Claim You Were Never Really Here. I wish I could.

You Were Never Really Here reminds me of Good Time from last year: a little indie that, with the first scenes and through the intro title, I thought: YES!  This is GOOD… often you know immediately when a movie is going to be good.   But with one punch then another and another, a left hook and a right jab, you realize how bad it’s going to be.

Not showing every last detail and letting the imagination fill in the gaps can be a very effective means of storytelling.  The best examples are Fargo and American Psycho.  But when that’s the whole film — random dead people left and right, real and imagined, it just goes to show how little an idea the filmmaker has.  Of how little a story there is.  Of trying to substitute style for substance.

It all goes back to a theme I keep pounding away at: the power of linear storytelling.  More often than not, when a filmmaker goes highly non-linear, they are compensating for the lack of a good story.   Not that You Were… is all that nonlinear.  It’s just bad.  I blame it on Amazon.  3/10

Comparison Notes: The infinitely better Thelma comes to mind.  When the movie resorts to bodies floating in water for no good reason whatsoever, you realize you’ve hit bottom.

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A Quiet Place among the Pines

A Quiet Place, or:

Don’t Make a Sound or You Might Be Dead in the Morning, or

Whisper Softly, My Dear or It Will Be Your Last Whisper, or

I am Woman, Don’t Hear Me Roar, or

Do Go Quietly Into That Good Night, or

Have I Told You How Much I Love You Lately?  No?  That’s Coz We’d All Be Dead, or

Hush Now Baby, Don’t You Cry… or You’re Really Gonna Cry, or

Silent Running II, or

Silence is Golden

or… you get the point… is full of premise holes, like the idea that people can go about their lives without ever sneezing, snoring, or coughing.  Or that an entire family walking around barefoot outside for miles and miles every day could ever happen.

A sort of cross between Alien and Don’t Breathe from a couple years back, A Quiet Place would have been a lot better had it not taken itself so seriously.  Because once you take everything so seriously, so literally, your film peels open and is exposed to the logical errors.  Had it taken the obvious path of a farce, e.g. Grindhouse movies, Fido, Teeth, Zombieland, etc., we’d be doing a lot better here.

But John Krasinski wanted to demonstrate that he can be a serious actor and filmmaker, so we don’t get to see that farce.  Only his sober non-reality.

And despite all that lead up, I can say I was largely engaged.  That it all works anyway… until the conclusion.  The movie does a good job of conveying the feeling of getting into hotter and hotter water, and the atmospherics aren’t bad.  Krasinski & Blunt provide solid performances.  But, that conclusion.  Without giving anything away, part of the conclusion I liked, and another part of it served to re-focus all the fundamental flaws of the picture.

Some movies require a suspension of disbelief.  The successful ones allow that suspension of disbelief to happen.  But when a movie is trying so hard to be hyper-realistic in all other ways, it defeats its purpose.  The trailer is good, though.  Maybe just watch the trailer.

5/10

Comparison Notes: besides the above-mentioned films, 10 Cloverfield Lane, It Comes at Night, Jurassic Park, I Spit on Your Grave, John Dies at the End, The Last House on the Left

P.S.  The Purge is a film that on a dramatic level might be right up my alley.  But the whole premise is so utterly nonsensical, I refuse to watch it or any of the various sequels.  Point being: premise is important.

Film Brief: Isle of Dogs

Like most Wes Anderson films, Isle of Dogs bears weakness in its plot, especially as the film wraps.  But he brings a lot more to the table than straight plot.  Chris Klimek, NPR:

…by the time Anderson’s animators show us a meal of sushi being prepared in meticulous close-up, I was ready for any trick Anderson wanted to perform for me.  Isle of Dogs takes Best in Show.

Wes Anderson’s movies are event films, and no less this time.  Don’t miss it.  8/10

Comparison Notes: all other Wes Anderson films, Life is Beautiful

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P.S.  Bryan Cranston was on the Colbert show, and brought a model of his character “Chief.”  He demonstrated what it took to make this movie, painstakingly nudging the models one whisker at a time, photographing each step.  Isle of Dogs must be the ultimate stop-motion film.  He said the film took FOUR YEARS to make.  That clip included below.