Sunday, September 2, 2012

Recent Films Watched -- A Separation, Hick, After the Wedding

Lately I've been having an issue with really being able to focus on movies, which is weird right? But there are a few I thought are interesting enough to talk about. Interesting more on a cerebral level than any emotional one, but oh well, you can't have everything.

I finally saw A Separation. This film...well the praise for it was extraordinary and I feel like I've been waiting aaaages for it to come to DVD so I could watch it. I think it might have helped for me to have a better understanding of the situation in Iran, though? Like I felt like there was some undercurrent of conflict I couldn't really put my finger on and that was never made explicit in the film. I guess it could just have been a class issue but it felt like it might have been more than that. Anyway! In case you've never seen this movie, it's about a couple that is separating, and because of this, the husband has to find someone to look after his father who is suffering from Alzheimer's. He hires a woman, but her husband has really serious financial issues and also they are much more religiously conservative. When she realizes the job entails more than she thought, she tries to get out of it. There's a bunch of stuff that happens here that sort of confused me, for example, she tries to get her husband to take the job but then she shows up instead? There are religious reasons she feels she can't do the job, since it entails cleaning the elderly man after he has an accident. Anyway, one day she leaves and she ties him to the bedstand and goes to the doctor. The son returns before she does and is really upset and pushes her out of the apartment when she refuses to leave. Later, she loses the baby and accuses him of murder. And that's really where the bulk of the film is...what happened? Did he push her down the stairs and cause her to lose the baby? Her husband is upset, they take it to court (which is....TOTALLY different from our legal system in the US and rather infuriating). Did he know she was pregnant? The caretaker's husband is a violent man, did he perhaps do something to cause her to lose the baby? These are the questions the viewer is forced to consider while watching. Also, it's pretty interesting to watch his wife and daughter also wrestle with these issues.

One thing, though, is that there was so much yelling and hot tempers which made the film kind of a chore to watch. I just wanted everyone to be quiet! But apparently these growing, shifting, changing emotions are what so many people liked about the film? I don't know. Also, like the caretaker seemed like the kind of person from the start that I would have wanted to stay away from, she seemed very manipulative and desperate which is an explosive combination. So it's not exactly surprising what happened. Anyway, I think the structure of the film works, because of how much you are wondering what happened along with all the other people. you have a certain selection of evidence that may make you think one thing, but just because that's what you have access to, does that mean that there's nothing else? Hmmm now that I'm writing about this, I can kind of see why people think this film is particularly good, because of the character dynamics and how this tense situation forces a lot of things out to the surface. In fact, I'd say this quote is a pretty accurate description of the film, "The plots are deeply entangling, with powerless characters unexpectedly pulled into a quagmire of circumstances beyond their control – but not over-the-top Mount Rushmore-climbing sorts of circumstances, just the gut-slamming mundanities of everyday life: these characters get mired in their pathetic humanity and trying to get out, only get in deeper." I just wish I had enjoyed it more. Curious to hear what anyone else thinks!

I wanted to see Hick because it's based on a book published by Unbridled Books the best small press ever. The reviews weren't really that great, but I don't know I still wanted to see it. I can be unreasonably stubborn about things like this sometimes. I don't think this is a great movie, but it still had something I appreciated. This is completely spoiler-filled so skip it if you want to watch this movie. Basically, a young thirteen year old girl named Luli leaves her home behind (and it's no surprise since her parents can't be bothered) to head for Las Vegas. I don't think she's taking it really seriously, I mean this is the list she makes before heading out. I think the idea of going and doing something is really romanticized in her mind. But it's worth noting that she thinks she can get out, she's not yet beaten down by poverty and despair. The other thing is that she's supposed to be really super attractive. I think even though she's young, she's developed and supposed to be appealing to men, because like...EVERY man in the film, with one exception, wants her.

So she heads out and meets a guy in a truck and they get along for a bit until they have a fight and then he leaves her by the side of the road. And she meets Glenda, then, a young woman who figures out rather quickly that her situation is not a good one. And when Luli describes the guy, Glenda says, "there's a reason mamas tell their babies to stay away from men like that." I bring this up because what happens at the end of the film seems to surprise a lot of people, but I think it's tipped off here. Anyways, Glenda and Luli end up at this guy's house who employs, Eddie, the guy from the truck. Glenda can see that her new man is interested in Luli, so she tries to distract him. Eddie takes advantage of the situation by playing a trick on Luli and getting her to leave with him. This is never apparently clear to the viewer, though. Anyway, some stuff happens that continues to make Eddie seem awful and by the end Luli rejects him and so he goes after her, rapes her, and ties her up in a cabin. And you're thinking it's going to end all horribly, but it turns out the same thing happened to Glenda and she's come after Luli. An accident ensues, both Eddie and Glenda end up dead, but the guys who owns the cabin comes and helps Luli clean it up and offers for her to go to his sister in California. Luli turns him down, but as she gets on the bus and looks through her drawings, she sees one of Glenda which convinces her to go after this new life after all. And...that's what I liked? I liked the ending, the idea that Glenda's sacrifice and friendship made it possible for Luli, after surviving a terrible ordeal, to still believe that there was something more than what waited at home for her. But trust me, despite this hopeful message, the film is largely a mess, with weird flashbacks about her deceased brother, people acting badly, it fails as a road movie, I don't's just not good, despite the redemptive ending.

I watched After the Wedding because of Sidse Babett Knudsen and also because it's on Netflix Instant. It has the same director as In a Better World which we're watching for film club! (Susanne Bier also directed the Danish Brothers which I want to see, since I quite liked the American version)

I feel like this movie is really different because it never ends up being what you think it's going to be about. It starts out in India and this guy is working in India at an orphanage and has an opportunity to raise funds for the orphanage, but first he has to go to Denmark and meet with the benefactor in person...but that opens up a situation that surprises him, there are more people on competition for the grant. Before making a decision, he's invited the wedding of the daughter of the businessman offering the funds and he makes some really startling discoveries there that lead to more big discoveries. Basically this is a movie about love and family and responsibility and it's both interesting and heartbreaking. So I just wanted to mention it again as a recommendation if you're looking for something good on Netflix or Amazon Prime Video.

If you've seen any of these, I'd love to hear your thoughts!


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