Tag Archives: Alicia Vikander

“Tulip Fever”

LOUISA: 2 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

I have learned more about the tulip craze in 17th Century Amsterdam than I ever care to hear about ever again thanks to “Tulip Fever,” a lifeless, insipid mess of a movie. Alicia Vikander and Christoph Waltz may headline this ill-advised project and while they are proficient, their performances aren’t enough to recommend suffering through this mess.

The film is based on the novel by Deborah Moggach and as is usually the case with intricate books turned into movies, there are just far too many storylines competing for attention within the entrapments of a 90 minute run time. It’s such a convoluted jumble of confusion that at times the plot doesn’t make any sense whatsoever, and it doesn’t help that almost all of the characters feel paper thin.

Vikander is adept as Sophia, an orphaned girl who is forced into an arranged marriage to a wealthy merchant (Waltz). Unhappy in her emotional prison and unable to conceive an heir for her husband, she finds a confidant in her housemaid Maria (Holliday Grainger). When the lady of the house starts to have a passionate affair with a portrait painter (Dane DeHaan), all hell breaks loose.

There are way too many subplots that throw far too much information at the viewer, from an inept attempt to explain the underground tulip bulb market that ran rampant in the early 1600s, an unconvincing romance storyline with the local fishmonger (Jack O’Connell), scenes of a humorless nun (Judi Dench) tending to her flower garden, a drunk screw-up (Zach Galifianakis) ruining an epic plan after he intervenes to stop someone from beating a donkey, and a slightly pervy underground wannabe gynecologist.

Perhaps if this film had been crafted as a screwball comedy it would’ve been more effective.

The truly unsexy sex scenes notwithstanding, the filmmaking is at least skilled, and plot-wise there’s just enough to keep audiences barely hanging on to discover where the story ultimately goes. “Tulip Fever” is thankfully interspersed with some gorgeous shots of the most lovely flowers and the lavish costume design is an additional feast for the eyes. The movie isn’t bad to look at it, it’s just dull, hollow and ultimately confusing.

“The Light Between Oceans”

LOUISA:  4 STARS MATT: 2 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

“The Light Between Oceans” reminds me of a Nicolas Sparks movie that’s made to target a more sophisticated, artistically intellectual audience. The unhurried pace mixed with a deeply thoughtful story about morality, love, duty, and doing the right thing is sure to divide audiences with its deliberate, assured style and substance.

World War I veteran Tom (Michael Fassbener) needs to escape his demons after years in combat so he accepts a job as a lighthouse keeper on a very remote island. He relishes the isolation until he meets the beautiful Isabel (Alicia Vikander) on the mainland. The two soon marry and Isabel joins Tom on the island. All is wonderful until Isabel suffers two tragic miscarriages and slowly begins to lose her mind to grief. When a mysterious rowboat harboring a starving infant and a dead man washes ashore, the pair decide to raise the child as their own and become entangled in a dramatic, heartbreaking melodrama of their own doing.

There’s so much to this story (based on novel by M.L. Stedman) that it’s impossible to discuss all of the plot points. As with most films based on literary works, this one is packed with far too much story in an obvious attempt to cram in as much of the original novel as possible into the screenplay. This really becomes evident as the pacing becomes a bit too rapid with event after event stuffed into the film’s final half hour, and it doesn’t fit in well with the rest of movie’s purposefully slow pacing. There’s simply too much story towards the end of the movie; not that it matters much because the first half is fantastic and dare I say it, nearly perfect in every way.

There’s an overwhelming sense of isolation and regret that’s fully realized by director Derek Cianfrance‘s visual style. This movie looks absolutely gorgeous throughout and is beautifully shot and framed. The delicate, dreamy realism is just lovely. Anyone who loves the medium of film will adore the cinematography in this movie.

As in Cianfrance’s previous works (“Blue Valentine” and “The Place Beyond the Pines“), he has a clear, confident vision that’s fully realized. The material is an ugly story that turns out to be a little bit beautiful, and his restrained visuals elevate the heartbreaking elements while firmly keeping the film from devolving into nothing more than a commonplace manipulative tearjerker. Sure it’s calculated to tug at your heartstrings, but the subtle emotion feels realistic and the actors’ commanding performances lend more than just a passing air of authenticity.

The chemistry is off the charts between Vikander and Fassbender. Their wildly romantic onscreen relationship never falters. Fassbender finds just the right mix of reserved aloofness and quiet desperation, and the uber talented Rachel Weisz adds yet another memorable performance to her resume as a grieving mother who undergoes her own tale of tragedy and loss.

The performances are all fairly restrained — for the most part. There’s an unfortunate scene where Vikander grossly overacts by wailing and dropping to the floor; I didn’t want it to be funny but sadly, it was. What’s interesting is that none of the characters here are very sympathetic, yet I found myself genuinely caring about them all. There’s so much moral ambiguity in each of them, yet at times I sided with and understood every person’s motivation (no matter how kind or how selfish). That’s a testament to how fantastic these performances are.

This is a skillfully crafted and beautiful film throughout. Highly recommended.

MATT SAYS:

Derek Cianfrance is a bit of an enigma as a film director. He seems to have a flair for telling stories in a short format, but when it comes to sustaining a feature-length picture, he struggles a bit. This truth was particularly apparent in “The Place Beyond the PinesThe Place Beyond the Pines” — what essentially was three stories in one that were all linked to one another — but the same can be said about his latest effort, “The Light Between Oceans.”

Louisa recommended that I not recap the story here (as is my tendency) so I won’t. It’s hard to explain the plot, anyway. But I will say that the first part of this story — in which Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender) travels to a small coastal town and takes a job as the keeper of a lighthouse on a remote island, and then falls in love with Isabel Graysmark (Alicia Vikander) — is well-done. Life maintaining a lighthouse on a lonely island after the first World War is something I know nothing about, and I watched with great interest as Tom moved to the island and started writing letters to Isabel.

Fassbender and Vikander have palpable chemistry, and perhaps that is why the first part of the movie is so compelling. Their life and love alone together on a remote island is the stuff of the Hallmark channel and the paperback Harlequin romance novels my grandmother used to buy by the sackful, but the authenticity that each brings to their characters and their relationship makes it interesting.

And then the baby stuff starts.

I felt my interest start to wane when the couple becomes obsessed with having a child. The miscarriages are tragic to be sure, and the arrival of baby Lucy-Grace (Florence Clery) amps up the drama a bit. But the inevitable confrontation between the Sherbournes and Lucy-Grace’s birth mother Hannah (Rachel Weisz) didn’t arrive nearly soon enough. Many times I felt myself reaching for the imaginary fast-forward button, just waiting for SOMETHING to happen in this movie. And when things do start to happen, they do so on a pace that is frustratingly languid.

I saw this film because of its pedigree. There can be no question that Fassbender, Weisz, and Vikander are some of the finest actors working today. Cianfrance is a director worthy of note, having made the incredibly insightful relationship drama “Blue Valentine.” And 1/3 of “The Place Beyond the Pines” was excellent; if that one story stood on its own, it would have been in my top 10 list for 2012. But having an awards-bait cast and director doesn’t always equate to a great movie, and that was certainly the case here.

While Cianfrance was undoubtedly able to tease some insightful moments out of his actors and the cinematography was, at times, gorgeous, there just wasn’t enough in the story to hold my interest. Perhaps I would have felt differently if it lost about 45 minutes of running time, but as it currently stands I can’t recommend this movie.

“Jason Bourne”

LOUISA:  1.5 STARS  MATT: 1 STAR


LOUISA SAYS:

“Jason Bourne” is a spy movie for imbeciles. The entire film feels like it’s written using nothing more than the vocabulary of a 12 year old and consists of two very tiring hours of repetition. Bourne gets chased, throws some punches, and gets away. Shoot, bleed, run, escape. Shoot, bleed, run, escape. Shoot, bleed, run, escape. Repeat to infinity.

I actually felt bad for the actors having to deliver such dreadful dialogue; their onscreen characters literally describe everything that’s happening as it unfolds (“It’s Bourne!” and “I’m going to shoot!” and “He’s running upstairs!” and “The files are downloaded!”). At some point it started to get funny.

Matt Damon is back as Jason Bourne and it feels like he’s sleepwalking through the entire movie. Even the talented Alicia Vikander phones in her questionable performance (is she supposed to have an accent or not?) and Tommy Lee Jones plays yet another scowling caricature of a sinister government official. There’s little in the way of character development and the only actor who’s enjoyable here is franchise veteran Julia Stiles. What a pity that she’s not given much to do.

Even the action sequences are inexcusably incoherent. Paul Greengrass is one of my least favorite directors, mainly because he loves that fast cutting junk where I can’t tell what is going on in the movie. It’s a filmmaking style for those with short attention spans and it’s a sign of extreme laziness.

Greengrass sucks all the fun out of what should’ve been a spectacular car chase down the Las Vegas strip. Instead of taking his time and showing off the pageantry of stunt driving with a steady hand (see the legendary cinematic car chases in Quentin Tarantino’s “Death Proof,” William Friedkin’s “The French Connection,” Peter Yates’ “Bullit,” Justin Lin’s “Fast Five,” or hell, even Michael Bay’s “Bad Boys II“), Greengrass once again opts for the lazy way out and gives us a messy commotion of three second snippets that seem to be edited together in a blender on the high setting.

None of the elements work: the film covers no new ground, it lacks any energy, and it simply feels tired, making “Jason Bourne” the lamest of all in the series.

MATT SAYS:

“Conversation” with 5-word sentences using spy and techno-jargon. Quick cut to person typing on computer: Beep, boop, beep. Quick cut to shaky cam conversation. Another five-word-sentence conversation and more shaky cam. Cut to shaky-cam motorcycle chase with no sense of geography. Cut back to computer.

Cut, cut, cut. Shaky cam, shaky cam, shaky cam. “Jason Bourne” might as well have been shot and assembled by a seven-year-old with ADD that hasn’t taken his Ritalin. It wasn’t so much edited as jammed together. So little artistry went into making this movie that it’s hard to even call Paul Greengrass its “director.”

One of my recurring rants is on the use of quick cutting and shaky cams in action films: it’s the hallmark of lazy filmmaking. When your action sequences are constructed by using cut after cut after cut, you don’t have to worry about storyboarding (contrast “The Raid: Redemption“). You don’t need actors who have any training in fight choreography (contrast “The Raid 2“). You don’t have to concern yourself with geography or spatial relationships. In other words, instead of having to WORK at creating a compelling action sequence, you can hack your way through it. And boy, there is NO ONE working in film now that loves hack action better than Paul Greengrass. And nowhere has Greengrass’s hackiness been on display more than in “Jason Bourne.” It’s his masterpiece of hacketry. I can continue making up new word forms using “hack” to describe this movie and director, but I think you get the idea.

In addition to the bad direction and editing, “Jason Bourne” stinks because it’s a poor excuse for a spy thriller. We are subjected to scene after scene of dreadful acting. Julia Stiles (Nicky Parsons) is the worst of the lot, but Matt Damon (Jason Bourne), Alicia Vikander (Heather Lee) and Tommy Lee Jones (Director Dewey) are only marginally better. The script is abysmal, with the characters not so much dialoguing with one another as speaking spy techno-jargon while they type on computers that are constantly beep-bloop-bleeping (no computer I’ve ever used makes so many noises when scanning files). Using words that sound cool does not make a scene interesting. And the plot? It’s barely even there.

I found only three things enjoyable about this movie. The very first fight scene between Bourne and some nameless guy — the one you see in the trailer. The story thread featuring the Silicon Valley billionaire that refused to screw over the public in the name of national security. And the final vehicular chase scene down Las Vegas Boulevard — which I liked in spite of the terrible editing (which, incidentally, got the geography of the Strip all wrong).

Please don’t make this movie a hit, because then we will get lots of imitators (like we did after “The Bourne Supremacy” and “The Bourne Ultimatum“, when quick cuts and shaky cam were used in 95% of all action pictures).

Demand more for your money. There are so many movies that do it better than this one. Do you want an engaging, twisty techno-spy thriller? Check out the “Mission Impossible” series. Do you want a well-written story of international espionage and intrigue? See “Our Kind of Traitor.” Do you want well-choreographed fight sequences? Watch “The Raid” movies. Hell, even this summer’s “Warcraft” did a better job with its fights and action that this film.