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So I finally got around to seeing….

June 2, 2008

With little to do this weekend, I hunkered down with some Netflix envelopes and watched some flicks I’ve been meaning to check out for a while now.

I feel I should preface this review by saying that I enjoyed Richard Matheson’s 1954 novel of the same name a lot and the trailer for the film was actually motivated me to give the book a read. Aside from having the same title and claiming to be an adaption, this movie has little in common with the book, including how much I enjoyed the book. This movie is tremendously, spectacularly bad. I understand that screenwriters when making adaptations of novels have to omit certain things from the source material just to advance the plot and keep the movie going but this movie changes all of the things that made the novel and its story inherently interesting. I’ll give credit to Will Smith because he acted the part quite well with a character that had its guts ripped out in the writing. For me, the problem with the film is the excessive use of CGI. The entire film feels as if it’s acting in front of green screen and really undermines the most interesting premise of Matheson’s work: What would you do if everyone you knew was dead and you were the only person left on Earth? Ultimately, that dilemma and that question is never posed to the audience in a way that is compelling. Matheson’s novel is worth reading, this movie is not.

I wanted to hate this movie, I really did. This was a buzz movie. The movie that all of the high schoolers and college kids in America saw and enjoyed because it made them feel hip and cool. The 2008 version of Garden State (a movie I unashamedly love). I wanted to hate Ellen Page, Michael Cera and the film’s many catchphrases.

I wanted to hate this move, but I didn’t. I liked it. I liked it a lot.

This is a really charming film for all of the reasons you’d expect. The writing is really clever and funny though at times it felt like everyone in the movie talked like they were in their mid-20s but the movie has an undeniable charm and a big heart and it’s tough not to enjoy this movie. Hats off for Jason Reitman for not getting too indulgent and being able to tell a story like this in about 90 minutes.

I did have some problems with the movie, not the first of which is that I’ve never been a Michael Cera fan and thought his performance was pretty one-note. I also loathed the oversell of Jennifer Garner’s character as the waspy, cold corporate workaholic would-be adopted mother of Ellen Page’s child. It’s done to push the audience one way so that they may be pulled another way later in the film and while I get that, it still makes Garner’s character tough to empathize with.

Still, with its flaws, it really is a nice little move and worth a watch if you haven’t seen it.

Out of all the films that arrived in my mailbox, Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of Upton Sinclair’s Oil! was the one that I was most concerned about. To start with, the film’s run time is more than two and a half hours, which is the kiss of death for me. But all things considered, I didn’t hate this movie anywhere near as much as I thought I would.

One thing I did hate about this movie, which is something I normally don’t notice, is the score. Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead, a first-time composer, scored the film and what a job he did. The score is Hitchcockian but the film is anything but. The score feels so inappropriate at times that it really took my mind from what was happening in the scene to how out of balance the film felt with the music behind it.

To Paul Thomas Anderson’s credit, it’s a gorgeous film. It’s brilliantly acted from beginning to end and not just Daniel Day Lewis. The supporting characters and even the bit players are all great and really help the movie feel real and authentic to the period. Daniel Day Lewis is absolutely impossible to stop watching and is absolutely electrifying on screen.

I will never, ever watch this movie again but a one-time viewing was worth it.

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