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paul weiland

Review: I’m Not There., Iron Man, Made of Honor, Dan in Real Life and How About You

By Cinema, Reviews, Wellington

Many years ago English comedi­an Ben Elton cracked a joke about Bob Dylan: “For all you young people in the audi­ence he was the one who could­n’t sing on the end of the We Are The World video.” Nowadays we have to explain to young people what We Are The World was and Dylan has trav­elled even fur­ther away from rel­ev­ance. So why is I’m Not There. (the full stop is part of the title) such essen­tial view­ing if Dylan seems so irrelevant?

Because unlike every oth­er 20th Century icon Dylan nev­er cared what you think – he just fol­lowed his instincts and his interests and the film is an end­lessly fas­cin­at­ing por­trait of that battle to avoid becom­ing what his audi­ence and his industry wanted him to become. Portrayed by six dif­fer­ent act­ors includ­ing Cate Blanchett and Heath Ledger, Dylan’s many per­so­nas still keep you at arms length. I think the key to Dylan is that he is less com­plic­ated (and at the same time more com­plex) than the world would have you believe and he fully deserves a work of art as fine as this one in his name.

I should also point out that I was lucky enough to see I’m not There. in that most music­al of loc­a­tions, the Paramount and it soun­ded superb. A keeper.

Robert Downey Jr. is one of those movie brats who seems to have been born in front of a cam­era (check out his almost per­fect per­form­ance as Chaplin for Richard Attenborough in 1992). He has­n’t been get­ting the lead roles he deserves (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was the last one) but Iron Man is surely going to change that. Downey Jr.‘s effort­less screen cha­risma is the found­a­tion of a highly enter­tain­ing action movie that is only let down by a not-quite-big-enough set-piece at the end. Billionaire and play­boy arms man­u­fac­turer Tony Stark has his eyes opened to the evils his products enable when he is kid­napped in Afghanistan. After escap­ing, he decides to use his tech­no­logy for good (while still hav­ing as much fun as pos­sible). A good sup­port­ing cast (includ­ing Jeff Bridges look­ing like Daddy Warbucks) keeps things moving.

The fun­ni­est thing about Patrick Dempsey rom-com Made of Honour is that it was made by a com­pany called Original Film. As if! Dempsey plays Tom, super-rich invent­or of the cof­fee col­lar and serial-bedder of beau­ti­ful women. Too late he real­ises that he is actu­ally in love with his best friend Hannah (Michelle Monaghan, this year’s Sandra Bullock) just as she is about to get mar­ried to Trainspotting’s Kevin McKidd in a Scottish castle. Pretty much all the char­ac­ters are deeply shal­low and pretty unlike­able which I’m sure was­n’t the inten­tion and, most annoy­ing of all, dir­ect­or Paul Weiland gives him­self the auteur cred­it of “A Film By”. In your dreams, pal.

Much more suc­cess­ful, and not coin­cid­ent­ally pop­u­lated with much nicer people, is Dan in Real Life star­ring Steve Carell as author of a pop­u­lar news­pa­per par­ent­ing tips column who has much more dif­fi­culty par­ent­ing his actu­al chil­dren (alone, due to that all-too-common con­ceit of a widow-hood). So far, so un-promising, but Dan in Real Life really wins you over with smart writ­ing and lovely, under­stated per­form­ances from a ter­rif­ic ensemble. Lonely Dan is tak­ing his brood of daugh­ters to a multi-generational fam­ily get togeth­er in rugged Rhode Island. He meets beau­ti­ful and allur­ing Juliette Binoche and they fall in love, just before find­ing out that she is his brother­’s new girl­friend. Testing times around the din­ner table ensue, mostly com­ic but nev­er far away from deeply heart­felt. Frankly, more films should be like this.

How About You is one of those films where, I con­fess, my taste and the taste of main­stream New Zealanders diverges some­what. Ellie, played by Hayley Atwell (star of the unne­ces­sar­ily forth­com­ing new ver­sion of Brideshead Revisited), is forced by cir­cum­stance to help her sis­ter care for a group of unruly cli­ents (a dream cast includ­ing Vanessa Redgrave, Brenda Fricker and Joss Ackland) in an Irish eld­erly res­id­en­tial home so beau­ti­ful it makes Malvina Major look like Alcatraz. Left alone with them at Christmas, she man­ages to trans­form all of them into saintly par­agons of matur­ity via alco­hol and non-prescribed drugs. I barely tol­er­ated this but if you are over 70 you might get a kick out of it – the people behind me who talked all the way through cer­tainly did.

The Human Rights Film Festival kicks off it’s 2008 sea­son at the Paramount on Thursday even­ing. While most of these films don’t really qual­i­fy as cinema per se, this is still an import­ant oppor­tun­ity to see the world as it is abso­lutely not por­trayed through the com­mer­cial media. Highlights for me include Occupation 101, a crystal-clear exam­in­a­tion of the real­ity of life in occu­pied Palestine, and Now The People Have Awoken, anoth­er per­spect­ive on Chavez’s Venezuela which will be of par­tic­u­lar interest if you have seen Pilger’s War on Democracy. There are sev­en short­er items on the pro­gramme too: I’m look­ing for­ward to see­ing Bowling for Zimbabwe about a young boy who needs a crick­et­ing schol­ar­ship in order to escape the man-made atro­city of Mugabe’s grind­ing poverty.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 7 May, 2008.

Notes on screen­ing con­di­tions: I already men­tioned how good I’m Not There. soun­ded at the Paramount dur­ing the Showcase. I don’t know wheth­er it is the shape of the room or the PA speak­ers behind the screen but music cinema has always soun­ded sen­sa­tion­al in there. Iron Man was, like Transformers last year, at a busy pub­lic screen­ing at the Embassy which looked and soun­ded great. Standing ova­tion from a few fan­boys, too. Made of Honour looked per­fectly accept­able at the Empire. I am not allowed to tell you where I saw Dan in Real Life as they made me sign an NDA before they would let me in there. No shit! But it was amaz­ing. The print had seen bet­ter days but had been giv­en a spruce up by our hosts. How About You was ruined by it being a not very good film but the incess­ant talk­ing by the old bid­dies behind me and the annoy­ing hair in the gate fin­ished me off. Penthouse.