I’m concerned the Scrooge of Christmas spirit has entered my soul when it comes to the batch of post Christmas movies I have seen, as, despite their determination to please, two of the three have left me not quite cold, but very lukewarm.
I started off with high hopes, with “Joy” first on my list – a director I enjoy; a lead actress (Jennifer Lawrence) whom I think is terrific; and an interesting cast of supporting actors – what could go wrong? But, I came out very underwhelmed. The story of a struggling Mother bringing her new mop to market doesn’t really warrant its slightly over two hour running time. The story just ran out of steam. And, I’m a bit over the eccentric cast of characters filling up the screen time (although it was nice to see Isabella Rossellini on the screen again). Why doesn’t Robert de Niro go and get a proper acting job? But, on the plus side, Jennifer Lawrence makes it worth the price of the entry ticket, and you do find yourself rooting hard for her to succeed. Three stars.
Next up was “Youth”, an English language film by Paolo Sorrentino. I loved his previous film, “A Great Beauty”, this one I liked a lot. It has many of that film’s flourishes – it looks fantastic, there are numerous over the top surreal moments, and some strange characters. Like the previous film, you have to just go with the flow, as it is a bit weird, and I don’t think he quite pulls off what he was trying to do ( perhaps ultimately there is just too much going on). But, “Youth” is a tender and melancholic film, that is an essay on ageing, fame & success, friendship, fatherhood, love and sex, as two old (in both senses of the word – aged and long time) friends reflect on their achievements, think about what might lie ahead, discuss their prostate problems and look with lust, and a longing for their old selves, at a naked Miss Universe in the pool.
Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel play the two old men, one a world famous conductor & composer, the other a famous film director, and they are wonderful to behold. Michael Caine’s worn and weary face fills the screen, as does his sadness.
The title of the film is both ironic and nostalgic. Apart from the youngish male actor (played by Paul Dano – last seen by me as the young Brian Wilson in Love & Mercy – who carries a perhaps unnecessary sub plot about celebrity), the only youth there is seems to be all about young women, which I wasn’t entirely comfortable with. And interestingly, whilst the film is imbued with sexuality, the only sex we see is between an elderly couple. Jane Fonda makes a memorable appearance as an aged diva. Youth we are not. I enjoyed it. Three and a half stars.
The final film in my trilogy was “La Famille Belier”, and it was here that my inner humbug really came out. Yes, it is feel good. Yes, you get a tear in your eye. But, it also irritated the bejesus out of me. The parents over acted something shocking, especially the Mother, who was particularly unbelievable as a deaf person. All the characters were stereotypes. I didn’t think her voice was that exceptional (although I did like the final song) – and I just wanted to reach into the screen and tell her to stand up straight! And everyone knew where the story was going and how it was going to get there. If this had been made in America, with American actors, I bet there would have been greater criticism of this film – the French factor makes it quirky and loveable for all us Francophiles. 2 stars from me.