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Movie review

  • 2006-11-15
  • By TBT staff
Babel
The Last Kiss

Babel
In "Babel" director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu tells four separate but interconnected stories of innocent people in tragic circumstances. In Morocco, the holiday of an American couple, played by Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, turns into a nightmare when the wife is shot on a tour bus. Nearby, we follow a pair of young Moroccan boys who may be responsible for the shooting. In California, the couple's nanny takes their young children to Mexico to attend a wedding. In Tokyo, a deaf Japanese teenager begins to discover her sexuality. Inarritu employed the same technique of weaving together connected stories in his previous films "Amores Perros" and "21 Grams." He uses the world as his stage in "Babel" and, as a result, the plot feels both less tight and more ambitious. Each of the stories is compelling, and the idea of a separated American family outside their homeland where things go terribly wrong serves as a clear political metaphor. The story of the Japanese girl Chieko, beautifully played by Rinko Kikuchi, is the most peripheral and the most powerful of all the stories, revealing a profound loss of innocence and serving as a counterpoint to the other tales which are more overtly political. I enjoyed this film, and I find Inarritu to be one of the more talented and interesting filmmakers working today.
( Sherwin Das )

"Babel" is the third collaboration between director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga. But where "Amores Perros" was a little too structurally sleek for my liking and "21 Grams" was way too overwrought, "Babel" has a brilliance that neither film could quite attain. The multi-faceted narrative revolves around three stories: an American couple in Morocco who are grieving for their dead son. When the woman is accidentally shot by a young shepherd boy, the incident generates international attention as a terrorist attack. The second story focuses on the couple's Mexican nanny in San Diego who takes their two young children to her son's wedding in Mexico after she can't find anyone to take care of them. The third 's and by far the best story 's is about a deaf Japanese schoolgirl in Tokyo. "Babel" was filmed in five languages, including sign language, and explores the political interconnectedness of the world and its thorough disconnectedness at the level of perception and communication. The film's biggest weakness is its superimposed conceptual unity: the story feels uncomfortably contrived and deterministic. But the individual stories are so beautifully and powerfully told that the whole thing resonates with a mythical, you might say biblical quality. I couldn't stop thinking about it for days, which is about the biggest compliment I can give a film.
( Tim Ochser )

The Last Kiss
"The Last Kiss" is a lightweight drama about several male friends in their late twenties: Michael, the reluctant father-to-be; Chris, the henpecked husband and new dad; Izzy, the sad sack who can't get over his ex-girlfriend; and Kenny, the long-haired Casanova. The film finally settles on Michael, who, unsure about having the rest of his life so mapped out, explores a fling with a college girl and jeopardizes his relationship with his partner Jenna. Jenna's parents, impressively played by Blythe Danner and Tom Wilkinson, are themselves going through a marital rough patch, giving the younger couple's woes added context. "The Last Kiss" is a flawed, incomplete film which feels like a television episode and introduces more stories than it knows what to do with. The characters have an annoying habit of articulating, all too frequently, whatever they think and feel during their emotional catharses. The director could have benefited from studying Mike Nichols' classic "The Graduate" which powerfully reveals the self-doubt and confusion of a young man of a different generation without resorting to self-absorbed psychobabble. Having said all this, I liked "The Last Kiss" more than I expected to as it does make a noble attempt to explore human fallibility within relationships.
1/2 ( Sherwin Das)

Whenever American films try to be philosophical, the word "choices" invariably has a starring thematic role. "We all make choices. What's yours?" the tagline to "The Last Kiss" taunts us. This rather tedious and self-obsessed movie is, more specifically, about the "choices" of Michael (Zach Braff), a 30-something man who should be happy with his life (good job, beautiful girlfriend, good friends etc.), but who is not. So when an attractive young student flirts with him at a wedding, he has some very tough choices to make, especially because his girlfriend is pregnant. "The Last Kiss" is refreshingly honest compared with most mainstream movies and it doesn't shy away from some uncomfortable truths about the unholy state of monogamy. But it's basically just a disillusioned Hollywood film desperately craving a happy ending. In this respect it's about as meaningful a reflection on the nature of choice as a treatise on the brands of toothpaste on sale in the average supermarket. I should add, however, that the last scene is deeply touching. I sat there sniffling and choking back the tears as Michael tries his hardest to unequivocally make his final choices. But right now I choose to go and make a nice cup of tea.
( Tim Ochser )
 

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