Friday, November 15, 2019

Bye, Bye Birdy

Lady Bird (2017) - Gerwig
Lady Bird
Whether you have preconceived notion about the film's creators' gender, race and upbringing, because...whatever the reason - not universal enough, too era specific, too narrowly personal, Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird is a great coming of age film. It's endlessly charming and you want it to go on much longer after its short one hour 30 some minute running time. The film concerns Christine "Lady Bird" (played by Saorise Ronan), who is a senior at Sacred Heart Catholic high school. She is from a low income working class family in Sacramento suburbs. Her mild mannered aging dad is just about to lose his job. Her adaptive brother works at a grocery store with his live in girlfriend, the same grocery chain the family has been going for years. Her hard working nurse mom (played perfectly by the great Laurie Metcalf) is struggling the family finances.

Lady Bird longs to get away from Sacramento to some liberal art college in the East Coast. In the mean time, she will need to be content with being a high schooler in a mondane setting and engage in some mischiefs, romance and do the best she can at being herself.

Gerwig, who is known for her screen persona as an endlessly charming underachiever in such films as Francis Ha, naturally translates that energy in her script. Lady Bird is not some jaded know it all but rather, comes across as a genuine goofball who is growing up to be a unique person and personality. Sure there are archetypes around her - a closeted gay theater major, a brooding bassist who reads Howard Zinn, a rich girl who has a tanning bed in her house, etc. But Lady Bird feels genuine. Ronan blends in to a role easily, despite her beautiful grown up face that goes against the high school type.

Lady bird is a funny, genuine and heartfelt coming of age film that are rare in American films. I guess I have to see The Edge of Seventeen next.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Madness at Sea

The Lighthouse (2019) - Eggers
the Lighthouse
From its mucky, grainy B&W academy ratio cinematography to off-the-wall acting by two of the most distinguished faces in Hollywood, Robert Eggers' The Lighthouse is one of the most original American films I've seen in quite a while. Eggers one-ups his great debut, The Witch, in terms of formalist filmmaking, originality and ambition.

OK. Two men cooped up to keep the lighthouse going, on an island (the rock as it is referred to) surrounded by stormy sea, for two hour running time, you'd think it would be an all formalist, all talk, My Dinner with André style snorefest. Not so. In this two-men stranded on an island set up, the elder is a bearded, flatulent sea man, Wake (Willem Dafoe), and the rookie is Winslow (Robert Pattinson), running away from his troubled lumberjack past. Wake soon exercises his stern authority over the young man. So Winslow is burdened with extreme physical, day-to-day chores - bringing up the coals in a wheelbarrow in a rocky, muddy hill, cleaning their cavernous cabin, maintaining the gears and wheels of the lighthouse. He also has to content with Wake's noisy bodily functions and general below-hygiene standards in close living proximity and also crippling loneliness.

But Eggers wastes no time plunging Wake and Winslow into cabin fever induced, lust deprived hallucinations and madness. The men's backstories figure less into the film as they devolve into the nights of binge drinking, ugliest shitfaced free-fall soon enough. There's gonna be a mermaid with fishy vagina. There's gonna be tentacles. There's gonna be a severed head filled with crabs. Seeing the giant revolving light on top of the lighthouse becomes the ultimate goal for Winslow, since it is forbidden to him - only Wake has the key to the entrance all to himself.

The Lighthouse is a crazy hallucinogenic trip that is extremely original. The two actor's physiognomy, Dafoe's troll-like, gangly body and posture and bushy beards (right out of Van Gogh's paintings) and Pattinson's bulging eyes and angular face, is very well used. There are many unforgettable imageries. The Lighthouse is a quite unique movie watching experience.