Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Maggie's Films of 2010, Jan 5 Cont'd:

#8. Up in the Air

This was clearly not a Gen-X buy, because George Clooney's most recent piece, about a professional firer whose light baggage lifestyle comes under threat by an attempt to revolutionize his industry, is presently vying with Blue Cat People and Chipmunks II: The Quickening in theatres. But amid such fun, flighty rides, which invariably make up the bulk of Christmas cinematic fare, Up in the Air is strong, classic Clooney. There is no easy ending here. This piece directly tackles an atmosphere of helplessness propagated by the Great Recession. Even love, romantic and familial alike, is fragile, fleeting, hard. Sad but poignant, you know in a heartbeat this movie marks the onset of Oscar season -- that last-minute rush to the box office to stay on the fore of judges' minds. Well, let's just say that despite being classic Clooney, this film still manages to forward a few ideas that are distinct and thought-provoking, and which further even the overarching character of Clooney himself. Considering the timeliness of its subject material, there's little doubt this film will be in the running for a few choice awards; and further, that it deserves to be.

#9. The Libertine

This film was a bit of a welcome-back treat for my housemate, while also still being part-Happy-Birthday-to-me (in my head, birthdays should be lived for a week, not a day). In it, Johnny Depp plays John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester and author to some of the raunchiest verse in the English language. As all "based on a true story" pieces, The Libertine takes some, shall we say, liberties with Wilmot's life and concretely attributed works, but the general tone remains true enough to the spirit of a man who indulged many of the vices that flourished under the reign of King Charles II (played here by John Malkovich), ultimately dying at 33 of a spate of venereal diseases after a life lived rigourously satirizing the excesses of his Age. The Libertine also tackles Wilmot's love affair with Elizabeth Barry, a famous woman of the era's stage played by the equally striking Samantha Morton (Synecdoche, New York), and briefly nods to his secret life as Doctor Bendo.

But for all this film's pretense of severe debauchery, in so delicately skirting the graver implications of these aspects of Wilmot's life, it ultimately toes a trite, pat Hollywood line in the end. From whence do Wilmot's fatal venereal diseases spring, if a) viewers are to accept that Depp's Wilmot couldn't get aroused by prostitutes or his wife early in the film, b) he became aroused by Elizabeth Barry, and c) Barry left him? That's typical Hollywood for you: making a character known for numerous affairs incapable, for the purposes of its film, of maintaining sexual relationships with more than one woman at a time -- and yet still magicking venereal diseases that affect him but not any of the partners we do see on screen. Thus for all the film presents Wilmot as a character to be despised, it still tries to redeem or temper him in far too many ways. Johnny Depp's vivacious command of the role ultimately saves this film -- but just barely.

No comments: