great, which usually in these films it never is, so we have that to be happy about, if not about the fact that Ms. Holmes apparently has resuscitated from an acting come and is now acting decently again, hopefully she’ll continue that trend when she’s in Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark.

Grade: B-