The latest Guy Ritchie film, RocknRolla, is exactly what you’d expect: think Snatch but with Russians instead of Gypsies. The story has something to do with a real estate scam that goes slightly wrong when a painting gets stolen. That’s really the whole plot. A lot of other stuff happens, but it I spent most of the movie confused as to what was happening and why the story was evolving in this way.
As the movie progresses, the number of characters increases exponentially and it gets a little hard to keep track of them all. The plot is a little confusing and not that gripping. I guess Guy Ritchie either needs a new shtick or needs to be able to pull off his shtick as well as he used to. Oh, it is still entertaining to watch at times. It has such a unique sense of self that it is always at least somewhat interesting, and it has his typical dry humor. He has also clearly improved in some aspects of his filmmaking – the cinematography and visuals are better than in his previous films. But other than that, the movie doesn’t have too much going for it.
If you know me, you know I love me some Darren Aronofsky. So I was extremely excited to see that he had a new movie out, and that it looked like a return to Pi/Requiem form. Unlike the grandiose storybook of The Fountain, The Wrestler is an examination of the life of someone a little down on their luck.
The Wrestler in question, partially based on WWE champion Mick Foley, was once a star – he has action figures, is one of the characters in an old NES video game, and still has fans recognize him and ask for autographs. He hasn’t given up on dreams of getting back on top and spends weekends wrestling in the ‘independent’ circles. But here we also have the familiar tale of someone getting older and wondering what they had accomplished. What would they leave behind? And more importantly, who still cared about them? The wrestler, Randy “The Ram” Robinson, has estranged his daughter and the only real friend is the stripper who gives him lap dances.
It’s not all depressing. The kids in his neighborhood love to play around with him – when I was 8, that would have been a dream of mine, too – and the wrestlers he works with are still clearly in awe of him. But the desolation and emptiness in his life are evident. And it all rings true. Everything from the way he sloppily wraps his present, to the way he dresses, to his interactions with the minor characters just feels exactly right. And according to Mick Foley, it is.
What do I think was wrong about the movie? Not much, really. I quite like the cathartic endings of his previous movies, but anyone looking for the soul-killing finale of Requiem for a Dream won’t find it here. That’s a little dissappointing for a fanboy, but not at all detrimental to the movie. Some acting/scripting from a couple of the minor characters was a little awkward and their storylines a little rushed, but it didn’t really disrupt the flow of the movie.
In the end, the movie just felt so true it almost could have been a biography. An excellent, excellent film. Also.
One thing that I have a problem with is remembering why I do or do not like particular things. When I am reading anything by Ian McEwan for instance, I could list fifty or sixty reasons why the book is terrible. A month later? I just remember that I don’t like it. Therefore, there will be mini-reviews of everything I see/hear/read/consume for my future reference.
The first is of Milk. I watched it in Hillcrest last night, followed by a delicious dinner at Kitima Thai (one of my favorite restaurants in San Diego, along with Yakitori Yakyudori and The Linkery). The movie was very good. I have seen a lot of good acting performances this year, and Sean Penn’s is definitely up there. The story is engrossing, and it got me angry all over again about the intolerance and bigotry behind Prop 8. It really is a shame that this movie did not come out earlier.
What didn’t I like? There were a few too many times when it was clear that this was a movie adaptation of someone’s life. It was pretty obvious when things that were days or months apart happened one after the other. That’s fine for a movie to do, but it shouldn’t be so obviously set up. My bigger complaint – and this is probably a personal preference rather than a valid aesthetic criticism – is that we didn’t see enough development of the characters in the movie. This is not really a movie about Harvey Milk & co., it is a movie about the gay rights campaign and movement in the 70’s. That’s fine, but it would have been nice to learn more about our characters. As it is, most characters are introduced with a short voiceover by Sean Penn and aren’t developed further. Even Milk is a little mysterious: his love affair in the second half of the movie is clearly destructive and unhappy, but we never see why they stay together. What we see is Milk as a political force first, as a person second.
But overall, I thought it was very good. Also, before the movie in the preview for Che , the ending quote is absolutely ridiculous:
Interviewer: How does it feel to be a symbol?
Che: A symbol of what?
Uh, good point. Very dramatic, Steven Soderbergh, very dramatic.