Friday, December 17, 2010

Jim Carrey acting crazy

I Love You Phillip Morris (R) ★★½

Jim Carrey has been a real enigma for many movie fans over the years. I dig both his comedic and dramatic roles with equal measure but fear that he's been on a downfall the past few years. What with stuff like The Majestic, The Number 23, Yes Man and Fun With Dick & Jane coming out the past 6 or so years, I'm skeptical at that the audacious actor we've come to like has all but vanished. Which brings me to I Love You Philip Morris, which is audacious and genuine Carrey. the kind of genuine that we've come to like from him, with none of the conventionality we've come to expect the last few years. Carrey's Steven Jay Russell is gay, dangerous and completely absurd- it's a showy role that does justice to the actor's talents and gives a certain kind of hope for more of these type of roles to come in the future.

Don't forget he was in some truly great films over the years (The Truman Show & Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind) films that have proven his ability to engage not just commercially but artistically also. Lately he's been bogged down in the commercial by focusing on clunky scripts that do not effectively show his range. His physical comedy used to have an incredibly vibrant freshness to it that he made what was supposed to be below average fare into real comic gold (Dumb And Dumber, The Mask & Ace Ventura). Philip Morris represents a Carrey actually excited about the material, it helps that directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa scripted the absurdy brilliant Bad Santa in 2003.

If he's a real highlight, the film itself is all over the place, going from one subplot to the next without the least bit of intention to slow down. Which is a problem. Ficarra and Requa have come up with some outrageous stuff here, which keeps things interesting, rolling along but messy. The film is a gay, prison love story on acid with a severe case of ADD. Jay falls for Phillip -a solid Ewan McGregor- in prison and they embark on a twisted relationship that has no trust and no boundaries in its ambitions. Jay is a greedy, manic depressive that is clearly messed up and confused about his own existence. I don't need to reveal more but to just say that this isn't a groundbreaker nor is it a great film, but it is an interesting companion piece to Carrey's own The Cable Guy, which also dealt with an obsessed individual on the brink of losing it and endangering the people around him.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Social Network ...

David Fincher's The Social Network has been immensly praised the last few weeks by critics groups ranging from Boston, Los Angeles all the way to this week's -not very surprising- Best picture win over at the New York Film Critics Circle. Which begs to ask the question: Is it really the best picture of the year? Fincher aided by an amazingly layered Aaron Sorkin script has created a film that is as relevant as any other in 2010. It is not only about a social networking site -Facebook- that has completely changed the way the world thinks but it is also about university students that have taken control of businesses and settled themselves as 21st century entrepreneurs. The main protagonist in the film is Mark Zuckerberg -impeccably played by Jesse Eisenberg- the main creator of Facebook and a guy that is being sued by his former best friend Eduardo -an amazing Andrew Garfield- and the Winklevos', a set of muscled Harvard rowing twins that claim Mark has stolen their social netwoking idea.

This isn't a film that I would necessarily call entertainment for the masses but those willing to give it a chance and pay attention to the zip zap words of Sorkin's screenplay through and through will come out of this film feeling like their IQ was just raised up a notch. This is a film that demands its audiences attention in every word uttered and every gesture formed, it does not dumb down the viewer but instead trusts the viewers' intelligence in grasping its social, economical and political themes. This says a lot about the overall manner Fincher and Sorkin play along with the film's structure and -more importantly- editing. Add a marvelous soundtrack by The Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor, which brings real depth and -dare I say- hipness to the surroundings. Reznor's sounds are not conventional, they come out at us like whiplash and enhance the overall mood of the film. This might be the best soundtrack of 2010.

Although I've always been a big admirer of director Fincher's work over the years, this film is far more low key than his usual exercises in style (Fight Club, The Game, Zodiac) However, what we have here is Fincher letting the screenplay talk and putting small but effectively realized touches to the film. If you ask me I prefer the former films mentioned in that they were more originally conceived and provocative, then again I don't think that's what Fincher and Sorkin are out for here. They let the material do the talking, they know that what they have here, the subject is incredibly interesting stuff that relates to everybody with a Facebook account or interested in the way communication has evolved over the past decade. Zuckerberg was the world's youngest billionaire and he did it in a way that had many puzzled by his unusual working methods.

The performers bring their A game. Eisenberg's Zuckerberg is not necessarily being judged by Sorkin but is left within our hands to judge. Is he really the backstabbing friend that Eduardo claims he is? Did he really steal The Winkelvus twins' idea? The film asks questions about what our rights are as human beings, when a simple idea can be consumed, stolen and then made into its own unique product. Andrew Garfield's Eduardo comes out as a revelation, he may in fact be the only true heroic figure in a film filled with greedy assholes. Hell, even Justin Timberlake gives a solid performance playing Napster founder and Zuckerberg confidant Sean Parker.

A film such as this one relies on characters more than plotting. The characters populating the film stay etched in your head way after the film is done, which is in fact the highest quality of the film. There is an almost irresistible vibe created, Fincher uses low lit cinematography to ehance the dreary atmosphere happening throughout. The hallways of Harvard feel cavernous and nightmarish, whereas the look and portrayal of University life is nothing short of condemning but truthful. Sorkin can sometimes seem to fly high, too high, with his own words and sometimes does not know what a limit is to his smart ass dialogue. It's a theme that has always followed him throughout his career, the pompous, almost too literate high brow writing style he is known for. however, It works here cause, well, the characters are pompous and full of themselves just like Sorkin. It's like a marriage made in heaven.

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