Bob and Justin's Mad Movie Blog

My name is Bob. My friend Justin and I are aspiring filmmakers and we have pretty similar tastes in movies. This will include our take on what's going on in film and television today as well as updating you on the status of our own work.

Friday, June 08, 2012

The Intouchables

It's not often that I can label a film as having universal appeal. Just looking at some of my favorite films of last year ("The Artist," "Drive," "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"), it's clear that while I love them they're not for everyone. "The Intouchables" however, is that rare movie that I truly believe will be loved by everyone who sees it. Philippe (Francois Cluzet) is a wealthy and intelligent Parisian, but a widower who is paralyzed from the neck down. He has had difficulty maintaining a caretaker for longer than a month at a time and he is interviewing a long line of new applicants who are either inexperienced or view Philippe as though he is beneath them mentally. Tired of waiting in line, Driss (Omar Sy), a young man of Senegalese descent, storms into the room and instantly he is like a breath of fresh air to Philippe. Not because Driss is experienced or eager to get the position. In fact the only reason Driss has shown up to interview is so that he can keep getting unemployment benefits. He also openly flirts with Philippe's assistant Magalie (Audrey Fleurot). But Phillipe knows that the muscular Driss will be able to take care of him physically and just as importantly, Driss will never talk down to him. Driss is initially reluctant to accept the job but having been kicked out of his aunt's house and with a short prison term on his record he really has nowhere else to go. Given a one month trial period, Driss finds living in a Parisian mansion to be to his liking, but more importantly he comes to care for Phillipe and the two bond not over their similiarities (of which there are few), but their differences. Love, music, family, art, and cars are but a few of the things these two men debate and learn new things about from each other. Written and directed by Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano, "The Intouchables" is based on the memoir "You Changed My Life" by Abdel Sellou. As its opening scene unfolded and I laughed along as its filmmakers intended I knew that this movie and I were on the same wavelength. It's a feel good movie that earns our affections rather than manipulating us, thanks in part to moments such as Driss playfully mocking Philippe's handicap, which Philippe thoroughly enjoys. The filmmaking is gentle but brimming with life and Sy and Cluzet have magnificent chemistry. The building of their unlikely friendship is absolutely believable and we feel every laugh and moment of heartbreak with them. "The Intouchables" is a beautifully made film that I will recommend to anyone and everyone. It is in French with English subtitles. If you write this movie off because you're the sort of person who doesn't "like to read when I watch movies," then you are missing out my friend. Get over it for at least of a couple of hours and enjoy this heartfelt and thoroughly wonderful movie. In the Seattle area it is currently playing at the Metro, Pacific Place, and Bellevue's Lincoln Square. 9/10.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

In film the elderly tend to get about as much focus as they do in life. They're often marginalized, even belittled by younger generations, intentionally or unintentionally. With "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," we get a rare film that focuses on the hopes and dreams of those who are still hoping and dreaming well into their golden years. Evelyn (Judi Dench) recently lost her husband and can only pay off his debts by selling their home. Graham (Tom Wilkinson) is a newly retired high court judge carrying an old emotional scar. Norman (Ronald Pickup) is endlessly enthusiastic, if slightly clueless, in his quest for love. Madge (Celia Imrie), wants to shake things up in her life, leaving her bad marriages behind her. Muriel (Maggie Smith) is an unabashedly racist woman in need of a hip replacement. Douglas and Jean (Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton, last seen as a married couple in "Shaun of the Dead") have lost their savings due to a bad investment in their daughter's internet startup and are openly struggling in their marriage. These strangers are brought together during a trip from Britain to India where they end up staying at the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and Beautiful. Sonny (Dev Patel, "Slumdog Millionaire") is the young owner of the dilapidated hotel, and while he may possess no business sense whatsoever, he has a passion for transforming his hotel (handed down to him from his father) into a place so wonderful that its guests "will refuse to die." The only thing he loves more than his hotel is his girlfriend Sunaina (Tena Desae), who seems to be the only person who really believes in him. Based on a novel by Deborah Moggach, "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" is written by Ol Parker and directed by John Madden (the one who made "Shakespeare in Love," not the one guy who used to shout, "BOOM!" and draw yellow circles on your television). It's a film that I very much wanted to like and one that really does have many good qualities. The cast is terrific across the board and Parker and Madden have a respect for their characters and for the elderly that isn't often seen on film. The movie falters due to its often by the numbers nature. It's not so much predictability as it is familiarity that's the issue. So much of what these characters experience feels as though it's come from many other movies before it. It lessens the emotional impact of many dramatic moments as well as the effectives of the comedic elements. What you get is a perfectly pleasant movie but one that you know full well had the potential to be much better than it is. This isn't helped by its length. It isn't the length itself that's the problem, it's the way the movie keeps stretching itself out. At 2 hours and 4 minutes and with almost as many endings as the third "Lord of the Rings" it's at least 20 minutes longer than it needs to be. While I appreciate that each character is developed and deserves to have his or her own story told without being shortchanged, it all just adds up to being too much. Each character's own story could have made a very good film so it's a shame they're all stuffed into the same movie. "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" is not a movie I would recommend to those who were not already interested but if you have been wanting to see it then you certainly should. There are some very good elements here. I wish they could have worked together to make a great film. 6.5/10.