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Just When You Think It's Going Good...

October 7th, 2008 (11:16 pm)

I think someone cursed me yesterday...

© 2008
D. Gordon

Running for the first movie yesterday (if you're not there by the scheduled start, they don't let you in), I ran into an American running to another movie slated for the same time. We talked a bit on the elevator, and he mentioned that he'd seen one particular stinker – sort of a cross between Scream and Single White Female with a ridiculous ending - vehemently enough that the woman standing next to us agreed.

Now I'd been doing pretty well with my selections, and told them so. And of course that was when I walked into Country Wedding...

Country Wedding
Iceland, 2008
Dir: Valdis Oskarsdottir

A wedding road trip. Yes, it's possible when a wedding party rents two buses to take them to a rustic setting in the Icelandic countryside. Given the two oddball families, the groom's claustrophobia (which he hasn't shared with the bride) resulting in a detour, and no one actually knowing where the church is, the buses get lost. Mayhem ensues.

Director Valdis Oskardottir is a long-time film editor now trying her hand at screenwriting / directing. She's put together a largely improvised comedy with an ensemble group. Since the Icelandic Film Commission requires full screenplays to fund projects, she was forced to find outside funding and to economize where she could. Thus there are limited costumes, and the "set" is mainly two buses driving around the Icelandic countryside in natural light.

Budget doesn't have to be an indicator of quality, and there are many truly great low-budget films. This, however, isn't one of them. The movie is too long and too inconsistently funny. Nothing's wrong with the basic premise, but it's just not well-executed. There are some laugh moments, but a much better effect could have been achieved with some editing down and tightening up.

As I mentioned, Oskarfdottir is new to directing and screenwriting. It's possible that screenplay #3 or #4 could be quite entertaining, but improv is very susceptible to wandering without a firm hand at the helm, and she just might not have it yet.

Canada, 2008
Dir: Atom Egoyan

For some reason I feel like I've seen most of Atom Egoyan's films. And I haven't.

I've definitely seen The Sweet Hereafter, and I've seen him and his wife Arsinée Khanjian doing interviews and such. But looking it up on imdb, I've caught very little of his actual work. Which is a shame - the detached quality that runs through his work is different from the type of detachment that I respond to, and I may be letting that get in the way of my opinion of him. So my hopes were up to correct that through Adoration.

The movie centers around Simon, a teen in a Toronto high school. One day his French class is assigned a translation exercise of an article written about a terrorist plot involving a pregnant woman used to carry a bomb on board a plane. (This is based on a real-life incident, which was foiled as in the movie.) Simon turns in an essay about being that child in his mother's womb, and what his life has been like because of it. His teacher is impressed, and has him read the essay to the class. But the situation quickly becomes complicated; the school steps in when the teacher wants to use the essay in the school's drama presentation – and then spirals out of control when Simon posts the writeup on the web, where it spreads like wildfire, engendering all sorts of discussion and pulling all sorts of people out of the woodwork.

There are fatal problems with the film, mainly that it's not sure what it wants to be - it covers too many things, none very well. Is it a political treatise? A polemic? A discussion of foreign policy? Western attitudes towards other cultures? A boy's search for his lost parents? The story of his current family? A look at modern-day internet culture? Or the narrative of his teacher's life - the one who starts the ball rolling? Each of these threads makes an appearance at different points of the movie, and any one (or some combination of them) would make for an engaging movie. But Egoyan never seems comfortable with any of then, singularly or in groups, and in fact lets some overtake others without any real point being made.

Arsinée Khanjian, Egoyan's wife, has the key role of Sabine, the teacher who starts Simon down this path. She's meant to play a rather erratic woman with a tendency towards bad judgments, but is never quite convincing. Maybe, though she's just not given enough to anchor herself to.