Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Creep Fest: Movies of Brilliant Discomfort

There Will Be Blood
If this film has anything in common with P.T. Anderson's previous work (Magnolia, Punch Drunk Love), it's the creepiness factor — and I mean that in the best possible way. Based on Upton Sinclair's Oil, this film adaptation follows an oil tycoon in a small, western God-fearing town. Explores concepts of greed, religion, family and... errr... mental illness. Well-deserving of the critical acclaim it received. FINAL GRADE: A-

If anyone could adapt Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita for film and remain true to its spirit, it's Stanley Kubrick. He hardly breaches from the story at all, in fact, managing somehow to truly capture the loving hypocrisy of Humbert Humbert and the vixen-like attributes of his otherwise naive child-love, Lolita. It's funny and discomforting, just like that novel — which remains one of my favorites, despite the taboo subject material. FINAL GRADE: A-

If you've ever seen a Todd Solondz film (Happiness), then you know what to expect from this one: prepare to writhe in your seat with discomfort, all the while unable to pry yourself from the television screen. Solondz has once again managed to add a slather of comedy to some of humanity's darker life moments, exploring the life-cycle of a young girl, Aviva, in her quest to become a mother (along with the boys and men who take advantage of her maternal desire). In this "sort-of-sequel" to his Welcome to the Dollhouse (a personal favorite of mine), multiple actresses portray Aviva, thus demonstrating the universality (and the multi-faceted nature) of the character herself. FINAL GRADE: B+

The Talented Mr. Ripley
I was pleasantly surprised by this thriller, having previously had no desire to see it. Matt Damon stars as the title character, a lower middle class pianist/bathroom attendant who's sent to Italy to retrieve the ex patriot son of a wealthy ship builder. Here a different side of Ripley emerges, himself a master of deception (mimicking voices, forging signatures, lying, etc.). As he interacts with the upper classes it becomes increasingly clear that he doesn't fit in unless he pretends to be someone else — and so he does, creating a sympathetic devil who simultaneously loves and hates the people that cross his path. An interesting approach to class differences and multi-dimensional character, in The Talented Mr. Ripley you at once like Damon's character as much as you despise him — just as you sympathize with his otherwise ego-maniacal victims just before their collapse (with one exception... but I'm not about to give it away). FINAL GRADE: B+


Jon said...

I've only seen one of these movies. But your reviews are usually right on, so now I want to check out the rest.


M@ said...

I thought Lolita was faithful to the novel, too. I liked it. Nabokov had a story in The New Yorker recently (online) but I can't get into it. I thought he was dead.

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