Saturday, 25 February 2017

I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore Review

Do you want to be an active or passive member of society? is the question at the heart of Macon Blair’s directorial debut, I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore, which is as melancholic as it is bloody. For Melanie Lynskey’s Ruth, she is the latter. She has popular novels spoiled for her and she has dogs shit on her lawn. When she gets burgled, that’s the last straw and she decides to do something about it, partly due to the ineptitude of the police. So her and her newly formed acquaintance Tony (Elijah Wood, on fine form) decide to find the culprits - with bloody and hilarious consequences.

Almost immediately the similarities between I Don’t Feel at Home and Macon Blair’s brilliant, slicked-back starring feature Blue Ruin appear. But I Don’t Feel at Home has extraordinary qualities. Firstly, it is outrageously funny at times. It is as awkward and uncomfortable as Ruth herself. Most of this comes from Elijah Wood’s Tony, who is both absurd and eccentric in equal measures. It is his kookiness that makes the film tick. Slightly off-kilter is an understatement and I Don’t Feel at Home has that in abundance. So much so that you never know where it’s going to go and what’s going to happen. It’s quality is in its inconsistencies.

As much as it is silly and laugh out loud inducing, however, it’s actually profoundly sad and this is encapsulated in Lynskey’s remarkably refined performance. From her utterances “but everyone is being an asshole” to her ferociously vomiting at the sight of a gruesome gunfight shows she’s not only uncomfortable in this world but she’s uncomfortable in her own body which is desperately sad. As accidental heroes go, she’s one of the best I’ve seen in a long while. Macon Blair has created an interesting, intellectual and most importantly, relatable heroes in Ruth and Tony and they’re a pleasure to watch.

Blair’s directing, too, has clearly been inspired by Saulnier’s efforts on Blue Ruin and Green Room. In fact, I Don’t Feel at Home could rival it for the amount of blood shed. The film is ghastly at times, but also a heck of a lot of fun. Yet it is always grounded in realism. Characters struggle to fire guns, these are only as dangerous as the weapons they are holding. And there’s a lot of them. Firearms, plaster of paris, vans, rocks, snakes. Most of the fun comes from the spontaneity of the smoothly executed action scenes.

I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore is as brutal as it is macabre. For every bit of bloodshed, there’s a poignant moment. It could do with better developed villains with superior validation for their actions and it doesn’t quite have the tautness and tension of its contempories, but it’s too much fun to take notice. From Tony’s loneliness to Ruth’s depression it shouldn’t be as fun as it is, but boy is it.

Monday, 9 January 2017

La La Land Review

In the first third of La La Land, Damien Chazelle's entralling follow up to three-time Oscar winner Whiplash, Ryan Gosling's Seb says "why do you say romantic like it's a bad thing?" and in many ways that's the perfect summation of what makes La La Land so wonderful. La La Land is like those signs people have in their houses 'Live, Life, Love' but in the least corny way possible. It's a hopeless romantic with its head  positively in the clouds.  It's also an excellent example of how the musical can work in the 21st Century, where seemingly it's a dying breed. 

An ever excellent Ryan Gosling and an equally adorable Emma Stone star as Seb and Mia, respectively, as two dreamers who have a passion and a love for what they do yet do not seem to be making any progress in their fields. Much like Chazelle's Whiplash, this is about a passion for music and a certain drive that it takes to reach the top. Unlike Whiplash, it shows the lighter and happier side of this. In many ways it makes the perfect companion piece to Chazelle's former film and La La Land can be seen as Whiplash's exuberant, slightly excitable and wholly less cynical younger sibling.

Seb and Mia's relationship and every move hinges on one thing: the performances of Stone and Gosling. Luckily and unsurprisingly, Stone and Gosling have been here before (Crazy, Stupid Love and Gangster Squad) and have the finest chemistry in Hollywood right now. Arguably, they could match Doris Day and Rock Hudson from the Golden Age of cinema (and the musical). There seems to be this almost pathological connection between the two stars that makes them as irresistibly charming and alluring as the film itself. Gosling's facial expressions in particular are exceptional. Whether he wants to make you laugh, cry or sympathise, he makes perfect sure that he does just that.

And, of course, a musical wouldn't be anywhere without its music, but strangely the music does seem to take a backseat. Aside from the somewhat off-putting opening number 'Another Day Of Sun', the music is nuanced, subtle and refined and brings a touch of class to proceedings not seen since Gene Kelly was on screen. Justin Hurtwitz has delivered another marvellous score and soundtrack that brings a level of sophistication to the film. This is how you make a musical for the 'realist' generation.

La La Land is absolutely not a film for those of a cynical mind. Yet even then, I think that it is so lovely that it just may sway those too. This film is for the dreamers, the fantasists, the lovers and those who are looking for a touch of nostalgia. In a time where everything getting darker and more serious, La La Land is a breath of fresh air. They don't make 'em like this anymore? Yes they do, and it's called La La Land.