Another torrential weepie targets teenage tear-ducts
The recent box-office success of The Fault in Our Stars advertised the extent to which teenage tear-ducts can deliver a lucrative result when targeted correctly. There is a strong sense that identical crosshairs are in play with the arrival of another weepie of the torrential variety, If I Stay.
IF I Stay, Cert: 12A
Set in Oregon, the story revolves around a couple of star-crossed teens on a collision course with tragedy. The narrative is revealed initially through the thoughts of Mia (Chloe Grace Moretz), a gifted cellist on the cusp of greatness. A baleful destiny is about to have its day alas. A random day out with her family results in a car-crash that kills her beloved parents and only brother. It also leaves her in a coma that morphs into an extended out-of-body experience.
As medics frantically try to save her life, flashbacks flesh out her backstory. It's difficult to imagine a more idyllic childhood and just when you thought it couldn't get any better, happening indie band frontman Adam (Jamie Blackley) falls for her charms. Faster than you can say move over Romeo and Juliet these two are inseperable and happy-ever-after seems a given. The car crash puts the kibosh on the happy-ever- after bit, obviously, and the suspense comes courtesy of doubts as to whether Mia is going to pull through.
It's always a thin line between touching and tedious in these affairs but a poignant and powerful performance from Moretz ensures proceedings stay the right side of that divide. Expect the stiffest of stiff upper lips to be tested.
Night Moves, Cert: 15A
Environmental zeal takes three interesting forms in Kelly Reichardt's sombre new drama about guilt and disillusionment. Josh (Jesse Eisenberg) is the embittered co-op farmer whose idealism has calcified into a hardline grudge against modern man's neglect of the planet. Dena (Dakota Fanning) is the rich kid looking to assuage some upper-class guilt. Lastly, there is Harmon (Peter Sarsgaard), the ex-marine ne'er-do-well who lives in squalor but is looking for devilment to put his idle hands to. The three set about blasting a hydroelectric dam open in order to make a statement about rife power consumption. Carefully and doggedly, they go about their plans, buying a second-hand speedboat with Dena's money and packing it full of explosives they fashion out of ammonium fertilizer. This they anchor beside the dam wall with a timer.
It is in the aftermath of the event as authorities are looking for them and paranoia takes hold that their differences become more pronounced.
Shot in Oregon's stunning Cascade Mountains region, Night Moves bristles with quiet symbolism, beauty and indie restraint. To a point.
Reichardt, who co-wrote the script, characterises her charges excellently without a huge amount in the dialogue department. She introduces many fascinating arguments about doomsday environmentalism, youthful disaffection and negativity. The three leads - particularly Eisenberg and Sarsgaard - bed down in their roles superbly. And then, unfortunately, she does exactly what she did in Meek's Cutoff (2010) which is snip the movie dead in its tracks, as if unsure quite how to wrap the whole thing up.
It means that there is a feeling of unfinished business about it all, with characters and motives left dangling in the air. What a shame.
In selected cinemas
Let's Be Cops, Cert: 15A
There's a rocking Band of Horses track played on the soundtrack towards the conclusion of knockabout comedy, Let's Be Cops. It's called The Funeral and it's a highly appropriate title given there are times during this Luke Greenfield-directed feature when you could be forgiven for believing you're attending one, such is the lack of laughs.
The narrative centres around two likeable losers, Ryan (Jake Johnson) and Justin (Damon Wayans Jr) who have travelled to LA from Ohio in the hope of making it big. Everything changes for these two buddies when a masquerade party they attend dressed as cops leads to a number of morale boosting interactions with the general public. Well they do say there's something about a man in uniform and on the evidence delivered here, that something involves the conferring of instant babe magnetism.
If you can't see where this is going, it just might be that this feature is the one for you. As expected, there are a bunch of real criminals in the neighbourhood and as these two bozos are about to discover, when it comes to credibility as a cop, suiting up is the easy part.
Wayans Jr and Johnson display decent comic chemistry but a sub-standard script, together with a risible plot contribute to a sense that collective ambition doesn't extend to elevations above the lowest common dumbometer, sorry denominator.
The Hundred-Foot Journey Cert: PG
When their family restaurant burns down and his wife is killed Papa Dayal (Om Puri) takes his five children on a search through Europe for their new home and business. His second son, Hassan (Manish Dayal), was his mother's star cookery pupil but since her death he has been at a loss. When their battered van collapses in rural France, in a town with a friendly local in the pretty form of Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon) and a restaurant for sale, Papa claims the voice of his dead wife urges them to stay. So they stay, setting up their glittery Maison Mumbai opposite the muted tones of Le Saule Pleureur, and its chilly proprietor Mme Mallory (Helen Mirren). In a brief sidetrack from her eternal search for a second Michelin star, Mme Mallory takes time to have a minor foodie feud with Papa Dayal, each as stubborn as the other they score minor points until a National Front event forces a truce. Of sorts.
Lasse Hallstrom directs a Richard C Morais novel adapted by Steven Knight. He brings to the screen a well-meaning, pleasant, pretty and ultimately hackneyed story with good intentions, lingering landscapes and plenty of food porn. Mirren is her usual watchable self but her accent, although good, is distracting, Om Puri has a tendency to overact and the whole thing is just too long, especially because it is very predictable. Hallstrom can't resist the emotional ante-upping red herring which really just works as a tangent. However fans of light viewing should enjoy.
The Grand Seduction, Cert 12A
A craggy coastline? A small fishing village struggling economically with quota politics? Brendan Gleeson leading some friendly locals with a Gaelic-style lilt in their accents? You'd be forgiven at first glance for thinking The Grand Seduction's feel-good dramedy was set somewhere in Connemara.
We are , in fact, on the opposite shoreline over in the windswept Newfoundland coast, where strong "Irishisms" still persist to this day. This, however, is not necessarily a factor in why Don McKellar's remake of La Grande Séduction is so effortlessly charming.
Gleeson is Murray French, a self-appointed town leader in the fishing village of Tickle Head. Quotas and moratoriums have taken their toll on the community who are losing young people to city life and struggling to maintain dignity without regular employment. It emerges that a petrochemical company is considering Tickle Head as a location for a new factory that would bring many jobs with it. To make itself a more attractive proposition, the village sets about trying to coax urbanite GP Taylor Kitsch to settle there. This manifests itself as an elaborate ruse to make everything as ridiculously idyllic for the handsome young doctor as possible. Phonecalls are listened in on. A love of cricket is feigned by the townsfolk. A reluctant local beauty (Liane Balaban) is leaned on.
In the tradition of Ealing comedies such as Alexander Mackendricks' Whiskey Galore (1949), The Grand Seduction is the kind of gentle, big-hearted comedy that is sadly all too lacking in modern cinema. It never has to resort to vulgarity to shame its audience into laughter yet balances its social conscience and soft-centre with plenty of cheek and boldness.
Begging the question of whether there is anything he can't do, Gleeson is replete as the busy-body mayor leading the deceit, choreographing everyone and prefacing his concern with bullish determination. Kitsch, an actor usually drawn towards flops, holds his own opposite the Dublin powerhouse. Alright, so it's glaringly predictable how the yarn will play out, but the journey there, peppered as it is with bellylaughs and swoons, is what really makes it all tick.