Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Marketed as an adult family film about a “picture perfect” holiday that doesn’t go as planned, the film masks what it is really about; the sad and challenging ways that a family connects and communicates. Unsure of what the audience is to expect, at least we have a talented cast to lead us along.
It has been 8 months since Frank Goode’s (Robert De Niro) wife has passed away and as he prepares for a family dinner with all of his kids, they all make some excuse as to why they cannot make it. Frank then decides to go to them, surprising them at their homes. He first travels by train to visit his son David in New York and is unable to reach him so he hops on a bus to Chicago to see his daughter, Amy (Kate Beckinsale). Unable to house him, she drops him off on a train to Denver to meet up with his other son Robert (Sam Rockwell) and when he can’t stay there, he moves onto his last destination. He finally makes it to Las Vegas to see his daughter Rosie (Drew Barrymore) who finally puts him on a flight home after he is finished with his trip.
Throughout his trip Frank realizes that not one of his children has told him the truth. Amy is having trouble at home, lying about her son’s schooling and trying desperately to cover up a failed marriage. Robert finally tells his father that he does not have the job that Frank thought he had and Rosie lies about her apartment and her newborn child all because she does not want to hurt her dad. David is nowhere to be found—thought to be detained in Mexico, and any information is kept from Frank. Unable to speak to their father about their lives, Frank finally gets through to them in the hospital after he is admitted for a mild heart attack that he experiences on the plane.
Information travels fast in this film, but fails to reach those that need it. As the camera follows telephone wires, voice-over phone conversations between his children take the place of the personal connection that Frank is desperately trying to regain with his kids.
De Niro gives an incredible performance, portraying a father that has grown soft over the years, carrying a weathered look that shows both compassion and pride for his family. It is really De Niro that carries the sympathy for the family in this film, allowing for tragedy and reconciliation to coexist. If you believe him, you can believe in the outcome of this family.
"Everybody's Fine" fails to reconnect the children with their father, acknowledging that things are not okay and perhaps they never will be. Relying on a scene that takes place in a pseudo-dream Frank finally confronts all of his children, but as kids, not as the adults they are today. It is nice to see Frank realize his own faults as a father, being that he literally cannot get through to them as adults. But a family needs to work both ways and the children never quite learn how to understand Frank.
Left on an overwhelmingly somber note, "Everybody's Fine" tries to show the cookie-cutter version of every family. It is a way to make everything seem all right when in reality the wounds are deeper than they seem. This film clearly shows that everybody is not fine and unfortunately their problems are too convoluted to really be resolved, but we are left hoping that one day they will be.
There are two DVD extras that are worth taking a look at on the disk. The first is an inside look into the making of the Paul McCartney’s song “(I Want to) Come Home”. This gives a very interesting look at the process of writing a song for a film. The other extras include extended and deleted scenes from the film.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
If only I were Sandra Bullock...that was what I was really thinking to myself when I was waking from my dream this morning...
So I am really excited about the Academy Awards. Apparently so excited that I dream that I am dressed up in a gown and walking the red carpet as Sandra. It is just one of those things that I look forward to all year. For those of you that know me, I don't watch television, but once a year I will gather around the boob tube with beer and ballot in hand-ready to go. In fact, it is a day that I take off work because I don't want to miss out on this excitement. Now many haters wonder "why the Oscars?" and I simply respond "It's my kind of Super Bowl". Sometimes my favorite team is up and if not, I still can enjoy the game. Yes, the show is flawed and sometimes my favorite films of the year are far from represented, but it is a day to celebrate and award MOVIES. Mmm...I just like how that rolls off the tongue.
There are so many things to look forward to this year. "District 9" is nominated, which was one of my top 3 films of the year. Both favorites in the Best Supporting Actor category, Mo'Nique and Christopher Waltz, gave the best performances of the year. A 3D box office sensation with blue creatures might sweep the show and we now have 10 films given recognition for the best picture of the year. This will be an exciting thing to see and something that I am looking forward to. Like bets on the Superbowl, there will be money thrown down on the correct number of awards guessed and lots of beer to be had. The Super Bowl may be a gathering for a big game, but that's just a warm up for my favorite show which is a month away.
One of my favorite short films of last year, has been nominated for an Academy Award under Best Live Action Short. When I read the nominations I let out a squeal of excitement for this director and producer. I met them both at Sundance last year and they are the sweetest gentlemen. The film, "Instead of Abracadabra" is from Sweden and is about a struggling magician that still lives at home with his parents but has a true passion for magic- it is such a charming movie. Let me know if you want to see it, it is only 18 minutes and you will love it.
Now, how do you say "Congrats" in Swedish?
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Social networking takes on a frightening personality in Jeff Phillips' new film "UrFrenz", which premiered Saturday January 23, 2010 at Slamdance. This dramatic narrative examines the connections that are made on popular and "friendly" social sites and what can happen when you don't really know who you are talking to.
The film follows two teenage girls, one popular and one an outcast, who used to be friends. Catherine (Lily Holleman) struggles with depression and cuts herself, her life is monitored by her mother being that she does not want Catherine to hurt herself again. Madison (Najarra Townsend) also suffers from depression, she is the popular girl at school struggling to be happy with her family and herself, being that she was dumped by her boyfriend. A rumor started by Catherine prompts Madison's mother to create a fake online profile, posing as a home-schooled teenage boy, to track Catherine and her interactions with her daughter. Things get complicated when Catherine falls for Brandon, the fake alias, and when Madison's mother cannot remove herself from the fake person she has created until it is too late.
The film takes an interesting look at social networking sites, making the real evil the parents and them overstepping their boundaries into their child's privacy."UrFrenz" refers to the social website that hosts your profile, much like a Facebook/Myspace account where one can chat and update their profile name. The internet is a scary place, but also is shown as a necessary outlet for young adults to be able to remove themselves from the pressures and hardships of high school. Of course it can be a dangerous place being that you are never really sure of who you are talking to.
Poignantly, the director deals with the touchy subject of teenage suicide. Delicately handling the pain and frustration that every teenager feels; exploring the fine line between being unhappy and then taking the step to ending that unhappiness.
"UrFrenz" tackles high school, depression, loneliness and identity issues with ease. Phillips wrote his characters with a true sense of the angst of being a teenager. Funny that he said during the Q & A that he was inspired to write this film because he has a teenage daughter himself and it is so difficult to monitor and protect her with the internet. Although the parents seem to be the ones to blame in this situation the film brings up timely issues of the internet and the evils of social networking.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
This Australian production is not without wonderful elements as director Scott Hicks and the entire cast, including lead actor Clive Owen, do a remarkable job at bringing these real-life characters to the silver screen. It is just that there is one message and too many elements that don’t get properly addressed that make this film feel unfinished.
Joe Warr (Owen) is a popular sports journalist that must deal with being a single parent and managing both of his sons after the sudden death of his wife, Katy. To make things more complicated, his oldest son Harry, from his first wife, comes to visit right after the death of Katy.
The first part of the film sets up Katy’s character and the intense impact on the family when she passes away. Joe ends up taking his youngest son, Artie, on a road trip to escape the emotional pressure that he is feeling from the family and himself. Often times he speaks to Katy and she is there. It never feels unbelievable, but intensifies the loneliness and fear that Joe is experiencing. When Harry arrives, the family unit struggles to find a way to coexist.
Both sons are the most interesting and complicated part of the film. Artie, has a hard time adjusting to his mother dying, asking if she will be gone forever and saying that he wants to die to be close to her. He is tyrannical and often selfish but frequently collapses in moments of despair when he thinks of his mom. He is played perfectly as you care about how he is developing and how he is handling this grief, because at 6 years old death is not something that can be fully comprehended. Harry is a teenager and not only is struggling with puberty, but he is trying to understand why his father left him for another woman and another family. Unfortunately, his story is never fully developed and although it is very touching, any kind of resolution is weak.
Being a story about a broken family, Joe struggles to find ways to keep things together. He develops a “Yes” plan, which allows any question to be answered with yes and finds that parenting is not easy. What seems to be an easy solution somehow seems to work for the boys. They do not function like they used to, but things are different now and that’s exactly where it remains for the rest of the film.
Some of the scenes in the movie are absolutely beautiful. Hicks skillfully and purposely shoot the Australian landscape with a true love of the land, giving a sense of wonderment and hope to a rather sad situation.
The title “The Boys are Back” refers to these boys, young and old, regaining their trust and hope in one another. Not only do they need each other, but also they are learning to be a family however unconventional it may be. As for them really getting “back” to something, it is unsure what that really is, but for the moment things are okay—nothing resolved, maybe something learned, just okay.
There are two extras that are worth watching on the DVD. "The Boys Are Back: A Photographic Journey is an interesting look at production stills and stories narrated by the director, Scott Hicks. It is a nice perspective on the film. "A Father and Two Sons" is footage from when the real-life boys met their fictional counterparts on set- it is quite touching to see.