I have watched enough new movies, new to me that is, for another edition of le Marquis’ Film Festival. This post’s trifecta of movies are The American, starring George Clooney, 500 Days of Summer and Whip It!, with Ellen Page. With this triple-header, three movie genres are covered: the action-thriller, the romantic-comedy and the coming of age movie, here is something for everyone.
In true le Marquis Tradition, we’ll start with the worst one. That would be Mr. Clooney’s The American, a dull and dismal spy-thriller. Clooney is the title character an American assassin. He is ejected from his Scandinavian domesticity by rival assassins and is forced to move to a small Italian village, poor George. There he resumes his trade and attempts to lie low. The movie then alternates between Clooney exercising his tradecraft; he has been commissioned to build a very special gun and Clooney interacting with the Italian countryside. Neither activity is even a bit satisfying, primarily, because Clooney never takes any joy in this life. I understand that as an international assassin, he has had to cut himself off from all human contact. This is graphically demonstrated in the opening sequence. I understand that such a life could lead to a joyless, isolated existence, but what I don’t understand, is why the actor with arguably the most infectious smile in motion pictures, should choose to take a role in which he never smiles. Doesn’t the phrase, playing to your strengths mean anything anymore?
500 Days of Summer has the tag line, “Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love. Girl doesn’t.” The film also disclaims that it is not a love story, because the depicted relationship eventually fails. This fact is disclosed in the film’s opening reel. 500 Days uses its mechanism that counts down the days, from 1 to 500 to free itself from a chronological telling of the story. We soon learn of the relationship’s impending failure, but first continue watching to learn how it fails, but eventually persist to learn why it failed. A narrator’s voice over is sometimes entertaining, but also sometimes annoying. This same narrator was right; this film is not a love story. This fact makes 500 Days of Summer less than fully satisfying.
Whip It! is Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut. Set in and around Austin, TX, while being filmed in Michigan, the movie is about women’s roller-derby. It is also a high school coming of age movie. When I was in high school, in Michigan, I would sometimes watch women’s roller-derby as it was being blasted out from Motor City. Ellen Page, of Juno fame, is the protagonist of this film. Her character’s mom is pushing beauty pageants as a get ahead scheme. Page’s character, Bliss, is not buying it. A chance trip to Austin quickly sucks her into the sport and transforms Bliss into Babe Ruthless. Saint Louis has its own women’s roller derby league, the Arch Rivals. Ellen Page may not be as good in Whip It! as she was in Juno, but she and the rest of the cast obviously had a lot of fun making this movie. So much fun, that I am thinking about going to go see the Arch Rivals. It’s a fun movie, and by its end you’ll be just as proud as Bliss’ dad and be just as ready to plant your own lawn sign.