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Movie review

  • 2005-12-07
Elizabethtown
Factotum
The Chorus

Elizabethtown
"Elizabethtown" works itself around the story of Drew (Orlando Bloom), who has just lost his firm a billion dollars and on top of that learned that his father has died. A trip back to his father's childhood town to retrieve the body soon becomes a journey of self-identity for Drew. This comedy-drama has hilarious moments and appealing characters, but the feature never quite works as a whole. To me, this was one of those movies where you understand what it's trying to accomplish and what it wants to say, but you just don't feel it. The film's surprisingly shallow truths about life left me unconvinced and frankly bored. Like all Cameron Crowe's works, "Elizabethtown" has a well-selected and well-used musical soundtrack 's it's the one thing in this feature that truly works.
1/2 ( Julie Vinten )

This is director Cameron Crowe's worst film by an embarrassingly long way. From the ridiculous premise of Orlando Bloom's character losing his company almost $1 billion on a sneaker, to the sickeningly cloying finale, "Elizabethtown" is an excruciating experience. Crowe has tried to create something out of the ordinary, something quirky, knowing, bittersweet and even iconic, but "Elizabethtown" is just Hollywood by another route, and it's all the worse for that. It's amusing in places, and Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst certainly work well together, but there is a disturbing vacuity underlying the whole thing from the so-so start to the unspeakable finish. The excessive soundtrack desperately tries to fill in by bombarding your senses with a song a minute. Life affirming? Sure, if you measure it by in-your-seat squirming.
( Tim Ochser )

Factotum
Based on the 1975 novel, and other works, of late writer Charles Bukowski, "Factotum" centers on the character Henry Chinaski, Bukowski's alter ego, nicely portrayed by actor Matt Dillon. Chinaski is a lowlife with three passions: booze, sex and writing. This is a movie that carries a strong art-house feel. It's the study of a man who needs to lead a destitute life to feed his creativity, and thus the film slightly glamorizes this seedy lifestyle. The story doesn't go anywhere really, but that's the point 's both the narrative structure and visuals echo the stagnancy of the characters. "Factotum" works because of the actors' performances, but it's the stationary nature of the feature that prevents it from taking the bold leap from "interesting" to "captivating."
( Julie Vinten )

Adapted from Charles Bukowski's novel, "Factotum" follows the life of Henry Chinaski (Matt Dillon) as he struggles from one dead-end job to another and from one drink to the next, while tirelessly pursuing his dogged desire to be a writer. This is Norwegian director Bent Hamer's ("Kitchen Stories") first English-language film and the result is an absolute gem. Dillon is flawless in the role, giving a perfectly nuanced performance of a man who is by degrees pathetic, noble, phlegmatic and stoical. Lili Taylor provides excellent support as Jan, one of Chinaski's girlfriends. The dialogue is a joy, in those occasional moments when someone has something to say, and the film as a whole is perfectly paced. Warm, intelligent and deeply moving, "Factotum" is one of the best films I've seen this year.
( Tim Ochser )

The Chorus
This French feel-gooder is about a teacher whose kind nature and love of music changes the lives of unfortunate boys sent to a strict reformatory in post-war France. "Les Choristes" ("The Chorus") is such a positive and uplifting experience that you will forgive the film for not being exactly original 's it clearly works as was intended. Formulaic but touching, conventional but charming, this movie doesn't seek to reinvent cinema, but remains pleasantly straightforward, poignant and heart-warming throughout. Though you may shed a little tear, the movie never becomes nauseatingly sentimental, which could have easily happened. Very loveable characters populate the feature, which has some "Dead Poets Society" in it. So we watch, never in doubt that all will be well and good will prevail.
1/2 ( Julie Vinten )

If chemistry formulas could be applied to film, "Les Choristes" ("The Chorus") would be easy to dilute: "Mr. Holland's Opus" plus "Dead Poet's Society" with a drop of classic French charm. Unfortunately, this balanced equation produces little reaction, and is neither acidic nor basic, but neutral. Despite wonderful acting from a handful of adolescent boys, and a superb performance by Gerard Jugnot who plays the bumbling but good-hearted music teacher, this film is nothing you haven't seen before. Jugnot proves to be a wonderful Julie Andrews, with both the wit of Mary Poppins and the loveliness of Maria von Trapp, magically transforming teenage rebels into angelic choirboys overnight. Before we know it, the joyous sound of music even has the school's heartless headmaster dancing on his writing desk.
1/2 ( Tim Ochser )

 

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