Spling reviews While We're Young, Terminator: Genisys and Cake as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Catch Talking Movies on Fridays at 8:20am and Saturdays at 8:15am every week on Fine Music Radio.
While We're Young is a film by Noah Baumbach, the writer-director who brought us The Squid and the Whale, Margot at the Wedding, Frances Ha and Greenberg, which also starred Ben Stiller. Baumbach's got an unconventional approach, tending towards comedy dramas and the uncomfortable "dramedy" genre, delivering honest, humorous, heartfelt and meaningful films about complex people and the human condition.
His latest film, While We're Young, encounters concerns faced by modern society about the over-reliance on technology in how we relate to one another. Baumbach is also fascinated with how this has counter-cultural implications on an alienated youth and the hipster movement, as the disenfranchised look to the past for a more tactile, retro connection beyond the inadequacies of digital relationships.
To get into this head space of old and new, analog and digital, real and unreal... he's juxtaposed two couples: a childless 40-something married couple and a free-spirited 20-something couple. Josh and Cornelia, played by Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts, are reinvigorated by the care-free, can-do attitude of Jamie and Darby, played by Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried. As the two couples draw closer and more in tune, inconsistencies arise and the promise of an apprentice and master friendship crumble as the ego-bruising realities of this couple romance bloom.
"These boots are made for skatin'... and that's just what they'll do."
Ben Stiller is perfectly cast as a documentary film-maker, whose unfinished work begins to pain his marriage to Cornelia. He's a me-versus-the-world guy, whose stringent work ethic and niche subject matter have gone unrewarded. We empathise and admire him for sticking it out and find his inflexibility quite amusing. Naomi Watts plays Cornelia, his supportive, yet increasingly despondent wife, who tries to adjust to their new lust for life.
Jamie and Darby become the perfect distraction, reminding them of when they were more free and inspiring the couple to live outside-the-box. Adam Driver slips into the role of a lucky, naive and unconventional film-maker with a knack for what works. While Amanda Seyfried isn't quite as easy-going, she's just as naive and cute in all their homespun glory.
While We're Young grapples with existential issues and delivers on entertainment value, yet it does have an I Heart Huckabees echo with a semi-pretentious "elixir of truth/youth" edge. The retro cool paradigm has a similar dynamic to Ellen Page and Jason Bateman's characters in Juno. One scene involving buckets and chanting went a bit too far, otherwise it's a mostly consistent, thought-provoking and enjoyable watch.
All in all, While We're Young serves as a timely commentary on society and contemporary values. The drama is built on a thoughtful script, an in-form Stiller and solid supporting performances. The honest and whimsical tone sells the comedy as the characters find themselves in a fun house of mirrors and we're entertained by the hook-line-and-sinker sincerity of Josh and Cornelia.
Hollywood in my Huis is a South African romantic comedy about a wallflower, living in an impoverished railway neighbourhood, who tries to devise the perfect matric prom. It's part She's All That, part Bakgat!and part Juno with a strong Cinderella undercurrent.
The She's All That element is from our central character's aspiration to look like Charlize Theron at the 2004 Oscars. She's trying to sew an Oscar-worthy dress together in an attempt to dazzle her peers, going from wallflower to Prom Queen. It isn't as simple as letting her hair down and taking off her glasses (she doesn't wear any), but the transition has a humourous before-and-after appeal.
The Bakgat! high school tone comes through in the mischievous interplay between jocks and nerds in a classic Revenge of the Nerds challenge as boys and girls mingle in corridors. The love triangle romance creates tension and the pranks, humiliation and retribution keep the film light-hearted and upbeat.
"Show me your paso doble."
They say it takes a community to raise a baby and while the only baby in Hollywood in my Huis is the song "baby chocolates", the comedy has a Juno small town sass about it. Christia Visser is a charming young actress who beams with unassuming confidence as Jana. Much like Ally McBeal, our lead's amusing daydreams play out as she aspires to recreate the winning Charlize Theron look.
She stars opposite best friend Frikkie, played by Edwin van der Walt, like a young Sam Rockwell. The co-leads have got believable "it's complicated" chemistry and feature with solid performances once again, after equally captivating turns in Ballade vir 'n Enkeling. The cast is made up of many supporting acting talents, including: Nicola Hanekom, Louw Venter, Leandie du Randt and Elana Afrika-Bredenkamp.
Hanekom plays home stylist turned mother, Beatrice, a role you'd imagine Naomi Watts taking on nowadays. She feels under-appreciated and on the cusp of divorcing her family with what seems like a life of regrets. There's a melancholy to the performance and she shares some great moments opposite Louw Venter as her daydreaming, simpleton of a husband.
Venter delivers another diamond in the rough, tapping into a The Big Lebowski state of mind with an unpredictable performance that ironically grows on you along with the character's new pursuit. Leandie du Randt is right at home as the typically detestable Miss Popular with a Mean Girls entourage and Elana Afrika-Bredenkamp delivers a heartfelt Fairy Godmother role.
Director Corne van Rooyen has brought this colourful, quirky and entertaining small town romantic comedy to life. We're entertained, from Jana sewing her own dress, to conspiring to land the high school hunk as her date to out-manovereing family and friends in her prom obsession.
Hollywood in my Huis works as a fun, lightweight feel good "promcom" and has a range of eccentric supporting characters to keep us amused. It's not totally original, but composes the various elements in such a way to deliver something fresh and enjoyable.
In the Cape we know about good things. We draw on the sky, the waters and the land of our beautiful region to craft foods and drinks that are famous throughout the world. We create pleasures that reflect our surroundings. And when we get together our conversation reflects the best of an osmosis of good taste, intellect and passion. We craft opinions which are as good for the heart and the mind as a craft beer brewed at the foot of Table Mountain is good for the taste buds and the nerves*.
A conversation I had with Spling last week about Mad Max: Fury Road resulted in just such an opinion. Naturally, we disagreed on almost everything. The debate, however, remained gentlemanly.
For me the film was a good conception of a post-apocalyptic circus. It was a tattoo and body- scarring expo, a fetish ball, a skinhead rave, a ride with a lesbian biker gang, a politically correct freak show, a death metal concert with complimentary fire show, pimp-my-ride post-apocalypse style followed by a demolition derby, a battle royal between armed trapeze artists, an exorcism and a fashion shoot with wasteland theme.
The unifying factor of the disparate acts in the circus is the ring. In Fury Road it’s the car chase. Students/intellectuals interested in studying the film’s structure should not approach it in terms of three acts but in terms of three car chases. (Another, little car chase forms the prelude.)
People who were just looking for two hours of wild fun should have found it satisfying. Though, in my opinion, Tom Hardy, who took over from Mel Gibson in the lead role, was disappointing. He was laconic and rugged, but lacked the glint of madness in the eyes that made his predecessor convincingly “Mad” Max. Charlize Theron, with her cold blue eyes, prosthetic arm and engine grease smeared across her forehead for battle paint, was good in the role of post-historic warrior. Only, she was hampered by a silly script.
Fortunately, the dialogue was only really audible in the rare slow and sentimental scenes. I do recall cringing. Though I could never start to analyse how trite the story was before the motion, the sound and the redundant exploration of the result of high-velocity impact between human flesh and metal started over again. That’s what really counted.
At any rate, Mad Max: Fury Road kept me in the cinema until the credits rolled. And when I walked out onto the cheerfully lit albeit smoky patio of the Labia, the sight that greeted me was a wonderfully reassuring contrast... people having a drink, chatting and enjoying other such sane things on a warmish Friday night in May in Cape Town.
I admit that almost everything I’ve said is subjective. To those who demand objectivity I can only suggest they get the Cape Times, The Argus, The Voice or the eminent overseas journals. Those in the habit of using subjectivity themselves when they watch films are invited to read next month’s installment of The Craft Opinion Brewery (T.C.O.B.), available only on spling.co.za.
- Leonidas Michael
*Subject to your being over the drinking age. Don’t drink and drive even if you are over the drinking age. The Craft Opinion Brewery (T.C.O.B.) endorses responsible hedonism.