Archive for November, 2014

Quick Hits on Movies

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

Got in a really great movie a week or so ago—The Skeleton Twins, which I hadn’t even heard of until friends invited us to see it—and a not-so-great (more like a great-start) movie just the other night, Dear White People.

The Skeleton Twins is beautifully written, very nearly perfect in its composition. It’s one of those scripts that bears deconstructing, so cleverly and economically does it set up its characters and conflict. There’s nothing you wish weren’t being said or shown, and everything that is said or shown means something and pays off. I love that in a film (or a book); it rewards attention and patience.

And then there’s the fantastic acting. Does everyone love Kristin Wiig in her film roles as much as I do? She gives such sensitive performances, so feeling and smart. Bill Hader also nails it, as does Luke Wilson, in an incredibly sweet and charming role. There’s a moment at the end of the movie that I felt could have been dialed back a bit (it’s a little too schmaltzy for the film’s otherwise refined sensibilities), but whatever. It doesn’t ruin anything.

Dear White People was disappointing, I’m sorry to say. I had high hopes, especially after watching the trailer. This essay in Bitch Magazine captures pretty much everything I have to say about it (and more), but I’ll add that John feels that the characters are intentionally flat (or at least based on types) because the film is supposed to be a satire and/or a melodrama; hence the title cards. I . . . dunno. I think the flatness is a huge problem for the movie, which literally calls out stereotyped portrayals of black people in other movies.

Of course, we absolutely need (many) more movies about black people, written and directed by black people. And we need more movies that remind us that racism is alive and well, on college campuses as elsewhere (as everywhere). AND I’m impressed with any writer-director who gets a film made, especially a first-time writer-director and especially a 31-year-old and especially a film about race. Yay for crowd-funding! And here’s hoping for a subsequent film that’s more fully developed.