Wednesday, October 28, 2009

An Education

Review by Rob McKinnon

Opening Date: 10/30/09
Running Time: 95 min
Rated: PG-13
Directed by: Lone Scherfig
Screenplay by Nick Hornby
Adapted from a memoir by Lynn Barber

As I started to write this review, I found myself about to write that I'm not usually a fan of "coming of age" films. It suddenly occurred to me that I too often begin a review with the idea: "I'm not usually a fan of...." This is really not quite correct. What I'm not a fan of are ill-conceived, badly done films no matter the genre or subject matter. So for this review let me begin by saying there are and have been way too many really dumb or derivative coming-of-age movies made. This film, AN EDUCATION, is, however a brilliant exception to that assessment for a vast number of reasons.

Firstly, it has a fully realized story that is much more than about the onset of teenage sexual awareness. AN EDUCATION is the story of a teenage girl's coming-of-age, i.e., not another visiting of the horny teenage boy coming-of-age formula film. It is set in 1961 London. (Though I don't like to admit it, this probably makes it a period film to the younger audience. Geez, this is my period, it really doesn't seem that long ago.) Anyway, London was at that time a city passing through the change from the drab-gray, postwar 1950's to the glamorous and liberated decade ahead. The setting and atmosphere are wonderfully and authentically captured by the film. The young girl whose story is told, "Jenny," is played with absolute believability and conviction by Carey Mulligan. Sixteen-year-old Jenny is a truly brilliant, extremely witty, and winningly attractive private school girl. Her father, played by the always interesting Alfred Molina, is absolutely focused on her being accepted to Oxford University. Both of her parents are extremely conservative, a condition with which Jenny seems comfortable or, at least, accepting. The only boy in her life is a bicycle-riding, immature, and somewhat "geeky" kid she's known forever. Her life, however, is about to change as she receives a very different and very real life education.

Her life teacher is the utterly unsuitable, urbane, and witty 30-something, "David," played to perfection by Peter Sarsgaard. David, with the skill of a practiced con man, charms her parents and introduces Jenny to a glittering new world of classical concerts and late-night suppers with his attractive friend and business partner "Danny" (Dominic Cooper) and Danny's girlfriend, a vacuous but beautiful "Helen" (Rosamund Pike). Ms. Pike plays clueless and empty-headedness as only a truly intelligent actress can. There is much going on with all of them which I will leave for you to discover when you see this exceptional film for yourself. Will Jenny realize the value of her previous life and goals or will she be seduced away by the temporal and shallow pleasures offered by her new friends? Will David turn out to be her true and lasting love? What about her current school life? Her attaining entrance into Oxford? See for yourself, and please don't miss this absolutely delightful film.
It opens Friday, October 30, in Houston, at Landmark's River Oaks Theater.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Coco Before Chanel

Women In Film & Television Houston invites you to a prerelease screening.

Support Women Filmmakers! This is a great chance to see the film before it opens in theaters. Then help spread the word if you like it.

COCO BEFORE CHANEL is directed by Anne Fontaine, and she co-wrote the screenplay with Camille Fontaine. BAFTA nominee Audrey Tautou (AMELIE, A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT) stars as Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel in this adaptation of the book by Edmonde Charles-Roux. Two-time Cesar nominee Anne Fontaine (THE GIRL FROM MONACCO, HOW I KILLED MY FATHER) traces Chanel's rise from humble beginnings to the height of the fashion world. Critics are calling Tautou's performance her "finest yet." in the gorgeous, glossy, period piece.

See you at the movies!

Opens Friday, Oct. 9, 2009

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Invention of Lying

Review by Rob McKinnon

Opening Date: 10/2/09
Running Time: 100 min.
Rated: PG-13
Written & Directed by: Ricky Gervais & Matthew Robinson

If "Capitalism: A Love Story" leaves you a little down, I've got just the remedy: Ricky Gervais' new release, "The Invention of Lying." Gervais, if somehow you don't already know it, is the creator and star of the original British version of "The Office." He is truly a comic genius and shouldn't be confused with the boorish character he created for "The Office." There is a great deal of humanity in his seemingly outrageous and, to some, offensively politically incorrect humor. But look a little more deeply and you'll find very human observations which are actually quite sympathetic or at least empathetic in his work. This is certainly true of this film.

Without giving too much away, the film is about a world and time almost exactly like ours except for the fact that absolutely nobody lies. No one is even aware of the concept of lying. Everyone, no matter what, speaks the truth. They don't even think about it, they just can't do anything else. This leads to a great deal of situational humor in the kinds of social and business circumstances in which most of us, frankly, filter, at least, or even lie. Of course, only to avoid hurting others, like, your friend who has an ugly baby; or, when you call in to work because you're feeling ill and in truth just didn't want to go in. Dating. I'll leave it there, because I don't want to take one hilarious enjoyment away from you.

I will tell you that eventually, one character discovers (invents) lying. And, being the only person in the world to know what it is, and be able to do it, creates even more outrageously funny happenings. Gervais is terrific as the main character. The script, which he co-wrote, is intelligent and often satirical and rises high above what could have remained a one-trick piece of extended sketch comedy in lesser hands. You are bound to enjoy every bit of the LOL film. It's a comedy which will stay with you and actually cause you to give some thought to some very interesting philosophical questions. Don't let this last observation scare you, however. Just go for the pure fun and entertainment. In other words, don't miss it. - Rob McKinnon

Capitalism: A Love Story

Review by Rob McKinnon

Opening Day: 10/2/09
Running Time: 127 minutes
Written & Directed by Michael Moore

I have recently viewed a screening of Michael Moore's latest politcal documentary, "Capitalism: A Love Story." Moore has definitely found his "laughing place," and comfort zone in the creating of this type of documentary hybred; a mixture of serious political documentary reportage and humorous to outright funny, satirically political vignettes. No exception here in what I personally consider to be his most entertaining work yet.

The film skewers the investment houses and banks that have, under the guise of free-market capitalism, given in to the basest instincts of what I call the MFA-ification of American capitalism. I truly believe that the founders of this incredible nation, arguably naively, created both our political and economic systems which gave great freedom while expecting ethical and responsible participation by citizens. We all know how corruption upon corruption has left us with a chaotic, unproductive, inefficient, bloated, and possibly collapsing political system. The MGA-ification of the economic shpere has led to a complete lack of ethical behavior, with only the monthly dividend, grotesquely inflated executive salaries and bonuses, profit over quality or concern for consumer safety as the primary considerations.

Rather than create products or services of value, the business and finance corporations would rather create arcane instruments and methods for creating huge profits through what amounts simply to gambling. Derivatives anyone?

Moore's film will show you some of the ways the current band of unethical financial bandits, who have and are running much of our broken economy, brought us to this point. Moore also acts as our ombudsman, confronting the perpetrators and challenging them to explain and justify what they have done, (they can't) and demanding restitution for the American people.

It's all done with humor and some exageration, and it's all very entertaining. Depressing, but entertaining. It brings to mind the old movie trailer line, "You'll laugh, you'll cry." But don't miss it.