Archive for Stanley Tucci

The Lovely Bones (2009)

Posted in 2009, Drama, Reviews, Teen, Thriller with tags , , , , , , on January 10, 2010 by filmglutton

I have been eagerly anticipating The Lovely Bones for a couple of years, ever since I first read that Peter Jackson would be adapting it. This is partly because I read and enjoyed the book, but also because I am a great fan of Peter’s and I’m always interested to see what he does next. I’d read some mixed reviews so I went into this with mixed expectations.

The Lovely Bones is the story of Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan), a 14-year-old girl who is murdered by a neighbour. It’s the 1970s and things like that are almost unheard of, particularly in pleasant suburbia where Susie’s family lives. The film deals with her death and her subsequent afterlife as she watches her family, unable to move on from the ‘in-between’ (the place between heaven and Earth) whilst her family is emotionally tormented and her killer still at large.

Alice Sebold’s book has been extremely popular, probably mainly with teenagers. It might seem a strange choice for Jackson to adapt this novel, but I guess it spoke to him in a certain way.

There are some sequences in The Lovely Bones that are so beautiful, so perfectly put together that it’s a shame the whole thing isn’t so finely tuned. This is a film that could have been incredible, but it falls short. I actually like the changes made to the novel. I like that the ending has changed, I liked that Jackson did not show Susie’s brutal rape and murder, instead adopting a more elusive approach. But the material isn’t taken far enough. Reviews have been mixed and you will probably leave the theatre with quite mixed feelings. I know I did.

All of the actors are  very good, if somewhat underused. For all the negative anticipation surrounding Mark Wahlberg, he is actually believable empathetic here as a grieving father. Rachel Weisz has one of the smallest parts as Susie’s mother, but she does well with what she has. Susan Saranon provides comic relief for the audience, emotional support for the family. Rose McIver is good as Susie’s younger sister Lindsay (even though Rose is actually 6 years older than Saoirse), who takes it upon herself to find Susie’s killer. Saoirse Ronan is as good as you would expect from a young Oscar nominee, but the real standout here is Stanley Tucci. I know it can be really cliched for an actor to get accolades for such an extreme role, but he really does bring this real edge to Mr Harvey. A lot of people have made comments about his supposely stereotypical paedophile moustache, but I don’t think he was cliched in this role. He gave me the creeps, especially since I’m so used to seeing him in likeable roles.

The most problematic thing about The Lovely Bones is the sequences of Susie in the in-between. Whenever the action moves to Susie we want it to move back to the family, we want the story to move on., because there is no real storyline involving Susie. She just watches, wanting her killer to be caught and for her family to be ok. Although there are some moments with Susie (when she connects with her family) that work really well, most have a really lame Ghost (the Demi Moore film) feel to them, right down to the breathy voice uttering wise words. And even though the ending is far better than that of the novel, it’s still not satisfying, and may have a few audience members rolling their eyes. The Lovely Bones is so grounded in reality that these fantasy sequences don’t fit in.

But there is a lot to like about this film. Suspense is built really well (even though we know who the murderer is) and, as I said, some sequences are close to perfection. I loved the music, and I actually liked the design of the film (which some have derisively likened to a 70s record cover)I would love to see Peter do just one film without any fantasy sequence. I know he loves and specialises in special effects, but I think he could make a really terrific film without special effects.

As it is, this one falls a bit flat, but it still has a lot to offer.

My rating:

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Julie & Julia (2009)

Posted in 2009, Based on True Events, Comedy, Drama with tags , , , , , , , on November 11, 2009 by filmglutton

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Julie & Julia is set in the late 40s/early 50s as Julia Child (Meryl Streep), the American woman who became a household name due to her bestselling book Mastering the Art of French Cooking and had her TV show, fulfils a desire to take cooking lessons while living in Paris. The film is also set in New York in the 2000s, as Julie Powell (Amy Adams) starts a blog where she will chronicle her attempts to cook all 524 of Julia’s recipes in one year. It moves back and forth between the two storylines, showing how these women are connected by their love of cooking. They are also both married to very patient and loving husbands; Stanley Tucci plays Paul Child and Chris Messina plays Julie’s husband Eric.
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This is a really warm and charming film. All of the performances are strong – they really make this film. Meryl Streep steals the show as usual, but Tucci is good as her husband and Adams makes Julie, a somewhat self-centred character, sympathetic and likeable. Julia Child is the kind of woman you would either love or hate in real life. She has so much spirit, but she is also full-on. I loved her in this, probably because Streep is so empathetic. There is an undercurrent of sadness that Julia and Paul don’t have any children. Julie and her husband are refreshingly ordinary, they just look so normal. As I’ve said, Julie is a bit self-obsessed, but it’s a bit understandable when we see her friends. They are extremely self-centred, and a blog is Julie’s chance to be heard. Despite seeming self-centred, she is actually very empathetic and gets genuinely emotional about the people that call her at work every day. Julie needs to feel validated; we recognise this desire in ourselves, and thus we understand her faults.

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The problem with the film is that you never really connect with the characters. That sounds like I’m going back on everything I said, but let me explain. I was interested in the characters and their storylines, but I never felt that the stakes were very high. It never felt like they were going to fail, thus taking away a lot of potential drama. This film could potentially be quite forgettable.

Overall Julie & Julia is an enjoyable film that is elevated by fine production and great acting. Women of all ages and older men will like this movie.

My Rating: 1111