Partir : Leaving
May 18, 2011

Recently I viewed the French film Partir (Leaving) from 2009.  What first drew me to this film was the presence of Kristin Scott Thomas, the wonderful French actress who won me over in Il y a Longtemps Que Je T’aime (I’ve Loved You So Long 2008). Her performance was astounding in that film, where her character is recently released from prison for killing her own infant child.  However, throughout nearly the entire film, her character stifles her reason and emotion, creating awkward encounters when trying to reintroduce herself socially.

Kristin Scott Thomas and Sergi López in Leaving 2009

In Partir, Thomas plays a wife, mother who falls in love with a contractor hired by her husband to construct a new physiotherapy office at their home so she can start up her practice again.  Sounds sticky, right?  It gets stickier as she tries to give up her lover on orders of her husband, just to go right back to her passionate affair.  As she attempts leaving her husband, he does his best to make life miserable for the two lovers…  and possibly succeeds.  You be the judge of the outcome.  Ultimately, I felt that her character handles the situation like a person who has thrown all logic out the window.  Her husband’s reaction is a form of angry denial, her son is the most understanding/accepting while her daughter wants nothing to do with her.  Oh the web we weave.

The outcome is strikingly reminiscent of one of my favorite classic Truffaut films, La Peau Douce (The Soft Skin 1964).  La Peau Douce has a similar plot of an extramarital affair, however the roles are reversed.  In this film the husband, father falls desperately in love with a young flight attendant, and his wife is unaccepting of the situation.  In both films the wives play the role of the emotionally illogical.  I won’t go into further details on either film, as I truly wish not to spoil either startling outcome.  You will just have to take my word for it that each is worth a serious watch.

Françoise Dorléac and Jean Desailly in La Peau Douce 1964

Welcome to the Riley’s
December 10, 2010

A couple of weeks ago the theaters were playing crap.  My sister was in town and we went to see 127 Hours.  If you are thinking about seeing this film, I’d put it off until you can rent it.  The plot is overextended in trying to keep the audience’s attention, utilizing terrible “artsy” editing and flashbacks to drag it all out.  Ugh.  Based on a real event and real person Aron Ralston:  how does one make a film about a guy whose arm is stuck “between a rock and a hard place,” who didn’t tell anyone where he was going, and whose water, food and time has run out, forcing him to amputate his own arm?  You don’t.  You read the book if anything.  127 Hours stars James Franco and was written/directed by Danny Boyle.

I was quickly losing hope in finding something of interest out there in the theaters, I searched for a glimmer of good stuff… and there it was, hidden, but staring me in the face.  Welcome to the Riley’s (2010).  What a great little film, I’m not even sure it’s out in theaters anymore, but if you can find it, you should see it.  Some of my favorite films to watch have a simple plot with masterful execution, this fits that category.  From what I can determine, this is the first big film by director Jake Scott, the writing is by Ken Hixon (writer of Inventing the Abbotts and City by the Sea).

James Gandolfini and Kristen Stewart in Welcome to the Riley’s (2010) 

Welcome to the Riley’s stars James Gandolfini as Doug, whose wife has been housebound since the death of their teenage daughter years ago.  His only happiness seems to come from the time spent with his mistress, a waitress at the local waffle house. It is a happiness that comes to an abrupt and unfortunate halt.  Though mourning, Doug soon finds himself in New Orleans on a business trip, and in an attempt to avoid his business associates, he finds himself thrown in the presence of a young stripper/prostitute — too young — a teenager posing as an adult.  Understandably, he feels the need to take care of and protect her, as she conjures memories of his deceased child.  Unhappy back at home and finally feeling purposeful in New Orleans, he decides to stay, a move that has an unexpected effect on his housebound wife.  This film has the potential to be cheesy, but absolutely avoids the cheese factor due to it’s great writing and execution.  There’s also a small cameo of Ally Sheedy, who plays Doug’s sister-in-law.  Nice.

Snow Cake!
April 27, 2010

A little gem of a film written by Angela Pell, directed by Marc Evans, starring Alan Rickman and Sigourney Weaver.  Carrie-Anne Moss also appears.  Rickman plays Alex, an ex-con newly released from prison, who starts the film out driving north with a young female hitchhiker.  After a tragic car accident he seeks the young hitchhiker’s mother, Linda, a high functioning autistic woman played by Weaver.   Linda is not easy to get along with but has a way of keeping Alex around to fulfill miscellaneous chores around the house.  A friendship ensues between the seemingly odd pair.

Sigourney Weaver in Snow Cake, 2006

Snow Cake was released in 2006 and is one of my new favorite films.  Firstly, Sigourney Weaver can do no wrong in my opinion as she always brings her all in portraying her characters.  Paired up with Rickman, one of the best character actors on-screen, a pleasantly awkward chemistry occurs as the tension between their two characters ebbs and flows.  Highly recommended by yours truly.