Frances Ha Movie Review

frances ha

See it. 7/10

“It’s after three. I can drink.”

The story of a young adult trying to find their purpose in life is an age-old fable that is used in a lot of films (Boyhood, Dead Poets Society, Good Will Hunting). At least with Frances Ha, the characters are very witty and original enough to spin a new twist on an overdone premise. These traits also make the film play out as a comedy and were often aspects I enjoyed laughing towards, as the character of Frances is quite the charming entertainer. Even if the jokes are often at the expense of Frances’ own miserably skewed life, which does follow a predictable path like all other films like it, Frances Ha has enough going for it that I have no qualms in recommending you see it.

Which are all thanks to the performance of Frances by Greta Gerwig who also co-wrote the script alongside director Noah Baumbach. Her character almost feels like an extension or exaggerated version of herself and it was clear that this role was not only incredibly comfortable for her but one that she clearly enjoyed playing. I got the sense that this could very well be a visual portrayal of how Greta Gerwig’s own young adult life was at that same stage as Frances because her performance felt that believable and real to me. The character to actor combination was a perfect match and without her performance, the film wouldn’t hold up as well as it did.

The best part, however, comes from the humor and wit that are placed within the story. Aside from the punchlines of jokes, I was a fan that the style of comedy lent itself to an observational tone. It was almost akin to that of a Seinfeld and even Woody Allen-esque because often moments in this film held jokes that were just about nothing important to the story and were witty remarks about a tiny detail. In fact, this whole film felt like one giant filler for time that is set up for laughs about small things in life and not on aspects of the bigger picture. This also smartly reflects the whole theme around Frances’s life as a young adult who really has no ambition to do anything meaningful in life because she’s afraid and doesn’t have much clue on what to do as an adult. So instead, she just meanders on peacefully, drifting from day to day and makes witty remarks much ado about nothing. And it worked for me.

Frances Ha isn’t anything amazing but that’s also sort of the point it’s trying to go for. This doesn’t make it flawless because it’s intended to have flaws, but it does make me respect its purpose a lot more. Yes, it’s another one those coming of age films but at least the focus is on a character that’s much older and is in her late twenties, compared to just confused teenagers that harbor a lot of angst. And for the most part, I also found it fairly humorous which is an aspect that a lot of other mainstream comedies fail to even come close to *cough* The Boss *cough* Bad Moms *cough*. I don’t have much else to add except that Frances Ha is out on Netflix in both Australia and the United States, so I recommend you give it a watch now that it’s easily accessible. See it.

Moonrise Kingdom Movie Review

moonrise kingdom

See it. 8.5/10

One of the strangest and most dysfunctional families seen in film.

Happy End is yet another fine example of its accomplished and well-refined genius writer/director Michael Haneke, an Austrian master of film, who seems almost ageless with a growing portfolio that continues to impress in excellence. At this point in his career, I feel that Michael Haneke has refined exactly the way he wants to not only write a story but how to also shoot it. Which is the same feeling that I get whenever I watch the Coen brothers, who I also see have made making films into an almost exact science, with an equally stellar filmography to that of Michael Haneke. And with his latest film Happy End, I can safely say that this tradition of making great movies, is still the case.

Unlike the film’s title, which might indicate to you a level of happiness about this film, this story is anything but the feeling of being happy. Not to say that it is depressing or will make you sad from watching it, but rather from the fact that it deals with a family of characters who are largely not at all very happy. And there’s quite a few of them. Which is great to see as together they form this strangely functional but still totally disturbing family, who not only hide a lot of secrets from each other but also to the rest of the world. A family of individuals who might seem positive on the outside but deep down, Michael Haneke has worked some seriously confronting traits in them.

What I enjoyed most about seeing all this unfold, is Michael Haneke’s superb direction with various exchanges between the characters. I want to particularly highlight the use of the continuous but extreme longshots, which captures characters from afar interacting but whom you aren’t privy to what they are saying. It’s a style that I feel makes Michael Haneke very recognizable as a director, because I’ve seen him use the same technique in his other films Caché and Code Unknown, both of which really work well because of it. Not only does it put the characters in an environment to truly act with an extended amount of time, so that they can also pace their rhythm and actions in a scene, but it also adds a lot of mystery to it, which is fundamentally one of the most interesting concepts about this story to me.

This is also done through the writing and editing since the information Michael Haneke reveals to us comes often with little to no real clear indications until later on in the film. Instead, I’m left thinking more about the scene that I’m watching and wondering what could be going on, rather than having everything being told or forced onto me, which is an aspect I think so many other films stress upon and get so wrong. By allowing me to try and dispel the mystery behind the story as it goes on, I’m constantly engaged with what’s occurring and have no clue where it could lead to next. And the fact that those continuous extended longshots are implemented in all of this, it really does fit the story and works to further provide mystery. Because as the characters move further away from the camera, the less I hear what’s going on but the more I’m curious as to what is being said, and what Michael Haneke has specifically chosen not to reveal.

Having said why I believe the technical direction of this film is superb, I nevertheless feel that its story could have improvements. For the most part, it feels like a very long slow burn of a film and although I did find the characters very well written, I still wished it could have been paced quicker. A few scenes I didn’t think were necessary and could have been cut to make the runtime shorter. Some details of the narrative were also questionable, and I feel like would have ended differently in reality. And though I praised the choice to use the continuous longshots to add to the narrative presentation, there were still a couple of scenes that felt just a bit too long and ultimately added to slowing pace of the film, which altogether, made me lose my curiosity in those few moments.

I’d also say that compared to his previous films Amour and The White Ribbon, Happy End’s story can’t match those two said films. It’s still has a great and interesting plot, but Amour felt a lot more emotional and personal compared to Happy End. And The White Ribbon was just a feat of sheer mastery, that gave an interesting outlook prior to World War II and one that was accompanied some outstanding cinematography and performances by child actors.

Removing those said qualms, the positives of Happy End still outweigh my few gripes with the film. It’s one of the more interesting slow burn type of drama’s that introduces you to quite the interesting but somewhat disturbing family and human themes. At times, it also might feel too sluggish with its pace, as I’ve mentioned already with how the plot does eventually unfold. But it’s technical skills and presentation by far are what make it a special example of one of the best directors of independent cinema today. And give an insight into the essence of how a master of filmmaking creates his craft, with the clever decisions and techniques Michael Haneke employs. See it if you can.

The Hunt Movie Review

the hunt

See it. 9/10

One of the best depictions of a falsely accused person in film.

The Hunt takes something so innocent and manages to twist it beyond what’s comprehensible and turn it into a seriously disturbing but engaging drama. It’s a premise and execution so well thought out that I have no doubts that a scenario like this could ever happen in reality and I hope it never it does. What The Hunt reveals to you is not only a testament to the power of rumor and gossip but also to the willingness of people to believe the unimaginable, simply based on preconceived incorruptibility of an individual. It’s genuinely terrifying to watch and it warps your perception of the phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover”.

What I love equally about this fantastic premise and plot, is all of the acting performances, in particular of the two leads. Mads Mikkelsen shines in what I believe is arguably his best performance and whilst I loved him as the villain in Casino Royale (my favorite James Bond film to date), here he shows another side to a man who’s on the wrong end of accusations and is desperately trying to prove his innocence. He adds levels of frustration mixed with solace, that really makes me understand his characters’ motivations and exactly what he’s going through so I can empathize with his plight.

I also thought all of the child acting was great which is an aspect so many movies get wrong, especially those targeted towards children. I was glad to see that the child opposite him, Annika Wedderkopp, could hold her own against a powerhouse actor so compliments have to go to her and the director Thomas Vinterberg for casting her.

But ultimately what holds this film so highly in my views is the story. Technically it might not be the most extravagant piece of work but it doesn’t need to be. The cinematography serves the purpose of focusing on the characters emotions rather than the pretty landscapes around it and does a great job. I’m completely swept up with the journey and am willing to let it take me in new and surprising ways, all of which was a blast to watch.

I was terrified. I was empathetic. I was thoroughly engaged. The Hunt is truly thought-provoking and excellent at delivering a tense shocking drama about such a simple but also complicated subject that rarely ever gets brought up. I loved this film and I have no qualms in recommending it to you to watch, especially cause it’s also not that heard of and needs some well-deserved recognition. It’s out on Netflix in the United States so see it.