23 August 2012

Review: Hope Springs

Genre: Comedy (Romance)

I suppose that it should by now have become unsurprising, for all the fulsome praise heaped (mostly deservedly) onto Ms. Streep, that one's viewing of her latest released performance is a revelation for one's experience of acting in the cinema. For fear that I may indeed be simply another film enthusiast enthralled by her, I shall sidestep my own praise here, except to say that how she festoons each second of her time on screen with microëxpressions that are thorough and honest extrusions of the character's self into the world is nothing less than masterful.
No, rather than continue with this line, I shall address how skilled also was the director's, David Frankel's, work in establishing and pacing this small intimate romantic comedy. After The Devil Wears Prada (2006) - wow, can Meryl act under him! - and a handful of other effective but inelegant pieces, Hope Springs is a relative revelation for his oeuvre too. It is immensely clear that, given the boon of Ms. Taylor's (not diminutively) adorable screenplay, he made the right choices, keeping a drum-tight and attractive narrative through his use of his actors and their sets.
However, the film does suffer from a poor sense of the camera's proper relationship to the action. Shots are frequently too close to the actors or, otherwise, too inopportunely placed, to give the sense of lacking connection or otherwise the sense of inspiration that the dynamics of the filmic storytelling could have really used. In one late scene, Ms. Streep's character Kay weeps alone at night in her bed yet the solitary expanse of her dark bedroom, looming emptily around her, was bereft from the narrative for the cinematographer's poor choice to stay almost exclusively with the bust-portrai range of imaging.
Nevertheless, this film is a true Summer soufflé: effervescent, savory, and seriously light. After past disappointments by Ms. Streep's Summer films (cf., Mamma Mia!, 2008), I was thrilled to enjoy and mainly admire the work done here this year.

Grade: A-/B+

21 August 2012

Article: "Weekend: The Space Between Two People"

Dennis Lim writes succinctly yet eloquently at the Criterion Current about Andrew Haigh's newly into-the-Collection inducted Weekend, the film that in my opinion was the best written, best supported (see actor Chris New as Glen in the image at right/above), and best overall new work last year. A choice excerpt follows below:

Character-driven dramas are not supposed to make a show of backstory, but in the genre of the blossoming romance—focused on two people for whom the rest of the world has fallen away, and who are hungry to know everything about each other—there is nothing more natural than exposition. Much of Weekend is devoted to defining these characters—or rather to watching how they define themselves—in streams of free-flowing but perfectly calibrated talk, and in a few candid, tender sex scenes.
A gifted writer with an ear for naturalistic dialogue and a shrewd sense of structure, Haigh embeds several discoveries along the way—most crucially, the catch that defines the film’s time frame and immediately lends its meandering conversations a heightened urgency: Glen is leaving for the States on Sunday for a two-year art program. [...] But it’s a testament to Haigh’s skill and maturity that Weekend doesn’t hinge on simple plot points, on will-they-won’t-they suspense, or on a late twist that reveals an unexpected connection between the protagonists. What truly matters here is the vivid sense of two young men going about thoroughly ordinary lives, neither fully satisfied nor exactly depressed (“Are you happy?” Glen asks Russell; “I’m fine,” he responds), engaged in the day-to-day drama of figuring out who they are, in public and in private. (Lim, 2012, http://www.criterion.com/current/posts/2426-weekend-the-space-between-two-people)