Tag: comedy-drama

The Sapphires — Review

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2Star

 

by Ken B.

I’m disappointed. The Sapphires, a drama of at least partial basis in fact, never really captured my full attention for more than a few minutes at a time. In total, there are 98 of them, but it felt longer and more of a waste of good talent than I’m willing to come to terms with.

Australia, 1968. We are introduced to Gail (DEBORAH MAILMAN), Julie (JESSICA MAUBOY), Cynthia (MIRANDA TAPSELL), and Kay (SHARI SEBBINS). They’re Aboriginal, and sisters. Kay, light-skinned, was taken away from the family at a young age by the Australian government during what is known as the “Stolen Generations”.

One day, in a hotel bar, Gail, Cynthia, and Julie perform in a talent competition headed up by Dave Lovelace (CHRIS O’DOWD), an Irish talent manager who lives out of his car. While the crowd, all white, dismisses the girls, Dave sees something in them, and soon they’re performing for American troops in Vietnam – with Kay.

It’s from here where the movie spidered off in a lot of different directions – there were parts about past love, new love, revelations about talent vs. personal perception, war, and, of course, music. Arguably, the best thing about The Sapphires was the musical performances, which are mostly of and Motown-era soul hits. They are performed wonderfully absorbingly, and are a real treat to the viewer. The acting, especially from Mailman and O’Dowd, are very much sound. So what went wrong?

The answer may be just about every other factor. The writing, based off a play written by the son of one of the subjects, is about ninety percent lackluster and uninvolving. Early on, locations and time periods are introduced through a CG map and stock footage. This idea could have been interesting and a nice quirk, but it’s abandoned very early in the film. Overall, these parts of the film and their mediocrity are so overwhelming that only a couple of scenes really end up all that memorable.

The Sapphires was a movie that really had the potential to be good – great, even. It had a moving story, thoughtful characters, and great music. But a by the numbers execution killed almost every element except for a few standouts. This overrated and predictable drama even has the Biography Title Cards at the end! (Title cards over a black background explaining what happened to the subjects of the film after the events in the film, accompanied by a picture). I said it before: I am disappointed.

TheSapphires poster

Lars and the Real Girl – Review

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3-5Star

 

by Ken B.

Lars and the Real Girl reminded me of those stories you hear about once in a while where a person forms a romantic relationship with an inanimate object. That happens. Sure, they’re crazy, and we see that from our side of things, but what do they see? That question is irrelevant. And aren’t we crazy? We shouldn’t criticize other people for being crazy when we’re all crazy ourselves. Or something like that.

Craig Gillespie’s 106 minute movie focuses on Lars (RYAN GOSLING), a delusional man. Well, on the outside he seems normal, if not a bit lonely. This is a worry echoed by his brother Gus (PAUL SCHNEIDER), and Gus’ wife Karin (EMILY MORTIMER). One day, Lars explains he has a girlfriend, who is a wheelchair bound missionary from Brazil. And then, it’s discovered that she’s a premium life sized anatomically correct doll ordered from a shady website. And there’s no question about it, Lars is convinced that this doll (named Bianca) is indeed a real person, communicating with her and acting as a translator of sorts for any other people that happen to be in the room.  I’ve always been amused when this happens in movies. You know, someone has an imaginary friend, and they explain the individual’s thoughts to everyone else without request. I guess you call that creative liberty.

I guess from here, one might think that this movie would spiral down into the lowest common denominator jokes, as such dolls are typically reserved for individuals who wish to live in a world where it’s okay to treat women like objects. But no, Lars and the Real Girl takes the high road, and as a result, the rewardingly funny one. The script has kind of a unique feel to it, and since this is a unique movie, this helps things out a lot. The lighting is warm, and the acting is brilliant. It’s probably very hard to play a crazy person and pull it off, but Ryan Gosling does exceptionally well, creating an attractively insane nutcase that’s just so easy to root for.

Lars and the Real Girl manages to take a strange premise and make it a worthwhile movie. I’ve always thought that very few premises in movies are inherently bad – it’s the execution that kills it (ha, ha). Some premises are riskier than others. Do me a favor and read the plot outline I’ve set a couple of paragraphs up. See? See how wrong that could have gone? I thought it was literally refreshing to see how well done this kind of idea was done.

This is, indeed, a very good movie. It doesn’t seem like it could be, which I think may have had something to do with why it didn’t do very good business at the box office. Lars and the Real Girl is a rewarding, fresh, and funny.

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