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“Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” – 2012 Film

9 Sep

Job security, pension, relationships, sugar, fat salt, alcohol etc.  All those stresses of life… that just wouldn’t matter if the world were about to end!  As the hero of the film says at one point: “I couldn’t possibly give a shit!”

The end of the World, howsoever it will be caused, will be, quite literally, an entirely unprecedented event.  And as such, we can have no certain idea how society will react when it happens (which I’m sure will be millions or billions of years from now, in case anyone is worried!).

But this movie makes a pretty good attempt at predicting society’s varied reactions: rioting, suicides, denial, ceasing to care about anything, a mass baptism, finding peace in someone’s arms at the very end.  And as such, it is a chaotic mix of genres: action movie, romance, tragedy, comedy.  The fundamental nature of this film vividly reflects a human society falling apart at the seams, dazed and unsure, as though asking simply: “What the f**k?!”

The film follows Dodge and Penny in the last few weeks of the World before the arrival of an enormous, all-destroying meteor.

OK, at this point, I need to insert my usual Spoiler Alert:

This post reveals some aspects of the plot, although there is still plenty of the plot left unrevealed.  Or something like that – as Dodge says, I couldn’t possibly give a shit! 🙂

In reality, the end of the world may well be harrowing and full of suffering for many, maybe most, people.  And the film briefly alludes to this at some points, but on the whole it is an escapist story, concentrating as it does on Dodge and Penny’s sugar-coated story in those last three weeks: Dodge, weary and jaded; and Penny, fearful, but covering her fear with a romantic and hedonistic outlook.  They are each recently separated from their respective partners and together, their new relationship is wonderfully symbiotic and mutually comforting.  The soundtrack perfectly conveys this warmth and comfort towards the end:

“Sometimes, all I need is the air that I breathe and to love you!”

Exactly! Nothing else matters to them at that point. Work, job security, alcohol, sugar, salt etc etc….

Sugar-coated, I know.  And that sugar coating is reinforced by the suspension of certain other likely realities: Dodge and Penny have a last cooked meal together, ignoring the fact that the electricity supply would quite likely stop as nobody would bother going to work at the power stations (or anywhere)!  

But in spite of these unrealistic aspects, the film pretty well captures many believable aspects of a world on the brink of ending: a chaotic mix of despair, fear, pent-up emotion release and aversion hedonism.

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“About Time” – 2013 Film

9 Dec

The lovely Rachel McAdams reprises the role of a time-traveller’s wife in this rom-com (having previously played the titular role in “THE Time-Traveller’s Wife”.

But there’s far more appeal to this feel-good film than just that. It’s a good example of how a much-used idea can still make a good film, as it’s the execution, not just the idea itself.

The story is basically this: Tim (appropriate name) discovers from his father that he has the ability to travel back in time.  So he uses this ability to be more successful with women as well as to help friends in difficult situations, such as remedying the disastrous performance of a play written by his playwright friend.

In so doing, he discovers that if you change the past, you affect the present in other unintended ways also.  So as I said, a much-used idea.

But the much-used idea is very well used in this film.  The like-able, and in some cases amusing, personalities of most of the characters, together with the settings in London and rural, coastal Cornwall give it a nice, warm feel.  If you’re tired of films about violence and bitterness, this is the antidote. But it’s not so sugary an antidote as to induce vomiting! The balance seems just right.

I must just mention again the settings of London and Cornwall: when I live away from my own country, I tend to feel more patriotic. Absence makes the heart grow fonder (or in my case: fond). It’s nice to see these two contrasting parts of England, including the “Dans le Noir” restaurant in London (which I HIGHLY recommend, by the way).

The idea of time-travel to the past affecting the present may be much used, but it’s a versatile idea. That’s the beauty of it!  It allows for so many variations in plot, so that this film still feels unique (at least by my experience).

Finally it ends with a rather nice message about life, which could make you roll your eyes and sneer, or could make you think (as it did to me): “That’s a pretty good piece of advice!”

Cruel Intentions – 1999 Movie

21 Oct

This is probably one of the best films I’ve ever seen; but I sometimes wonder what it is about it that appeals so much.

The story – which is a present-day New York remake of “Dangerous Liaisons” – follows two rather elaborate and cruel plots to manipulate and play with the emotions of two unsuspecting victims.  One is a naive young woman – Cecile – who is falsely befriended by Kathryn, whose only desire in posing as her friend is to give her false advice on her love life with the intention of making her the “premier tramp of the Manhattan” (I think it was Manhattan).  The other is Annette – an avowed virgin – who is pursued by Sebastian as she is a great challenge (“She will be my greatest victory”) and because Kathryn bets him that he can’t succeed in getting her into bed.

In short, Kathryn and Sebastian – who are step-siblings – sink to the depths of unpleasantness in their manipulation and game-playing, and beyond simply the above-mentioned too.  And here’s the thing – there is no explanation for their cruelty. Many films may feature characters who lead a life of crime because they’ve never succeeded in life on the straight and narrow, or because they simply come from a deprived background.  Not that I’m excusing any crime but I’m making a comparison, because Kathryn and Sebastian are filthy rich, independently-schooled and good-looking.  They’ve grown up with advantages and they choose to become scum.

And perhaps the appeal of the film is that uniqueness – people who are cruel with no reason other than their own selfish enjoyment and belief in their own entitlement to have their way.  [Rather like the Party in George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty Four” a member of whom states that the Party seeks power purely for the sake of power].

In both “Cruel Intentions” and “Nineteen Eighty Four” (OK, so not entirely unique), that excess of inexplicable unpleasantness can appeal BECAUSE IT IS FICTION – and therefore it provides an escape.  It can make you think “OK, so I know I have to put up with [INSERT NAME OF NEMESIS] but at least they’re not as bad as those two characters”.

And then of course there are the come-uppances. I won’t spoil the story for those who haven’t seen it, but Kathryn and Sebastian do get their come-uppances. And although the ending is ludicrously implausible – it has the feeling of a scene in a fairy-tale, something like “The people of the village all turned against the wicked witch and she was banished from the kingdom” – it still really gives a fitting ending to the film!  Maybe it’s the unashamed ludicrousness of it that appeals – as though the writer is saying “This is my idea, so what if you think it’s silly, I’ve made a bloody good film!”

And the very final scene, with Reese Witherspoon driving the open-top Jag, her long blonde hair fluttering in the wind…….  OK, I’ll stop there!