Thursday, May 24, 2007

Movie Watch! - Volver and Little Children

Volver (2006) - Almodóvar, Cuarón, and Iñárritu make up the Big Three Spanish-language directors that I'm quickly falling in love with. In Pedro Almodóvar's latest, about a close-knit family of women in the La Mancha area of Spain, there is a certain ripe, approachable tenderness that never feels fake or contrived. Every moment is genuine and honest, even as elements of magical realism seem to make his world just slightly removed from our own. Penelope Cruz looks impossibly gorgeous in her Oscar-nominated performance as Raimunda, a woman somehow finds the strength to just keep moving forward when life would seem just a little too much to handle for the average human. Raimunda's sister Sole (Lola Dueñas) is a quietly comic delight, running an illegal hairdressing operation in her apartment before she runs into the spirit of their dead mother. Daughter Paula (Yohana Cobo) deals with her father's blotto irresponsibility in a wrenching performance, balancing crude, stunted melancholy with a sort of misdirected anger that is captivating to see encompassed in a girl of her age. Their struggles seem so insane but somehow so strikingly relateable, and banded together, they become the portrait of charming, endearing familial chord and discord. 8.5/10

Little Children (2006) - I've seen enough movies about dysfunctional suburbia to make me want to move to Nebraska. However, this gem shines just a little brighter than all the others. Director Todd Field adapted the screenplay with Tom Perrotta, which earned the duo an Oscar nod. Indeed, the film has a narrator that makes the movie feel true to its novel roots. It also feels like little like American Beauty, except with adorable children instead of dysfunctional teens. Kate Winslet earned an Oscar nomination for her role as Sarah Pierce, the ever-so-slightly dowdy wife of Richard, a successful, perverted branding director. Her days consist of bringing her daughter Lucy to playdates with Aaron, the son of stay-at-home dad Brad Adamson (Patrick Wilson, DILF extraordinaire), whose wife is an alpha-female maker of PBS documentaries (Jennifer Connelly). Also in the neighborhood are the former cop Larry Hedges (Noah Emmerich), who's suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and convicted sex offender Ronnie McGorvey (Jackie Earle Henry in his Best Supporting Actor-nominated role), who lives at home with his protective, loving mother May (Phyllis Somerville). The performances are extraordinary, and although sometimes the direction feels a touch derivative at times, there is certainly much to be enchanted by in this bitingly comic portrait of self-destructive surburbia. 7/10

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