Every threat of sentimentality and melodrama is averted by a seriously strong cast working from a snappy script. It may be warm and gentle, but the honest humour and twisty plot make sure the audience is entertained rather than manipulated. And there are some startlingly edgy scenes along the way that allow the actors to create spiky, fully formed characters while clearly having a great time in each other's company.
Based on writer-director Israel Horovitz's stage play, most of the action takes place within a vast old flat in central Paris that has just been inherited by Jim (Kevin Kline), who flies in from New York so he can sell it. He's at the end of his rope and needs the cash, so is unnerved to discover that the apartment is a "viager", a quirk in French property law that allows the past owner to remain in the home for the rest of their life. So Jim can't sell the flat as long as 92-year-old Mathilde (Maggie Smith) is alive, and her daughter Chloe (Kristin Scott Thomas) immediately locks horns with Jim, who has already been in touch with a despised developer (Stephane Freiss). As the days pass, Jim is so determined to figure out how to make some money off of this property that he ignores the much bigger things going on around him.
Kline actually manages to make the deeply bullheaded Jim surprisingly likeable, adding a generous charm to the character's overpowering inner misery. So while he dismisses both women out of hand, the audience can see that there might be some substance there. Smith and Scott Thomas are of course terrific as the put-upon women trying to defend their lifelong home. And all three characters must face some unexpected truths about their own pasts in order to plot a course forward. This messy, revelatory plotting is so much fun that the hint of romance between Jim and Chloe feels almost irrelevant.
Continue reading: My Old Lady Review
Mathias (Kevin Kline) is penniless and pretty down on his luck in New York despite having come from a wealthy family. In what seems like a fortunate turn of events, he inherits a sensational apartment in Paris which could land him a lot of money on selling. However, when he travels over to check the place out and set the selling in motion, he meets an elderly tenant named Mathilde (Maggie Smith) who explains that the apartment is 'viager' - a French real estate system which means Mathias must pay a monthly sum to Mathilde until her death before he can gain possession of the property. The pair make a deal allowing Mathias to stay with her at the property, and it's then he meets her daughter Chloe (Kristin Scott Thomas). Chloe's not happy about Mathias' plans to gain ownership of her home but the pair soon bond over their own childhood troubles - things get even more complicated for Mathias when he discovers some deep truths about his father's relationships.
Continue: My Old Lady - Trailer Trailer
As he did in Amelie, French filmmaker Jean-Pierre Jeunet tells a simple fable with witty visuals, colourful characters and a warm heart. It's an utterly winning story of tenacity that will resonate with anyone who has ever felt like an outsider in their own family. Which is pretty much everyone. So even if it feels a bit light and goofy, it has a strong emotional kick.
On a sprawling Montana ranch, 10-year-old TS (Kyle Catlett) couldn't be much different from his twin brother Layton (Jakob Davis). While TS questions the laws of nature, Layton is a boyish cowboy like their dad (Callum Keith Rennie). And their teen sister Gracie (Niamh Wilson) and insect-obsessed mother (Helena Bonham Carter) are just as individualistic. So no one notices when TS enters his perpetual-motion machine into a competition and wins a top accolade from the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC. But the competition official (Judy Davis) hasn't a clue that TS is only 10, or that he has run away from home to hitchhike cross-country to accept his award.
Based on the Reif Larsen novel, the story has a whiff of the fantastical about it, only occasionally reflecting the real dangers the young and prodigious TS would face on his epic journey. But that's not the point: told through TS's limited perspective, this is a story about discovery. TS may think he's capable of anything a grown-up can do, but there are some very hard truths waiting both on the road and back home. And he's also about to learn that there might actually be some benefits to being a little boy.
Continue reading: T.S. Spivet Review
T.S. Spivet is a child prodigy fascinated with the world of cartography and invention and only 10-years-old. He lives in an isolated part of Montana on a ranch with his cowboy-obsessed father and his entomologist mother, as well as his teenage sister Gracie and his twin brother Layton. One day, he receives a telephone call from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. who wish to offer him the prestigious Baird Prize for his latest invention. He wants to accept the award, despite the institute thinking he is an adult scientist, and so he sets out on a journey by himself, intending to catch the next freight train. Meanwhile, however, he is haunted by a dark secret involving Layton, and he must learn to come to terms with past events.
After being shot by an errant bullet, Bazil (Boon) becomes homeless. Taken in by the Micmacs, seven misfits living in a secret lair under a rubbish heap, he discovers that rival Parisian arms dealers manufactured the bullet that hit him and the landmine that killed his father when he was a child. As he plots his revenge, his new friends all want in on the plan, so they set about inventively using their salvage to get the company owners (Dussollier and Marie) to square off against each other.
Continue reading: Micmacs [Micmacs A Tire-larigot] Review
Dante is a hellish planet (its surface a crackling fire-and-brimstone concoction) in deepest space. Around it orbits a psychiatric facility housing a handful of criminally insane patients, several physicians, and three armed guards. Everyone on the ship (which resembles a golden cross made out of Rubik's cubes) has had their head shaved and slinks around in almost complete darkness. The docs, manning computer screens and a device called the Answerer, experiment on patients who live in a warren of sterile steel corridors in the bowels of the ship. There are a multitude of sub-plots swirling in the miasma: a new doctor, Elisa (Linh Dan Phan), with an experimental nanobot-infused drug, a conspiracy between "warden" Charon (Gérald Laroche), and his prize patient, the hacker Atilla (Yann Collette), an aging (perhaps unstable) lead physician, Persephone (Simona Maicanescu), and a new patient (mute at first and dubbed Saint-Georges, the dragon slayer, played by Lambert Wilson) who can "see" parasites affecting the patients and is either, as the ad copy put its, "a monster or a messiah."
Continue reading: Dante 01 Review
Best known for the one-time French hit A Man and a Woman, Lelouch begins his latest film with a singular female: Judith Ralitzer (Fanny Ardent), a celebrated novelist who has gained critical acclaim for her latest novel God, The Other. On a talk show, she rambles about the creative process and the hardships of imagination but neglects to mention that it's all a hoax. Ralitzer's book was in fact written by a ghostwriter named Pierre Laclos (Dominique Pinon).
Continue reading: Roman De Gare Review
It's really quite shameful that the majority of Americans who enjoy Amelie and Jeunet's ill-fated follow up, the overlong but beautiful and quirky A Very Long Engagement, know nothing of Delicatessen. While Alien fans scoffed at Jeunet's wicked retooling of the franchise with Alien:Alien: Resurrection, it was but a pale shadow of his early, dark work with his co-collaborator and muse, Marc Caro.
Continue reading: Delicatessen Review
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