This Spring has turned out to be very busy but I wanted to take some time and share my thoughts on three films that I managed to see in the past month. They couldn't be more different and yet I was moved by each one for varying reasons. I'll start with the most recent one:
"The Ghost Writer"
I suppose that many people would be put off by seeing a film by Roman Polanski given his many troubles but never let it be said that this man is not one of cinema's greatest directors ("Repulsion" "Rosemary's Baby" "Chinatown" "The Pianist".) It's so unfortunate that this film came out about the time that he was arrested because it is a tour de force. It is an adaptation of the novel "The Ghost" by Robert Harris and stars Ewan MacGregor and Pierce Brosnan, both of whom give wonderfully subtle performances that add so much to the mystery. The film opens with The Ghost (Ewan MacGregor) being interviewed to take over the ghost writing of a memoir of the ex-English Prime Minister, Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan.) The previous ghost writer is thought to have committed suicide but we soon learn that this may not be the whole story. The Ghost takes the job and is flown to an island somewhere on the East Coast of the United States and sets to work on the memoir. The house is a gorgeous almost all glass beach house that I personally would give anything to own. But the weather is constantly gray and misty and the sea is always rough which gives a feeling of foreboding throughout the entire film. It becomes clear that Adam Lang's wife, Ruth (the wonderful Olivia Williams) knows more than she's telling and his personal assistant, Amelia (Kim Cattrall, who I hardly recognized) is hiding something as well. I don't want to give away any more of the story but suffice it to say that the mystery of what happened to the original Ghost (who becomes one of the central characters of the story without ever being seen, a brilliant bit of storytelling by Polanski) and just how much danger this Ghost is in if he discovers the truth, is told in such a way that you will be on the edge of your seat at every turn. The ending is one of the most affecting endings I've seen in a long time. It leaves you breathless. I sat with my hands over my mouth, gaping, for the longest time. It is an amazing film in every way - from the subtle acting, the use of weather to create a mood, the intricate story line and unveiling of the story layer by layer right up to the shocking ending. There's never a wrong turn. If only all of our directors today could present their stories in such an intelligent and masterful way. Only Hitchcock could have done better.
The next film is a small independent film that I watched at home and am very glad I did. It's called "Adam", written and directed by Max Mayer. It is the story of Adam (Hugh Dancy), a man with Asperger's Syndrome, who's father has just passed away and is dealing with living alone for the first time. He strikes up a friendship with his upstairs neighbor, Beth (Rose Byrne) and an unlikely romance develops between them. What I really loved about this film is that it doesn't make Adam into a cartoon like Forrest Gump. He seems real, not unlike someone you might actually know. Hugh Dancy did his research well for this character and it shows. Rose Byrne also does a wonderful job in creating Beth. Beth comes across as someone who has been around and has been hurt, but is open to trying something new with someone who is obviously unlike anyone she's ever dated before. She appreciates his innocence and naivete, without making fun of it. I also really appreciated that the story doesn't quite end the way you think it will. It's not an unhappy ending but it's not all hearts and flowers, either. It's always refreshing to see a film that relies on acting and not special effects and/or blood and guts. If you agree with that, then I highly recommend you add this one to your list of must sees.
Last but certainly not least we have one of my favorite films so far this year. When you look up "Feel Good Movies" in the dictionary, this one should be at the top of the list. It is "How To Train Your Dragon" directed by Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders, based on the novel by Cressida Cowell. Don't be put off by the fact that it was a children's book and that it's animated, you won't even notice. The screenplay (written by the directors and William Davies) is very clever and very adult, and the voices as done by Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, the hilarious Kristin Wig and best of all, the voice of the main character, Hiccup, by Jay Baruchel, will delight you. Their deliveries are priceless and the humor is very dry - my favorite kind. Then there's the animation. It's nothing short of miraculous. Please see it in 3d if you can. The scene where Hiccup is flying with Toothless, the dragon, actually made me grip the arms of my seat so I didn't fall into the ocean. It was that real. This is a coming of age story about family, love, discrimination, prejudice, and everything else that young people face as they grow up. Especially if you are a Viking. Please see this movie, no matter what age or gender you are. Even the most cynical movie goers will not be able to be anything but entertained, filled with laughter, and cheering by the end.