Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Last Minute Reviews

Mike Nichols directs from Aaron Sorkin's ("The West Wing") script starring Tom Hanks as a good ol' boy Texan senator, Julia Roberts as the wealthy (and religious) socialite who along, with Philip Seymour Hoffman as a CIA division chief about the forces that led to the US aiding Afghanistan in the 1980s against the Soviet Union. That was exhausting to write. This is an important part of American history (it's based on the acclaimed book by George Cirle), and the prestige is all over the place here- it's insanely all over the place more accurately stated. And yet as a film it feels a bit disconnected. Hanks is Charlie Wilson, Good Time Charlie-- senator and party boy more at home with whisky and a pool full of coked-up Playboy centerfolds and strippers than the House of Representatives, almost unwittingly becomes associated and awakened by "the cause of Afghans" (as Robert's mascara rich lady calls it) and the horror of this unarmed nation fighting the Soviets with a laughable amount of American support. With the aid of Joanne Harring (Roberts), and a covert sector of the CIA, Wilson raises funds from five million to forty, and contributes all the weaponry necessarily. All over the place, Nichols and Sorkin make allusions that the intentions (for the most part good) of these people either directly or indirectly changed the world and the course of the American history-- more relevant now than ever. But the film is oddly paced and strangly toned. I never got a sense of one-- is this trying to a be a message movie (it less didactic than Rendition, but still felt like it banging me over the head with it), or is it trying to be satire (the topic isn't funny, but everyone's cracking jokes) or is it trying to be a full on farce (there's a scene midway intersecting Wilson conversation with Hoffman, while his pretty secretaries barge in and out in full on slamming doors farce-- it's an entertaining scene, but does it fit?) That's my problem with Charlie Wilson's War-- nothing in the film really seems to fit. The casting seems stunt a bit, but Hanks makes it work, it's actually refreshing to see this good-guy get a little tawdry, while Roberts is game, if a bit distracting, and Hoffman mugs true to his form. In truth, my favorite performance, was from Amy Adams as Bonnie Bach, Wilson's head admistrative assistant-- she's the only calm and cool and restrained aspect of the film itself. C+

Many critics have commented on the over-direction of Julian Schnabel here, and true it does seem the visual palette of the film gets a bit carried away from time to time, but it's so beautifully and lovingly rendered, it didn't bother, instead it just swept me up. So was I grasped by story of Jean-Dominique Bauby, and editor of Elle who in his forties suffered a massive stroke leaving him in "locked-in condition" where his cognitive abilities are fully in tact, despite being completely paralyzed. That is with the exception of his left eye. Schnabel, working with masterful cinematographer Janusz Kaminski (frequent calliborator of Steven Spielberg) really puts us in Bauby's head, blinking with him, seeing and hearing everything from his perspetive. Played in an immensely vulnerable and surprising versatile way by Mathieu Amalric, The Diving Bell & the Butterfly puts us in his head and it's a ravishingly beautiful experience. You could put the film in the same league as My Left Foot, and yet the film is even more artistic, and emotional, without being overly sentimental. It's also surprisingly funny. Written by Ronald Harwood in a spry and witty screenplay, the film details the faithful nurses who develop a language with the vocally challenged Bauby, and eventually help him in writing his memoir. Using a series of blinks, the book got written, and that's pretty freaking amazing. B+

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...