Sunday, February 15, 2015

OSCAR WATCH 2015: Wild, Still Alice, and Into The Woods


I admit to being a little unsure about Wild prior to seeing it, but was completely hooked as soon as it began. Reese Witherspoon portrays Cheryl Strayed, a woman with a mixed up past, on a journey of redemption. The movie is about her solo hike 1100 miles over the Pacific Crest Trail. The film also weaves in her life prior to the trek and what made me embark on such a crazy idea.
Both strands of the story and indeed her life - this is a true story, another biopic - are complex and harrowing. Cheryl's life prior to this adventure is less than exemplary. She suffered heartbreak and went on a trail of self destruction. This trek is part running away and part self help, to be alone with herself and mend her broken heart and life.
I am not a huge fan of Reese Witherspoon, though I did love her in Election and Walk the Line, but she is simply astonishing in this film. Every inch of physical and mental pain, and there is a lot of it, you are right there with her. So many films have made me cry this Oscar season, and Wild can be added to the list. And that's fine by me. There is a melancholy, along with empowerment, that aches through this film, especially in regard to her mother.
Laura Dern plays her mother, and how she shines. In the early 90s Dern was the indie queen, in every second film, her angst as real as that glorious smiling face. I missed her, and didn't realise how much until I saw this film. She is simply stunning, as a down on her luck, but sunny natured single Mum, refusing to dwell on the horrors of her life, and instilling light and happiness in her children. These flashbacks to Cheryl's childhood are laced literally with golden frays of sunlight, Dern's face explodes across the screen. We are all the better for this.
But it is Witherspoon's story, the trek is gutsy, stupid, contagious ( I wanted to go on a similar trek...well, for a couple of minutes!), ill thought through, and yet totally empowering. The cinematography is beautiful; those mountains, and the snow scenes are worth entry alone. And the most lovely soundtrack, including Simon and Garfunkel.
This is an uplifting and engaging film, both actresses up for Best and Best Supporting Actress at The Oscars, and in any other year the statues should be theirs. But alas, not this year. If you had  any doubt in your mind about seeing this film, shake it off and get to the cinema immediately, you'll be pleased you did.

Still Alice

I was in two minds about seeing Still Alice, I had read the novel and it left me completely undone, surely a visualisation of this would be worse?
It is the fictional story of a 50 something academic, who is diagnosed with very early Alzheimer's Disease. The novel tells the story from the character's point of view, what is going on in her head and is utterly devastating. The movie pulls back a little from this and I am unsure it does the story justice.
It is still an upsetting story, but loses the impact of the novel, and I think lessons the severity of how destroying it is to Alice. Having said that, it is still worth seeing, it just - to me - feels light.
Julianne Moore is outstanding as Alice, especially as the disease starts to strip away her independence and then humility. And there is no doubt she will receive The Academy Award, but I feel she has acted better in other roles in the past. This is not her strongest role. I adore Moore, I'll watch her in anything, she deserves an Oscar, and maybe this one, but I am not completely sold.
The supporting case is lovely, Alec Baldwin as her husband, Kristen Stewart and Kate Bosworth as her two daughters. Stewart in particular is quite good.
This is a really good film, worth seeing, maybe I am judging too harshly because of the book. Of all the sad films I have seen this season, it made me cry the least, I think I am using that as a rating!!!

 Into the Woods
I am not a fan of Stephen Sondheim, but love musicals. I am also sick of Johnny Depp playing OTT characters, but I love Emily Blunt and Meryl Streep. So I had mixed feelings about Into The Woods prior to seeing it/
So Emily Blunt and Meryl Streep were outstanding, particularly Streep. She obviously relished in playing the witch and singing and hamming it up. Depp is only a cameo, and the songs were sickly awful, but that's ok, those kind of things are meant to be.
The story is a fractured fairy tale about a young couple Blunt, and some other dude, who cannot have children. This is due to something the dude's father did to the last next door, Streep. And the three work together to collect components to make a concoction to brew and overturn the spell. Or something like that.
Whilst I didn't love this, I did like it's sense of humour and the fact the women didn't really need the men to survive, so it was a teensy bit feminist.

There are many witty quips and lines, referring to other fairy tales etc, and this made it quite funny.
The women were strong and unsure about lives as princesses and queens. The men were a bit dopey, obviously so, and a dance off in the waterfall between the two princes was particularly hilarious.
The ending was unexpected, I quite liked that. This is a family film, I think you could safely take upper primary kids to it, and a nice example for young girls. It's not quite my cuppa tea, but that doesn't mean it's bad.

Streep is nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, she's done better, but it's a worthy nom. Take the family, leave your brain at the door, and just head off to fantasy land with Into The Woods.

No comments: