July brought me to four films, all of which were very different.
First up, Cell 211 is a brilliant, if incredibly downbeat, film about a man in the wrong place at the wrong time. Due to begin as a guard, the lead asks to tour the facilities a day early. Unfortunately for him, that’s the day a riot breaks out and he finds himself on the wrong side of the fence, having to pretend he’s one of the inmates to survive. There are some excellent little set-pieces, some very tense moments, and some superbly done drama. It never flinches when showing something horrific, and is all the more satisfying for it. The acting is strong throughout, with a lot of emotional weight carried well by the main cast. Very worth seeing. (See my Cell 211 Twitter review).
The Tree of Life, meanwhile, is beautiful, difficult and flawed. It challenges the viewer at every turn; from it’s non-linear, and extremely fragmented narrative, to it’s more self-indulgent and outright pretentious moments. There’s a great story in here about growing up under an authoritarian father, tinged with dread because of some foreknowledge we’re given. However, the storytelling itself makes it a little trickier to enjoy this then we might like. In particular, the 10 minute montage of the history of time, whilst stunningly beautiful, is so conceited as to draw attention away from the worthwhile. It’s definitely not an easy film to watch, and won’t suit many, but there is a lot to like here. Worth seeing if you have the patience. (See my The Tree of Life Twitter review).
I wanted to like Beginners more than I actually did. When it delivers, it does so well. There are some incredibly bittersweet moments as Ewan McGregor stumbles through a new relationship, still haunted by the demise of his father. These two stories appear intercut, juxtaposing loss and gain on each side. At times, though, it tries too hard to be a quirky indie film, and consequently never manages to hit the highs that it should have been able to reach, given the subject matter. Certainly, the performances make up for a lack in pacing, but not for other flaws. It’s good, but not great. (See my Beginners Twitter review).
Finally, Horrible Bosses isn’t a classic comedy, but it’ll certainly do while we wait for one. The set-up is ridiculous (three friends want to kill their bosses), the leads are pretty well type-cast, and at times it misses the mark; but none of that matters. The film revels in its silliness, unapologetically letting the laughs cover up the flaws. Yes, Jason Bateman plays the character he’s played a dozen times before and Charlie Day basically plays a slightly toned down version of his It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia character, but the three bosses are fantastically against type and that really helps sell it. A very worthwhile comedy, possibly the best daft comedy of the year so far. (See my Horrible Bosses Twitter review).
The winner is Cell 211, for having the courage to see some of the more horrible moments through, while getting most other things so right. A very good film.