Saturday, April 05, 2014

Dans la France: Le Week-End, Ernest & Celestine

Have I mentioned that I went to Paris a few months ago and had a great time recently? Yes? Constantly, to the point where it's becoming really annoying? Well, sorry, but...

This wasn't quite the first movie set there that I've seen since returning - even if you don't count The Monuments Men because "World War II Paris" isn't the same as the place I visited, there was still 3 Days to Kill. In fact, I even remember shaking my head in sympathy as Costner tried to get on the Metro at the last minute, as those doors close fast and will probably happily crush any limb you insert to stop them.

Still, it didn't feel like Paris the way Le Week-End does - or maybe the latter just captures the feeling of visiting the city, which has something amazingly beautiful or historic around every corner, but is actually amazingly friendly and unpretentious for all that it's kind of intimidating. There's a point in it where Lindsay Duncan's Meg wonders why one would want to live anywhere else, and I suspect that anybody who has been there gets the same feeling at some point. I admittedly also wonder if I'd feel that from the movie if I hadn't been there recently.

That wasn't actually the reason I went to Kendall Square that night; I was looking to see Ernest & Celestine, and Kendall was once more doing the thing where they alternate dubbed and subtitled version. I'm always going to go for subs, especially since I do know enough French to at least recognize what's being emphasized. That screening was at 9:40pm, though, and since I'm generally pretty terrible about going back out once I've arrived home, I figured to make it a double feature, and there was no way I was going to start an evening that I hoped to finish with an adorable kids' movie with Nymphomaniac.

I wish I'd been able to write about it quicker, though - by the time I had something to say, it was already out of theaters. I think I only know a couple of folks with kids in the Boston area, though I know a fair amount who like animation, so they might have gone for it. I will recommend its video release whole-heartedly, though - it's a downright adorable movie.

Le Week-End

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 1 April 2014 in Landmark Kendall Square #4 (first-run, DCP)

Vicarious travel is one of the more underrated joys of going to the movies even if it can't carry a film itself, and Le Week-End uses it well: It could have just been another nicely-acted argument that runs for ninety minutes, but having the characters visit Paris puts it in the world, gives the audience something to experience beyond the voyeurism of being an unseen observer of someone else's marriage, and exerts an influence on the story that a generic location wouldn't. The location doesn't upstage Jim Broadbent or Lindsay Duncan, but it gives them something extra to work with.

They play Nick and Meg, a couple returning to the city where they honeymooned for their thirtieth anniversary, not sure what the rest of their life is going to look like with the kids out of the house. The hotel Nick booked is small and drab, so Meg insists on an upgrade - they are, after all, at an age when they could use a rest between excursions. During one of those walks about town, they meet Nick's college friend Morgan (Jeff Goldblum), a quite successful writer who invites them to a soirée at his apartment the next night.

While Paris itself, Jeff Goldblum, and a few other characters who enter the picture in the final act certainly have notable effects on the movie, it is still going to find itself rising and falling on how the audience relates to Meet and Nick. Happily, they are an interesting pair to watch, both because a fine pair of actors have been cast in the parts and because they are something of a role reversal for how the couple in a movie like this is usually built: Meg is more the prickly curmudgeon of the pair, with Nick more the sentimental, steadying type. That is, naturally, a gross oversimplification of the pair; Nick is also plenty prone to making things blow up in his own face, for instance, and both are individual enough to make things interesting.

Full review at EFC

Ernest et Célestine (Ernest & Celestine

* * * * (out of four)
Seen 1 April 2014 in Landmark Kendall Square #9 (first-run, DCP, subtitled)

You can't decide a whole lot about the quality of one movie from the others it references, but it still has to be considered a pretty good sign when that a poster for A Town Called Panic hangs on a kid's wall in Ernest & Celestine. Though the same filmmakers worked on both, they are quite different types of animated feature both in style and their types of humor, equally excellent at making kids laugh and grown-ups smile.

Celestine is a little mouse girl more interested in drawing pictures that show mice and bears being friends than the things she's supposed to be doing; Ernest is a hungry bear who likes making music more than anything else. They meet while Celestine is scavenging in the bears' city as part of her internship, and while they help each other out, Ernest being spotted in the mice's tunnels gets them both in trouble, so that they eventually have to hide out.

The movie is taken from the bandes dessinées albums by Gabrielle Vincent, although there are lines in the movie that suggest that Daniel Pennac's script takes some liberties. It does, when you get down to it present the kid with a rather mixed message - although friendship, bravery, and not being prejudiced are important, a little more attention to how stealing is wrong maybe wouldn't have hurt. Them again, it's not like Bugs Bunny ever had any particular qualms about taking carrots from anybody's garden (or would Jerry Mouse be a better example?). It's a pretty easy thing to overlook, though, as these characters may be roguish (especially Ernest), but they're seldom rude or disrespectful, which can carry a lot of weight with parents.

Full review at EFC

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