Movies of the Week #48 (2017)

A very light week once again, with some foodies, some romcomies, some biopicies…that got out of hand quickly. Hard to pick a stand-out, but I’ll go with nostalgia and feel-good, seeing how Christmas is just around the corner.

Movie of the Week

Definitely Maybe (2008)

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The original before the remake

  • Mostly Martha (2001): The original to the Zeta-Jones/Eckhart remake, No Reservations (2007), is a cute little thing. A workaholic chef, Martha, is faced with an unexpected challenge in her stifled life and has to find answers to questions she seems to never have asked. The foodie-pic boasts some gorgeous desert talk and a relatable lead, but I felt it was let down by a rushed ending. Additionally, the version I watched had dubbed the co-protagonist, Mario, because Sergio Castellitto, who played the part, wasn’t fluent enough in German – a major charisma turn-off. Not sure if there is a version without dubbing, but if it exists, it’s worth the effort to get the most out of MM. 6/10

500 Days of Maybe

  • Definitely, Maybe (2008): Rewatching DM proved quite the sweet, nostalgic experience. Suddenly, with hindsight, I realize how much it’s just a movie version of How I Met Your Mother (2005), as well as the influence it had on 500 Days of Summer (2009) – down to the names! Anyway, as far as sappy romcoms are concerned, it’s rarely the set-up that matters, but more the chemistry between the star-crossed lovers, who are well and on their way if they’re aided and abetted by decent dialogue from time to time. Ryan Reynolds, Isla Fisher, Elizabeth Brooks and Rachel Weisz are all quite awesome, so much that disbelief is duly suspended to validate this modern fairy tale ignited by Bill Clinton. 7/10

Mathematics meets spiritualism

  • The Man Who Knew Infinity (2015): It’s hard to take a movie about sciences seriously when one of its characters, a professor at Cambridge moreover, claims that Newton ‘invented gravity’. Yet, this is just one of the smaller faults of TMWKI, a formulaic and trite attempt at telling a story about mathematics by reducing it to a duality of faith and proofs. The story of Ramanujan and Hardy, littered with a couple of other significant Cambridge lecturers who only serve as narrative tools, isn’t all bad, in spite of bathing neck deep in the cliched stereotype of the mystical Indian. In truth, that’s pretty much what Ramanujan claimed to be and faith played an important part in who he was not only as a human being, but also as a mathematician. What the movie failed at is to really flesh out his character, to make it at least as interesting as cab number 1729 (inside joke there). Perhaps a more experienced director/writer than Matthew Brown could’ve milked more than just sentimentality out of TMWKI. 5/10

In preparation for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

  • The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio (2005): An in-form Julianne Moore just about keeps this piece of film-making afloat. Set in the American 1960s, the unusual story of the forlorn, yet stoic housewife gets a twist thanks to the game shows that used to run on TV all the time and challenge people at home, with prizes up for grabs. Basically, Moore’s character here is a copywriter before there really was a market for copywriters and her obvious talent for words is only surpassed by her ability to keep a good-willing attitude towards her atrocious husband. It’s an unusual anti-feminist push by an otherwise pro-feminist movie and it feels out of place as a mere side-story, the marital abuse. This degree of tolerance disquieted me somehow, in spite of a story that’s generally agreeable. 6/10

When people bring more than wine to a party

  • The Party (2017): Theatre-esque movie setups, very heavy on dialogue, can be quite exhilarating. I thoroughly enjoyed Polanski’s Carnage (2011), which bears some familiarity to Sally Potter’s The Party. Unfortunately, this newer effort feels mostly strung out and the bunch of characters grouped together for a mere seventy minutes don’t work up the chemistry to blow the lid, as they do, towards the end. In spite of some agreeable performances and the odd chuckle, this dinner party never amounts to anything beyond some vague allegorical hint as to our striving for some miraculous ideal of self-validation and self-absorption. 6/10