THE FILM YAP » Kirsten Dunst We Never Shut Up About Movies Fri, 21 Nov 2014 06:00:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 On the Road Thu, 28 Mar 2013 04:11:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]> On the Road - inside

I’m not quite sure how to judge “On the Road.” If it existed on its own as a film, separated from any notion of the seminal Jack Kerouac book, I’d probably dismiss it as rambling and unfocused. But since the Bible of the Beats is defined by its poetic embrace of chaos — both in life and literary endeavors — to knock it for its quivery plot would be like criticizing a flamingo for being too pink.

Brazilian director Walter Salles and Puerto Rican screenwriter Jose Rivera previously teamed up for “The Motorcycle Diaries,” a similar project about young men rambling about the countryside looking for themselves, also based on a book by a person of note (in that case, revolutionary Che Guevara). Since “On the Road” has generally been regarded as unfilmable, perhaps it required a foreign perspective to adequately capture the peculiar rhythms of this quintessential, quirky American tale.

Certainly “On the Road” has verve and gutso. In chronicling the on-again, off-again travels of Kerouac stand-in Sal Paradise (Sam Riley) and his best friend/muse Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund) during the late 1940s, the actors and filmmakers have probably made as good a translation of the book as possible.

It’s a booze-soaked, drug-riddled, sex-filled escapade with no real point other than casting off whatever yokes chain them and seeing what’s out there. It captures the pure exhilaration of freedom for its own sake.

Some portions of Kerouac’s  narrative are skimmed over or eliminated, while others are pumped up — particularly those involving Dean’s teenage wife (soon to be ex-wife) Marylou, played by “Twilight” star Kristen Stewart. Stewart has a vibrant, erotic presence as a wanton girl who enjoys her escapades with Dean — including three-ways in bed with some of his friends — even as she knows it must all come to a crashing end, with her grasping the stick’s short end.

One scene, where Marylou and Dean are shaking it to a raucous jazz song as others look on, is scorching hot. Stewart’s small but steamy role should do much to banish her adolescent image.

Much of the heart of the book dealt with Sal idolizing Dean as a sort of vagabond holy man, a con artist and liar who nonetheless embraced the concept of living in the moment, and inspired others to do the same. Dean is a car thief, treats women as disposable objects and leeches off his friends, but others are drawn to his audacious individuality.

Hedlund is terrific as Dean, the distilled essence of American manhood, especially his use of his voice to command and compel those around him. Riley is also good in the less showy role of the introspective writer and chronicler of the group. Tom Sturridge has an abbreviated but effective turn as Carlo Marx, a self-destructive poet who struggles with his homoerotic fixation toward Dean, which Dean uses to tease and taunt.

Viggo Mortensen turns up as Old Bull Lee, an older writer and heroin addict who acts as a mentor and father figure to Sal. It’s notable that he is the one person who is instinctively disdainful of Dean’s flights of fancy, recognizing them as more narcissism than revelation.

Kirsten Dunst plays Camille, Dean’s much put-upon second wife; Amy Adams is Lee’s mentally fractured wife; Alice Braga is an itinerant love of Sal’s; and Elisabeth Moss and Danny Morgan play a recently married couple sundered by Dean’s need to always be on the move.

Kerouac lovers probably know that the book “On the Road” was written in long, frenetic sessions using rolls of paper so he wouldn’t have to stop typing. The movie erratically but vividly captures that freewheeling sense of losing oneself — in the act of creation, or consumption, and even self-destruction.

4 Yaps

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Bachelorette Thu, 13 Sep 2012 05:00:59 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

Note to anyone whose friends instruct a stripper to call her “Pig Face,” or abandon her when she’s clearly intoxicated in the company of one man encouraging the other to drug and take advantage of her, or freak out when she’s passed out with blue lips not because they’re concerned for her health but because she’s messing with their schedule:

Find new friends.

The ever-so-charming so-called protagonists of “Bachelorette” are also unthinkably rude and often verbally abusive to anyone and everyone in the service industry. In one of the film’s only genuinely funny moments, a stripper exacts her very creative revenge. Why wasn’t the movie about the stripper?

Oh, right. Because as a single woman who’s been in weddings, I am supposed to identify with Kirsten Dunst’s type-A maid of honor who’s been tasked with planning a wedding for a truly sweet high school acquaintance (Rebel Wilson). Except when my friends get married, I am happy for them. I don’t belittle their weight, snort cocaine at the rehearsal dinner and backstab my two other high school friends by yelling in a club about one’s abortion and ignoring another’s glaringly obvious substance abuse. In short, I do not identify with Dunst’s character because I am not a terrible human being.

“Bachelorette” desperately wants to break into the clique of “The Hangover” and “Bridesmaids,” two other wedding-centric gross-out comedies that worked because they weren’t nasty. Even in the broadest of circumstances — like stealing a tiger or losing their collective lunch in a bridal salon — the characters were empathetic. They were trying, they grew and we rooted for them to do both. “Bachelorette” may have worked if it had focused on Wilson’s giggly and oblivious bride-to-be or Lizzy Caplan and Adam Scott, who give real chemistry and genuine heart to a former high school couple with a dark past. Perhaps the two could just make another season of “Party Down”; this mere idea is more entertaining than all 89 minutes of “Bachelorette.”

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Melancholia Thu, 17 Nov 2011 06:39:52 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

There are certain things you have to come into with a Lars von Trier film. When looking at some of his major films — including “Breaking the Waves,” “Dancer in the Dark,” “Dogville” and his laugh riot “Antichrist”, it’s clear that his films will likely be draining and bleak, yet they’re also completely fascinating and usually worth watching.

Because Kirsten Dunst plays the lead, “Melancholia” is getting a wider release than the rest of the films. That doesn’t mean this is more accessible. Reminiscent of the gorgeous yet demented begining of “Antichrist,” “Melancholia” opens with utter madness. The world is ending in slow motion with loud orchestra music guiding its exquisite scenes.

Then it’s right back to stark realism. A week before the planet will be destroyed, Dunst’s Justine is late to be married to Michael (“True Blood’s” Alexander Skarsgard). She is full of smiles when she’s around him, but that all seems to fade when she finally gets to the church. Surrounded by too many trivial things like a bean contest and unsupportive attendees, Justine starts to snap.

Snapping doesn’t include freaking out or, as is von Trier’s wont, self-mutilation (Dunst dodged that bullet). Instead, she stops caring. She cuts herself off from her family and refuses to take part in insincere events. Yet in the minds of the movie, she’s the sanest of them all. Why should people pretend to tolerate rude speeches or empty formal dinners?

The stakes rise when a new planet is discovered hidden behind the sun and it seems to be heading right towards Earth. While Justine’s sister, Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), is secretly concerned about the possibility of the world’s end, Claire’s brother-in-law, John (Kiefer Sutherland), reacts with overall denial of their impending doom.

On one hand, “Melancholia’s” take on society never expressing its true emotions, even when those emotions clash with the culture, is fascinating. When it takes the step forward and suggests that love, marriage and most emotional relationships are equally frivolous, it isn’t as convincing.

Overall, there is odd beauty in all of the disaster. Dunst and Gainsbourg are brilliant together as sisters failing to understand their lives. Their pain and sympathy is what drives the film into such a compelling drama. As he’s evolved, von Trier has been able to use his Dogme filmmaking and mix it with high style into an effective new blend of storytelling. Even though this isn’t as complex as some of his other efforts, this crazy Dane continues to captivate.

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Heroes of the Zeroes: The Virgin Suicides Fri, 19 Nov 2010 05:01:04 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.

“The Virgin Suicides”
Rated R

A true cusper, “The Virgin Suicides” debuted overseas in 1999, but didn’t screen in the United States until January 2000.

Although “Suicides” barely made the Zeroes, it assuredly reinstated Sofia Coppola’s film privileges after her justifiably maligned turn in “The Godfather Part III.”

Her behind-the-camera debut (adapted from Jeffrey Eugenides’ novel) skillfully spun mordant wit and intense angst into a compelling, ethereal fable about adolescent loss of innocence.

Retrospectively narrated by Giovanni Ribisi, “Suicides” chronicles a year during which five teenaged sisters in suburban Detroit take their lives. Each a year apart in age, 13 to 17, the ticking-clock girls are closed off from socializing in the isolated image of their parents (James Woods and Kathleen Turner).

After the parents relent to the girls’ wish to host a co-ed party, 13-year-old Cecilia (Hanna Hall) leaps to her death — disinterested in being a curiosity that’s pitied, never truly heard. Even her death’s ruled accidental; who could be so sad so young?

Rather than siding with girls and persecuting parents, Coppola employs eloquent empathy, turning to tragedy’s indelible stamp on everyone — how the girls’ sexual wiles (namely Kirsten Dunst’s 14-year-old Lux) and inexplicable woes irreversibly bewitch, bother and bewilder their neighborhood’s boys, even into adulthood.

“Suicides” addresses the absurdity of clinging to misremembered adolescence — namely via a crushing cameo from ’80s hunk Michael Pare as a grown version of Josh Hartnett.

Claustrophobic and uncomfortable, but profoundly affecting and gently funny, “Suicides” advises teen years are sometimes best remembered as a long-ago vacation.

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Heroes of the Zeroes: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Sun, 11 Apr 2010 04:01:10 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.

“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”
Rated R

Charlie Kaufman has established himself as a master navigator of the mind’s wormholes — his dizzying tales of creativity, identity and destiny often marked by cynicism, anger and nihilism. Yet 2004’s “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” was as wholeheartedly and bittersweetly romantic as “Being John Malkovich” was bleak.

Joel and Clementine (Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet) have parted — she erasing all memories of their time together, he reconsidering that same process midstream.

Joel’s memories focus more on brief moments when a heartstring tug would be inexplicable to anyone besides those doing the pulling — the quiet solitude of an under-the-covers conversation, the first cutesy phone call, calming reassurance in the face of a loved one’s insecurities.

Suspense and sci-fi edges aren’t belabored. And in Michel Gondry’s surrealistic scope for mind and memory, the effects feel truly special, serving each hairpin turn.

Carrey’s performance isn’t just a persona break, but the most fully realized and engaging character he’s ever done. Winslet makes a perfect foil — their chemistry so intensely felt that we understand both why they joined and why they parted.

Meanwhile, Elijah Wood creates his own sort of Gollum, a disingenuous little sneak you’ll want to throttle. Mark Ruffalo plays a geek-chic riff on Louis Tully in “Ghostbusters.” And Kirsten Dunst handles one boffo twist with admirable restraint.

Kaufman saves any big romantic keypunch for the epilogue, where he shines a beautiful, but harsh, light on the emotional ethics of the things we do for love.

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