Ruby Sparks

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Here’s another movie I watched on a small screen in the back of the chair in front of me on a long haul flight from the UK. I’m pretty convinced that it’s not the best way for me to watch serious movies (I also watched How to Train your Dragon 2 which I really liked so the small screen and cramped position seems to work for kids films…).

It’s not that I didn’t like Ruby Sparks I just didn’t get into it. Perhaps I needed to concentrate more, perhaps I needed a bigger screen but probably I needed to not be on an aeroplane!

Anyway, quit the whinging woman write about the movie!

I liked the idea behind this movie, it brings up some really interesting issues. What would you change about the person you love if you could? and would you? and should you? I think we all have things about the people we hold dearest that we think we would like to change but would they still be the same person if you did change them? Probably yes if you just stopped them chewing their nails, but maybe not if you tried to change their feelings toward you or basic parts of their personality.

The main character, let’s call him “the writer” played by Paul Dano, brings to life his perfect girl through the magic of typewriter… those things are so friggin’ magical! The problem, of course, with writing your perfect partner is that once they begin experiencing life other than how you wrote it, they begin to change and do you rewrite them if you don’t like the changes?

It really is very clever. What would we do with the power to change those around us if we could? This guy writes his dream manic pixie girl who is adventurous, smart and totally in love with him but as she begins to experience life she begins to change from the person he initially wrote. This is another interesting point about how those around us change and, hopefully, we change with them. Sometimes those changes don’t suit us but I think it’s probably not a good idea to try to rewrite someone, it’s probably better to change yourself.

The writer here starts out a nice enough washed up loser type (those things all go together right?) but by the end it’s hard to feel much sympathy for him as he goes about the business of rewriting his perfect girl over and over again. It’s horrible to watch and my sympathy was all with Ruby.

These rewrites make the movie hard going at times and the writer just got creepier and creepier. I guess that’s the point in the end that this kind of control of someone can end up like a horror film. It’s not normal. It’s cruel.

I also just find Paul Dano a little creepy anyway. I’ve mainly seen him in creepier roles I suppose which doesn’t help.

I really wish I hadn’t watched this on the plane. In future I will stick to kid’s films … and maybe action.

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Buffalo 66

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I went in to this film not having a clue about it. I knew that Buffalo 66 was the first movie from Vincent Gallo but apart from that – nothing. I didn’t even know one of my favourite actors, Christina Ricci, was in it. Great surprise and she was terrific.

Buffalo 66 is unusual. It follows Vincent Gallo’s character out of prison back to life. He has lied to his parents about where he’s been and has even made up a wife. He kidnaps Christina Ricci’s character and goes to visit the folks with his ‘wife’. This could have played out as expected but the characters are so odd that somehow this all seemed normal.

There’s certainly something very wrong with these two but I found myself hoping for a good outcome for them both. There were times when she could have run but she didn’t and he is so intense and unhappy about his life that he is hardly likeable. Weird then that I liked them both so much.

Another awesome surprise was Angelica Houston rocking it as the Mum obsessed by football (the Superbowl kind) and not much else, least of all her son.

These are two very lonely and sad people and, in fact, the kidnapping becomes quite stockholm syndrome quite quickly. The lies upon lies that develop are quite astounding and as ‘the wife’ she begins to relish her power in the situation. I should stop saying it but I remain surprised by how much I liked them because they make strange decisions and he is really quite mean to her and she just falls in love more. Sad. The fact that this movie is set over less than 24 hours makes it even sadder (yet I loved it! I just wanted them to be happy – so much for my romance immune action brain… although it ain’t a romantic film.)

There is great use of flashbacks as explanation of how he came to be in prison and the life he had with his oddball parents. The whole movie feels quirky like an early Wes Anderson film. It’s less quirky though and more sad sack. (I have no idea how to describe this, can you tell? Sweet and creepy maybe?) The flashbacks are quirky too. They appear as tiny squares in the middle of the screen and slowly take over – it kind of scared me the first time.

The ending is very unusual too. That is all I can say about that.

You should watch this film just to see Vincent Gallo’s run. So odd. So uptight.

The Guard

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So the other night I’m watching TV and The Guard comes on and as it’s on my movie list I thought ‘just watch it’. Who cares about doing things in order anyway? Not me apparently. Plus it was on a channel that drops out and doesn’t record properly so, yeh, decision made. I have no idea what number it is on the list because its quite a few pages in (yes, pages) and I’ve counted that list once and I don’t intend to count it again without good reason. Maybe if someone threatened me with a piece of processed chicken (I’m allergic) at processed meat point, maybe then I’d count it again. Maybe.

So The Guard is an actually excellent film that contains most of my “that’s an excellent film” requirements. There’s funny, touching, mysterious, bad guys, good guys, in-between guys, sad, and … action!! The only thing missing is female characters. Two prostitutes and a wife do not make a Bechdel Test passing film. Damn. Admittedly the film did play on the ‘it’s still a man’s world out here in the Irish sticks’ a lot, so I won’t dwell on the Bechdel Test.

At times I found the Irish accent a little hard to understand but it didn’t ruin the film. (Having a whole pile of Irish DNA does not, unsurprisingly, make the accent easy to understand.)

The star of the piece is the grumpy garda (Irish Gaelic for cop – sort of) (Brendan Gleeson – glorious) and the straight man to grumpy garda’s wit is the American CIA agent, so straight it hurts Don Cheadle (glorious). The two are teamed up to find an international drug smuggling operation working through an out of the way port in Faraway, Ireland (not the town’s name at all).

Grumpy garda is grumpy and has his own offbeat ways of doing things. CIA agent is not and does not, he plays by the rules. This sounds like a classic set up, and it is, but grumpy garda is so understandable and strangely likeable (all down to the gloriousness of Brendan Gleeson I am sure) that I ended up wanting them to like each other and learn from each other and get the bad guys. Their interactions are very honest and at times hilarious while making me feel like I may have inadvertently learnt something by the end of their conversation. Nothing pans out quite as I expected and I like that.

Grumpy garda is a fully developed character and that kind of development is unusual for a film. There’s just not enough time in general. I felt like I knew him at the end and I wanted him to make it through all the baddies and the failed stings and the grumpiness of his everyday life. He is naughty and old and fat and lonely and jaded and he knows it and he doesn’t care. Yet he cares about others in his grumpy way (especially his Mum, bless his cotton socks).

The baddies were a bit of a let down as they were just super mean but they were drug dealers so why be so ‘kill everyone’ bad? I think they could have been a bit more subtle and their characters a little more developed. Being a gun for hire does not necessarily make you Mr Kill Everyone And It Makes Sense Because I’m Being Paid By The Boss. Basically they are classic baddies that you don’t care about because they are bad and they deserve badness.

Also, there is a gunfight and a big explosion. Action in an independent film that also has feeling and learnings, woah! Glorious!