Monday, November 24, 2008

TRH Movie - Twilight & Let the Right One In

We were seeing red this weekend in more ways than one, blood red. Seems that vampires got their teeth into me over the past few days. Between two movies and the end of True Blood this weekend, I'm a bit vamped out.

On Saturday my RRHB and I went to the new AMC theatres at Dundas Square to see the Swedish film Let the Right One In. He's been angling for us to see this picture for a few weeks now and we finally had the time. Usually, my RRHB says he wants to see a scary picture and I ask him which of his friends he'd like to take with him. I am glad, however, that I agreed to go with him because it's one of the best films I've seen all year.

Oskar is having a hard time at school. He's being bullied and when the picture opens up we see him in all his adolescent glory playing around with a knife in his bedroom. When he meets odd and definitely awkward Eli in the courtyard of their Stockholm apartment building, the two bond over a Rubik's Cube. She's not wearing a coat. And she's not cold. As their friendship progresses, two things happen: the bullying gets worse and Eli's strange behaviour leads Oskar to think she's a vampire.

The moments of actual horror are few and far between. What the film presents instead is a stark yet vivid picture of the emerging relationship between these two oddly matched friends. Eli needs a human to care for her; Oskar needs someone to help him stand up to the bullies. The deep, dark winter becomes a perfect backdrop, and the grey, painfully cold scenes project the loneliness that both leads must feel on an almost daily basis. There was little backstory and a lot of nuance. The film expects intelligence of its viewer and refuses to lay anything out for you. It's a simple, well-told story that has elements of the supernatural that only add to the emotional depth versus bashing you over the head with it.

Let's take note of that last point as we begin to talk about Twilight. Zesty and I had planned to go to the movies anyway this weekend because my RRHB was supposed to be away for most of it (a giant snowstorm and a cancelled show meant he was home more than away). We decided to go see Twilight hoping for a decent dose of cheese wrapped up in a pretty package. In many ways, that's exactly what we ended up with -- both movies feature odd human-vampire relationships, but that's about where the similarities end.

Twilight, based on Stephanie Meyer's grossly bestselling YA novels, features an "average" girl named Bella who moves from Arizona to Forks, Washington (the rainiest spot in the whole north-east) when her mother goes on the road with her new husband. Moving in with her father, the town's sheriff, brings a whole world of awkward: surprisingly quiet diner meals, odd protective overtones, and strangely stilted conversations. In short, all that you'd expect for a child of divorce heading to live with the absent parent. Life at a new school is hard, but Bella makes friends, not the least of which is the odd attraction (at first repulsion) to Edward Cullen, the hottest boy in school who's got a whopper of a secret. Yes, you guessed, Edward and his siblings are all vampires, and Edward is simply unable to resist Bella's scent any longer. The pair enters into a definitely doomed love affair that puts both of their lives in danger.


There are so many things wrong with the film that it would be impossible to list them all. Knowing that the source material was tepid to begin with, at least the script improved upon Meyer's (and I only read the first few pages of this book because the writing was just so very bad and not for me) cliched and clunky prose. The two leads, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattison, did well with what they were given, but the film falls so flat that it's hard to care about anything that happens. First off, vampires that sparkle and can walk around in the daylight (but not the sunlight)? Vampires that continue to go to school because they're "vegetarians" and only drink animal blood (why not home school, just a thought?)? And a really silly human who can a) figure out all the clues that Edward's a vampire but not think twice about getting herself tricked into a sticky situation that could cause her death? Double yawn.

I think what I wanted was something like the first season of One Tree Hill meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Instead, what we get is a barely plausible sub-par romance that uses the supernatural elements to hype up the whole "forbidden" love theme that runs through it. Bella is hardly a character I would have stand up for girls that age. She drops her entire life for a boy without even thinking twice. She never stands up for herself (unless it's to say that she never EVER wants to be apart from Edward, like, ever!!!). Never protects herself. Often walks into dangerous situations without even having any kind of spidey sense tingling and is, in short, lame. I am barely the millionth person to point this out, though.

Also, the movie needed to be better directed. The film's pace was all wonky -- it didn't hit any kind of reliable beats, and only when the action picked up did it hum. The art direction was lovely, and the setting quite gorgeous, but the makeup was atrocious (all the vampires looked like silent film stars plopped into live action colour) as were the many "montages" and flashbacks. In this sense, it might just be my own personal preference, but Hardwicke really doesn't know how to work with actors -- way back in the day, I had to review her earlier picture Lords of Dogtown. She managed to take a group of highly exceptional actors, all of whom excelled in other productions, and create hambones of them all. Here, something eerily similar happened, and it's as if Hardwicke's never met a moment of melodrama she didn't absolutely adore. But whatevs. No one's going to care about my criticisms of Twilight. Teen girls are going to flock to the multiplex, banter on about how delicious the books are, and continue to *gasp* when Edward appears on screen. For that, bless them.

But for anyone actually looking to see a seriously good film, please go and accept the subtitles of Let the Right One In. At least that vampire makes sense to me.


Anonymous said...

I find it strange that you wrote more on the bad movie than the good one....

ragdoll said...

Maybe because it got me all riled up! But good point.

twhit said...

Thought you might be interested to know Catherine Hardwicke will NOT be directing the sequel (but yes, there is a sequel)... :-)