Posted on Sunday, May 16th, 2010 by Peter Sciretta
The first weekend has finally hit at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival, which means bigger crowds, longer lines, and more hub-bub about the star studded premieres on the red carpet. It also means that some of the more anticipated films of the festival have begun to premiere. The photo above shows the crowd of people waiting to get into the new Woody Allen film, as taken from the top of the red carpet stairs. Over the last 48 hours, I’ve screened new films from Oliver Stone, Woody Allen, Mike Leigh and Hideo Nakata. I wish I could rave about any of these films, but so far I’ve been unimpressed.
Oliver Stone‘s Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is the first of two sequels to be released this year in which more than twenty years have passed since the original. Tron Legacy would be the other. It has been twenty three years since Gordon Gekko appeared on the big screen, and Michael Douglas reprises the role which won him an Oscar. The film introduces us to a young Wall Street trader named Jacob Moore (played by Shia LaBeouf), who is dating Gordon’s estranged daughter Winnie Gekko (Carey Mulligan).
Speaking of Gordon, he was released from prison in 2001, and is now seven years later touring with a book he wrote in prison called “Is Greed Good?” He is a modern day prophet who foresees the upcoming financial crash, but no one is listening — and why should they? This is Gordon Gekko we’re talking about. Jacob is forced to team with Gekko to uncover the secret of who was really responsible for killing his mentor Lewis Zabel (Frank Langella). Gekko trades the help and infomation for the opportunity to see his daughter again.
If this plot seems convoluted, it’s probably because it is. The whole film is an excuse for Stone to comment on the current financial crisis, which is the backdrop of this story. But the result is a hodgepodge of ideas. Documentary style cutaways to television news segments, which he attempts to weave into this narrative story of a daughter who wants nothing to do with her father, and her boyfriend who tries to reunite them for his own ulterior motives. Not surprisingly, the financial storyline is often more compelling than the dramatized narrative excuse that Stone employs for the film. With W. and this film, I just don’t understand why Stone didn’t just make documentaries. He clearly wants to explore these subjects in greater depth than a narrative fictionalized film will allow.
Wall Street 2 is not a bad film, but it definitely is no where as good as the original. Missing are the great quotable lines of dialogue, even though the film offers a few good attempts. The quote “Money Never Sleeps” (which has become the sequel’s title) has been modernized: “Money is a bitch who never sleeps, and she’s jealous.” Charlie Sheen, Bud Fox himself, makes a cameo, but it’s brief and rather pointless. Stone even appears in his own cameo as an investor.
Stone employs strange transitions, split screens, a dead character who appears as a ghost in one scene and a selection of odd musical choices. During one sequence, the camera is placed from the point of view of the computer monitors, with the computer graphics superimposed across the screen. It just feels off. The whole film feels off.
The film features some good performances from all of the players involved (and the film will introduce Carrey Mulligan to mainstream audiences, which is a plus), but the performances aren’t enough to carry the film. That said, the movie is worth watching for Stone’s cinematic commentary on the financial crash, and the performances might be enough to keep you interested until the end. Unfortunately, the story is very easily to telegraph, and you’ll likely know where it ends very early on. I didn’t need Gekko’s book to figure it out, and you won’t either.
I have not yet been impressed by any of the internet-set/internet-focused horror films that have been released thus far. It’s shocking because the web can be such a scary place at times. I was hoping that Hideo Nakata‘s Chatroom might be the first good attempt at the horror subgenre. Nakata is the 48-year-old Japanese director behind the original Japanese film Ring and Ring 2 (which were remade into very popular films in the states). He even directed the American sequel The Ring Two, and was also responsible for the original Dark Water as well.
The film tells the story of a group of teenagers who meet in an internet chat room, and one member who encourages the others to act dangerously. In the movie, the chat room is visualized as an empty conference room in a run down hotel. The chat rooms are furnished/decorated to reflect the personality of the room’s creator.
This unfortunately is not the film I hoped it would be. In fact, it isn’t really a horror film at all. It feels more like a failed experiment than anything else. I learned after the fact that the movie is an adaptation of a play by Enda Walsh, who won much acclaim with 2008 film Hunger. And knowing this information gives you a much better understanding of how this mess became a movie. I can imagine that the real life visualization of a chat room works much better on stage than it did on screen. It also explains why most of the film is almost completely conversation based resulting in a very uncinematic film full of interesting but static production design.
The concept offers some interesting possibilities which are never fully explored. In an internet chat room you can pretend to be anyone, and many people pretend to be something or someone they are not. It would have been interesting to see that aspect explored visually, with reveals of who some of these characters really are in real life. Instead, it is very much an open book from start to finish. An uninteresting character-based drama that says nothing about the technology or the people that inhabit it.
Mike Leigh‘s new film Another Year tells the story of an older Psychiatrist named Gerri (Ruth Sheen), her Geologist husband Tom (Jim Broadbent), their unmarried grown-up son Joe, Gerri’s lonely/loopy friend Mary (Lesley Manville), and Tom’s drunk/slob friend Ken. The film is how these characters interact over the course of one year. The majority of the movie takes place in Gerri and Ruth’s house, entirely conversation based, over the course of a handfull of friendly get-togethers.
Another Year is a wonderfully well-written character piece with great performances from the entire ensemble cast. The film is a meditation on growing old, family, legacy, marriage. That said, I found it rather dull and borring. I think I’m a bit too young to relate to the issues at hand. I have talked to many people at the festival who loved this film, and completely connected with the issues and tone, but I’m just not one of them.
I’m running behind, so my thoughts on Woody Allen‘s new film You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger will have to wait until tomorrow. Here are some more photos from my Cannes adventures:
We were turned away at the first screening of the much anticipated killer tire movie Rubber. As you can see, the lines were lone.
Spotted: A guy in a knight costume eating McDonalds next to the fountain in the square:
The craziness of the world premiere for Woody Allen’s new film:
The quieter side of Cannes: