Sunday 21 January 2018

Old-timers keep the flames alive


It's Complicated

Cert 15A

JANE (Meryl Streep) and Jake (Alec Baldwin) have been divorced for 10 years, he has indulged in the mid-life cliche, driving a Porsche, listening to R'n'B and marrying a much younger woman (Lake Bell). At their son's graduation, however, they begin an affair. He wants to come back, she's not sure and her ability to decide is clouded by the appearance of Adam the architect (Steve Martin).

Nancy Meyers wrote and directed, and while the subject of love for people over 40, 50 and beyond is a goldmine of ideas and comedy, Nancy hasn't the subtlest hand. Why would a woman living alone be getting a giant extension to her already giant house? Because the story requires the mechanism. You've got the stoner munchies, you don't bake chocolate croissants from scratch, you eat 10 packets of Meanies. But the story requires a Ghost pottery moment.

In short, there's a cliched obviousness to this at times that grates. However, it is much better than The (dreadful) Holiday. It frequently strays into schmaltzy territory, usually saving itself with what is at times surprisingly slapstick humour. What really saves it though are the performances, Baldwin plays a blinder and Streep is exuding such joy in her return to acting that she is great to watch.

In romantic lead terms, Baldwin falls into the guilty pleasure category, you would but you might hate yourself. Martin falls into the "never, ever" category. You might feel sorry for him, but you'd never fancy him, surely? Though in Meyer's films: Alpha is bad, quiet and sensitive is good.

It's Complicated touches on interesting themes without really looking at them. It's light, often funny, at times squirmy and doesn't really purport to be any different. Very much pitched at a female audience, men can enjoy it too.


It's Complicated is now showing

Treeless Mountain

Cert G

Director So Yong Kim's Treeless Mountain can safely be described as a kid's movie with a difference. While proceedings revolve almost exclusively around a couple of lovable Korean kids, the emotions evoked as we watch them struggle with profuse amounts of hard-core heartbreak are guaranteed to resonate with grown-ups. Think Annie for adults for a reasonably accurate sense of what to expect from this thoughtful and captivating piece.

When we first encounter six-year-old Jin (Hee-Yeon Kim) and her younger sister Bin (Song-Hee Kim) they are being cared for in Seoul by their stressed-out single mother (Soo-Ah-Lee). An inability to cope, together with a need to find her estranged husband, results in her abandoning the children into the care of her sister-in-law, the feckless Big Aunt (Mi-Hyang Kim). It's intended as a temporary arrangement and the children's trauma is tempered by their mother's parting gift of a piggy bank. She tells the distraught children that when they've filled it with coins, she'll return in fairy-tale fashion.

Despite the harsh reality that Big Aunt is an irresponsible if likeable lush who neglects them, the children set about making the most of their new surroundings. A lucrative sideline in selling grilled grasshoppers helps keep hunger at bay while also keeping the piggy bank ticking over. All that's missing is the mother who remains the focus of their childhood dreams.

From such tragic raw material the director has woven a life-affirming tapestry of considerable flair and emotional impact. Yeon Kim and Hee Kim are astonishingly convincing in the central roles, and while nothing much happens for extended periods, their enchanting screen presence ensures that engagement levels never flag.


Treeless Mountain is now showing

It Might Get Loud

Cert PG

January usually sees households across the country suffering the din of young people getting to grips with new guitars. Regretful mums and dads may lament the release of this new rockumentary from An Inconvenient Truth director Davis Guggenheim that will do little to dampen the spirits of aspiring axe-wielders.

The pitch -- throw three guitar heroes into a room to chat politely and jam away -- is simplicity itself. The three in question are Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page, U2 lynchpin The Edge and Jack White from garage blues rockers The White Stripes. Each is meant to represent a style and approach to the instrument: Page is the classic rock silverback, White the young revivalist, while Edge is the sonic adventurer.

Their chemistry isn't exactly the stuff of fireworks, despite being a line-up that would have any air guitarist frothing. In truth, it's only when the trio are apart, strolling down memory lane or during archive live footage, that most is revealed. In the memorable opening scene, White knocks together a rough, one-stringed electric on his porch and proceeds to belt out a crunchy riff. Page takes us back to the leafy stately home where Led Zeppelin IV was recorded and talks with boyish glee about early influences. U2 fans, meanwhile, will delight in the sizeable portion of attention given to The Edge (or David Evans, as his mum calls him) who takes us back to Mount Temple Comprehensive in Clontarf. Here, the teenage band would meet, rehearse after classes and perform on a shed roof. He paints a picture of a dour and under-stimulating Dublin, an environment that makes their rise to superstardom all the more incredible.

A warm air of celebration takes hold as the charisma and mystique of the six-string are pieced apart. Director Davis Guggenheim does this without one mention of drug overdoses, groupies or airborne TV sets. Some of it smacks of VH1's Behind The Music series, but there's plenty here to awaken the tennis-racket fantasist in us all.


It Might Get Loud is now showing at the IFI

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