Saturday, 3 December 2011

Mini Reviews- Albert Nobbs, Todo Sobre Mi Madre, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Run Lola Run

        The theme for these mini reviews is "Being a woman sucks but someone's gotta do it". Hellz yeah, because as the Pussycat Dolls so aptly said, I don't need a man to make it happen *snap snap*. I should shut up now and get on with the reviews.

Albert Nobbs (Dir: Rodrigo Garcia, 2011)

Basic Plot- Albert Nobbs has become a veteran in working in hotels, and now is thinking about branching out and buying himself a shop with all the money he has scrupulously saved over the years. He figures that if he takes a wife, it would help him run his shop better. He chooses the pretty maid Helen Dawes, and asks her to walk with him, which is the early 20th century term for asking out I guess. Only except that Helen is already involved with the handyman Joe Macken. Macken tells her to do so for a laugh and try and screw some money out of the reserved Nobbs, but Nobbs has ulterior motives too. He has the biggest secret of all, that he has been hiding under corsets and men's clothing for about thirty years now- that he in fact is a woman! In a male-dominated society, Albert figured out that being a man was her only option, but now that she wants to take a wife, how will all this turn out for her?

           The basic plot is incredible, or so I had believed. I loved the trailer, and I thought it would be a sweet British film with some great performances and a nice emotional story. I wouldn't say that I was completely wrong, except that Albert Nobbs ends up being too somber a movie for so joyful a plot. It was refreshing to see that cross-dressing was taken seriously in the film, and not just part of some farce, and it tackled some genuine issues about how difficult it is for a woman to survive in an essentially male society. People often condemn prostitution, but I feel it is a result for things like this. Nobbs took an alternative, but had to leave all her womanly qualities behind. There is a part when she gets asked her name, and she only keeps replying "Albert" because she has been this way for so long that she doesn't remember being anything else.That was a very touching scene, one of the many done brilliantly by Glenn Close who really drives the film. My problem with the film was that despite the little gags and humourous bits, and those are quite tiny bits, when you think that all will be set right, as it deserves to for a person like Nobbs who has endured so much all her life, the film just goes the other way. I didn't get the sense of closure or freedom or anything jubilant that I expected to get. I surely felt that way in the one scene when Close as Nobbs wears women's clothes after an entire lifetime it seems and runs on a beach, almost free as a bird released from the cage that the society and she put herself in, but then the end is extremely anti-climactic, and simply feels terrible. Close was great in the sad scenes as well as the comedic ones, or even the ones when she doesn't seem to be doing anything but that's just how meek a man Nobbs is. Mia Wasikowska as Helen was adorable, and I really think her future shines pretty brightly. She did bring in the effervescence that was needed against the reclusiveness of Nobbs. Aaron Johnson was also good as Joe, but his character felt very one-dimensional. Everyone else like Brendan Gleeson and Jonathan Rhys Meyers was there to only fill in the screenspace, though Gleeson did have his moments.

             Close had wanted to get this movie made ever since she played the character in 1982, and she really is the best part about the film. But a trailer and a poster that advertised some light-hearted humour and a feel-good movie, could not have been more misguiding. I went into this hoping to get a The King's Speech-esque (it was a good movie even though it didn't deserve that Oscar) sort of joy and fulfillment in the end, but returned empty-handed and sort of annoyed. If you must, then watch it just for Close.

Rating- 5.5/10

Todo Sobre Mi Madre (Dir: Pedro Almodóvar, 1999)

Basic Plot- Manuela's life is turned upside-down when her sole reason for living, her son Esteban is hit by a car and killed on his seventeenth birthday. Manuela, who never revealed to him the true identity of his father, goes to Barcelona to find the father and tell him everything. Over there she meets her old friend Agrado, who is a transsexual prostitute. While looking for a job, she happens to meet Rosa, a social worker who works with troubled prostitutes who want to leave their line of work. A transvestite prostitute named Lola, who is someone from Manuela's past, has run away from there and later she finds out that he has impregnated Rosa. She also starts to work for a stage actress Huma Rojo and her volatile junkie lover Nina. It was Huma's car that Esteban had run after that fatal day. With all these colourful and complex characters in place, the film unfolds as all their paths cross each other.

        This is considered by many as Almodóvar's magnum opus. It is only the second film that I have seen of the celebrated auteur, so I'm going to reserve judgments on that, but I did like Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown a tad bit more, because it was so crazy awesome. Still, All About My Mother is a great film, no doubt, and I am loving the women-centricness of it all. I especially love how soap opera-ish it is at points, but then something totally unexpected and realistic happens, and you are just left amazed. Like that beginning with the organ donor story- I honestly thought that it will revolve around that and it would have something to do with the heart of Esteban and loving his mother blah blah, but this is exactly why I am the one sitting here in my over-sized clothes on a Saturday afternoon writing this and people like Almodóvar are the ones who are creating classics. I think it tackled many issues like trans-sexuality, transvestism and AIDS with the utmost ease. It wasn't a guilt trip as many of the films showcasing such issues sometimes feel like. There was melodrama and humour and just so many memorable characters. I loved Agrado, played by Antonia San Juan, and the scene when she entertains the crowd was fantastic. All the other actresses too- Cecilia Roth as Manuela, Marisa Peredes as Huma, a very young Penélope Cruz as Rosa were great. Manuela's pain for losing Esteban almost felt repetitive towards the end, but it was also a bit funny due to the fact that I am subjected to similar (and way worse) melodrama every night when it's my grandma's TV time. 

        Again, like Woman on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, the film was very vivid and colourful and everyone in it seemed so beautiful that I was quite impressed. And in all of this there are these stories, not simple but not unbelievable either, of different women and them coping with things like loss and death and faith. Also, characters such as Manuela and Agrado embodied the idea of perseverance when everything can be made to feel like shit, which is something I really liked. Onto the next Almodóvar, I say!

Rating- 10/10

Martha Marcy May Marlene (Dir: Sean Durkin, 2011)

Basic Plot- Martha has been living as part of an abusive cult in rural New York, where the women always answer the phone with the name Marlene. When she decides to leave, she calls her older sister Lucy in great distress and Lucy comes and picks her up and takes her to the luxurious Connecticut home where she lives with her career-driven and materialistic husband Max. Martha doesn't reveal to her the true nature of the atrocities that were committed in the farm where she lived for two years with the cult and about the charismatic and deadly leader Patrick who christens her Marcy May upon their first meeting. With flashbacks that are obvious at first but then melt into the present tense, just like how they do in Martha's mind, we see her life in the farm and her difficulties in settling into a normal life with Lucy and Max. She starts getting paranoid about the cult and Patrick finding her, and this starts to bother them as they cannot possibly imagine what she's been through.

        I thought this was incredible, and it showed how living in cults affect the members mentally and emotionally. John Hawkes as Patrick is almost exactly how I would imagine Charles Manson to be like and how he brainwashed his Family. He was really good, an almost extension from his equally weird role in last year's Winter's Bone for which he got an Oscar nomination. The gem of the film ofcourse is Elizabeth Olsen who plays the protagonist, essentially Martha, Marcy May  and Marlene. She's a proper find, and her performance was one that gave me chills. The film generally revolved around her and she was in almost every shot. Her fear, her confusion, and her lack of emotions at points and total breakdowns in others- it was all amazing. She has the real woman thing about her- not pretty but beautiful, and I think that was exactly what this role needed. Martha is a fragile person, who has grown up with insecurities due to the absence of parents, an unkind aunt and a sister who was mostly away. When she meets someone like Patrick, who makes her feel wanted and important, she is obviously swayed. But as he is such a malevolent character, it only scars her for life, so much so that she feels it is normal for her to go lie down next to Lucy and Max while they are having sex. It is a most affecting psychological thriller because it is a drama too. People have gone as far as to calling it a horror, but I wouldn't say so because perhaps I am not that empathetic, as that is how it must have been for Martha.

            The whole film has an almost undisturbed and serene quality. Everything looks natural and nothing ever has an urgency to it, but there is always that air of dread and discomfort present. Martha's paranoia and loss of sense of time and what part of her life she is living is all expertly accentuated with the beautiful scenic backgrounds and the mellow colours. The posters depict the ephemeral atmosphere of the film. It is a brilliant debut by the writer-director Sean Durkin, and it is easily one of the best films of this year.

Rating- 10/10

Run Lola Run (Dir: Tom Tykwer, 1998)

Basic Plot- So I'm going to somewhat skip this except to say that there is a girl called Lola who has to help her boyfriend Manni with retrieving 100,000 marks worth of smuggling money that he has accidentally lost to save his life, and she has only twenty minutes to do so. Believe me it's better this way.

            What an adrenaline rush! I had no idea about the film except that it had a red-haired girl running in it. Boy was I in for a ride?! It is loud and stylish and fast-paced and mental. Basically freaking awesome! Franka Potente as Lola has officially gone in my list as one of the sexiest and coolest female characters of all time. She is just so engaging. Yes the red hair is in your face, but so is she, and the softer parts are as impactful as her energised emphatic ones. She steals the show, but the film in itself is so much fun. It shows the power of choices, and those singular moments that can make or break you life, as I have always believed so. Another thing that is excellent is the music that plays almost throughout, and it just adds to the whole music-video feel of the film. It is a film which does rely quite a bit on the style with which it is made, and this is only because the film can only be properly experienced like that.

          I am finding it difficult to review this film because I absolutely do not want to give anything away to those who haven't seen it. For those who have, they will understand why I am doing so. This is a film that is to be sort of lived, with the twists and the music and the hair and the running. Writing about it is not that exciting. Honestly, and this is my final word, GO WATCH IT NOW!

Rating- 10/10


  1. I really want to see Albert Nobbs, I think Glenn Close is brilliant and she will do the part justice!
    MMMM is amazing, as well, I saw a couple of months ago! Glad you liked it!

  2. I am telling you this is probably some subliminal messaging going on here (as I have read a fair few reviews of Run Lola Run over the past few weeks on my blog feeder), making me want to add the film to my top 100 when I review it again!

    It was a film I loved a couple of years back when I watched it, and still love now - so glad you feel the same way!

    I don't think I have yet to meet a person who doesn't like it.

    Nice reviews!

  3. @Aziza- Glenn Close was the best part about it, but I was pretty disappointed by the whole film.
    MMMM IS amazing! Loved it.

    @Cherokee- Haha...well it was the reviews in my blog roll that finally got me to watch it. I definitely think it will go in my top 100 whenever I review it.
    How can anyone not like it?
    Thanks :D