Sunday, November 24, 2013

All Is Lost

Look, in any movie of Robert Redford vs. the Sea, I'm going to root for the sea. That's just how it is.

We went to see Great Expectations but there was a traffic jam, so we opted instead for the latest Israeli documentary on their Prime Ministers. But we were a little late for that, too, and the only seats were down front—and there was a Q&A with the filmmakers.

Q&A can be fun, but it's a little ostentatious to be sitting in the front row with our giant-sized sodas and popcorns slurping and chomping away while people talk about the existential crises that Israel has confronted over the years.

Gauche, eh, what?

So we ended up seeing this movie I hadn't planned on seeing, All Is Lost, starring that anti-Tea Party bigot. He had to come out vocally against the Tea Party, too, right beforehand. So while I'm not pleased I contributed my dollars to its box office, I'm glad it didn't go over the five million mark.

Heh. Take that Sundance Kid.

This is the second film from J.C. Chandor, writer/director of the muddled Margin Call, and this is a better film, because even if it makes no sense from a nautical standpoint, the struggle is always immediate and therefore more real feeling. (Though, like Margin Call, it really doesn't make much sense even to amateur eyes, and every seasoned sailor I've talked to just sort of rolls their eyes.)

This is, essentially, Gravity, but on a boat. Only without George Clooney, and with Robert Redford in the Sandra Bullock role.

Redford's boat hits a shipping container, and he spends the next 100-plus minutes in increasingly dire situations. This is all told in flashback, mind you, so we're spared any uncomfortable suspense. Although at some point the movie passes the opening monologue, though it was not at all clear to me when that was.

The sum total of what we learn about Redford, beside that he's a bad sailor, comes from that monologue. In which we learn, he has regrets. Well, yeah: He's drowning out in the Indian Ocean alone somewhere, that'd tend to bring up the remorse.

That's it.

So a movie like this tends to rest on how much you relate to the lead actor, and political nonsense aside, I'm ready to call it on Redford. Much like Peter O'Toole, a great deal of his acting was in his face, and his face is little-old-lady-ish at this point. He's nowhere near as washed out as O'Toole, whose age is positively distracting, but it seems to me like he hasn't adapted to not being gorgeous.

Your mileage may vary, of course. But Gravity would've been twice as much better had they kept Sandra Bullock in her undies the whole time, and this film would've been twice as good had they used someone a little younger.

Shallow? OK, yeah, maybe. Blame Hollywood.

James Cromwell probably could've done a great job, and the $5M it took in might have been a profit. (Except it might not have even made that much, given that Still Mine only took in slightly over $1M, and is a much better film.)

Well, what do I know? Redford's got fans, still. Critics gave this a near perfect score. Audiences, besides turning away in droves, are more lukewarm. I can't see it being a big video/cable hit either. Maybe a last-chance shot at an Oscar for Redford?

It's competently directed, I guess. I keep thinking of all the movies we've seen recently where the montage—the dialogue free stuff—is the best part. I somehow think more could've been done here. It's so literal that I was actually starting to crave something more metaphorical, some kind of larger picture than "What kind of schmuck doesn't have an emergency transponder on his life raft? Don't they all have that now?"

So, yeah, with bolder direction or better acting, it could've been good. That Tom Hanks fellow did good in his lost-at-sea movie, right? The Boy shared my sense of ennui over the proceedings.

Despite it all, I actually wanted to begrudgingly like it, and I sorta guess I did maybe. I didn't hate it. Meh.

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