Monday, July 26, 2010

Fantasia Daily for 23 July: High School, Fatso

Okay, it looks like I kind of spent Friday making not-so-great choices. I led off the day heading out for the Dragon Boats I had seen advertised on St. Catherine Street. I don't know what I was expecting; a Chinese variant on Viking longboats or something. Instead, I saw this:


Which I don't mean to mock at all; it was cool to see the Olympic basin and all, but the races went quick and there seemed to be a real delay between heats. I left, spent a while walking around the islands, and then took the water taxi across the river to the Old Port where I made the annual visit to Pointe-à-Callière, which is always very cool.


This year, as you can see, the temporary exhibit was on Rapa Nui. The statue out front is a reproduction - Chile no longer allows actual statues to travel, although a smaller one on load from another museum could be found inside. The history is really fascinating, as the island's isolation allowed it to develop in radically different ways that other Oceanic cultures, and it serves as an example of how environmental changes can trigger cultural ones.

"Supper", as it was, came at Les Glaceurs, an ice cream and cupcake place near the cathedral. A chocolate cupcake with coconut on the icing and a raspberry glacé isn't much of a meal, but I wasn't that hungry.

That was a good choice. The evening's movies, maybe not so much. I chose High School over What is Not Romance? because I was more in the mood for some comedy than what looked like kind of an animated downer; Fatso because I could move Black Death to its second screening when it was announced. Neither of them are really bad, but it was an unusually bland evening at the festival.

High School

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 23 July 2010 in Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2010)

Marijuana's got little to no appeal to me in real life, and I don't find most stoner characters very funny, either. So High School has a little work to do with me from the start. It does okay as a teenage buddy comedy, but seldom much better than that.

Henry Burke (Matt Bush) is a brilliant student, well on his way to being valedictorian with a full ride scholarship to MIT. On one of the last days of his senior year, he accidentally hits Dean Gordon's (Michael Chiklis) car while swerving to avoid Travis Breaux (Sean Marquette). They both wind up in detention, and afterward awkwardly reminisce about how they used to be best friends. Travis gives Henry a joint, which Henry doesn't much like even before a mandatory drug test leading to immediate expulsion for positive returns is announced. They soon realize that the only way they can keep this from ending in disaster is if the entire school fails the test. Fortunately, Travis comes up with a plan; unfortunately, it's insane and involves stealing hyper-refined THC from a dealer who goes by "Psycho Ed" (Adrien Brody).

Although the plot of the movie is the attempt to get the entire school to test positive, what it's about is rekindling the friendship between Henry and Travis, and the movie is uneven there in a lot of ways. They go from getting along to at each other's throats and back again in the blink of an eye, and it tends to feel very random. There are prominent bits about Henry discovering his need to loosen up, but not nearly so much about Travis maturing and setting goals for himself.

Full review at eFilmCritic


* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 23 July 2010 in Salle de Seve (Fantasia 2010)

Norway's Fatso goes for the comedy of discomfort far more than an American version of the same story would, and as a result, maybe it makes sense in that case that it ends with only the wispiest sense of resolution. It makes for a bit of a frustrating total experience, because the characters earn more, but writer/director Arild Fröhlich is sticking to his guns: Happiness doesn't come easy.

Rino (Nils Jørgen Kaalstad) knows this. Overweight, schlumpy, and painfully shy, he spends his days in his late grandmother's apartment translating technical manuals from German to Norwegian, his only friend a gypsy-cab driver by the name of Fillippo (Kyrre Hellum), and his only outlets the comics he draws featuring himself as a sex-obsessed rhinoceros, porn, and masturbation. That may change soon; Rino's father has rented the second bedroom out to Malin (Josefin Ljungman), a gorgeous 20-year-old girl from Sweden who is looking to live a more quiet life.

In some ways, it's unfortunate that the movie (and novel from which the movie was adapted) is called "Fatso", because in many ways Malin is more interesting than Rino. That's not even particularly because Ljungman is more photogenic than the way Kaalstad appears during most of the film; she's got an uncanny knack to reveal massive sadness and despair when without smearing her makeup or otherwise downplaying her beauty, even if we'd just seen her seemingly cheerful moments before. Of course, part of this likely comes because we only see into her life obliquely, when Malin mentions it to Rino or when he ends up with a front-row seat for her relationship meeting with disaster. Telling the pair's stories in a more balanced way might lessen the impact of it.

Full review at eFilmCriticF

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