Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Perfect Host

#15 - The Perfect Host

SUMMARY (Spoilers Below)

A young man who has just robbed a bank, named John Taylor, is trying to find a place to hide and finds himself taking refuge in the home of a seemingly weak-willed man named Warwick Wilson who is about to have a dinner party.  He first pretends to be a friend of a friend, but then when he hears information about himself on the radio, he takes Warwick hostage. However, the hostage situation does not last long as the tables are suddenly turned and the criminal becomes the hostage…as well as the dinner guest.  As the evening progresses, we learn about the reason why John robbed the bank and we also learn about the other guests that Warwick has entertained, with all of their evenings ending the same way: no longer breathing.


How much do I love this? Let me count the ways.  Number one, David Hyde Pierce.  This actor is wonderful and I can’t help but see an unbalanced version of Niles (from his character of Niles Crane in the show Frasier) in his role as Warwick Wilson.  The second reason why I love this movie is because of the innumerable layers that exist in the text and subtext of the film. 

In the very beginning, we encounter John Taylor, a bank robber, who is on the run and when he fails with his cover story with one person, he then goes next door and succeeds with his story with a seemingly normal man (Warwick) who is about to have a dinner party, and then tries to act as normal as possible, which he succeeds in doing for quite a long time…until the APB for him is put out on the radio and his host unwittingly hears it and ends up becoming a hostage.  I love this whole long set up at the beginning of the movie, completely convincing you that Warwick is truly an innocent man who is just in the wrong place at the wrong time…but then, the tables are turned in an unexpected and wonderful way.  Warwick has apparently been drugging the wine that John has been drinking and takes advantage of John and ties him to a chair.

This set of scenes is wonderful and absolutely powerful due to the amazing talent of David Hyde Pierce! He transitions between being completely helpless to completely in control so smoothly, so flawlessly, that I found myself rooting for him, even after I discover that he is a murderer.

He is a fascinating character and becomes even more fascinating in the next scenes, when you see him sitting at the table having his dinner party.  That is the scene where you find out not everything is as it seems…

From Warwick’s perspective (shot from John's end of the table), we see four dinner guests arrive, but from John’s perspective (shot from Warwick's end of the table), we realize that there aren’t any dinner guests and that the man entertaining him and holding him hostage is mentally unbalanced. This was the scene that blew me away with its’ genius! In the movie trailer, it’s not even hinted at, which is very good editing on the editors’ part.

I can’t help but be amazed by how much David manages to convince me that he is truly off of his rocker, while still being control the entire time.  He’s crazy, but still completely in control.

This is a fine line that Pierce portrays in the character of Warwick throughout the movie and it really blows me away.  He manages to tread that line between insanity and sanity through the whole movie, and then you find out why he doesn't just give in: he's the chief of police and is the one who's supposed to catch John. You see him battling with his invisible dinner guests throughout the movie and quickly understand that he's battling with his subconscious desire of  having complete control and also giving into his bloodlust at the same time.

There's a great scene where they're playing chess, and Warwick is completely confident that he's going to win...and then John declares checkmate. Suddenly, the diabolically evil and confident Warwick is diminished back to the unsure man that we first met and the difference is staggering. The extremes in his character are brilliant and so well played and I think that David Hyde Pierce deserved an award for his performance!

I love this movie for more reasons, but the most wonderful part of this whole movie is the play by play between John and Warwick. The biggest reason why I love this movie is the fact that both of the bad guys get away with it, which makes me happy.  I know that seems a bit odd, but I love it when the smart people actually win.  I like it when the smartest ones win, and they do in this movie.  The best part of everything in this movie is that there is one resounding theme: Control is all about perspective.  The illusion of control can easily be pulled over someone’s eyes if you know their weaknesses.  Control is always an illusion and is very hard to maintain.

I give this movie five out of five stars!!

The Oranges

#14 - The Oranges

SUMMARY (Courtesy of IMDB)

The enduring friendship between the Walling and Ostroff families is tested when Nina, the prodigal Ostroff daughter, returns home for the holidays after a five-year absence and enters into an affair with David, head of the Walling family.


This movie is an immediate favorite in my book! Of course, the language is coarse and some of the sexual terms are quite vulgar…but the message in the movie is excellent.  At first glance, this seems to be a movie about a May-December romance, which is secretly a favorite theme of mine.  Hugh Laurie plays David Walling and, with his American accent, it’s a bit strange at first to see him playing such a sympathetic man with such a moral center, but it suits him well.  Leighton Meester plays Nina Ostroff and does an excellent job at playing off of Hugh Laurie in the movie, and they seem to have a strong chemistry that draws them together.  All of the actors bring strong performances to their roles, but Laurie and Meester are truly the shining stars of the film.

Throughout the movie there is wonderful background music, especially during the reflective moments, composed of simple but powerful piano music.  I loved how raw it was with the emotion and how they didn’t try to sugarcoat anything.  They’re emotional and reactive and real.  The way that subject is approached is refreshing and wonderful. I don’t condone cheating, though, in any way, so I won’t try and endorse it, but I will say that the plotline was written with a keen eye for relationships and how they affect not just the two people involved, but also the whole family.

One of my favorite scenes between the two of them is right before the first time they kiss.  They’re sitting on the couch and then they lean in towards one another and they meet halfway, which tells the audience that they both wanted to cross that line.

Nina and David being together is, of course, drawing controversy from both families, but I love how they decide to take the chance and try things out with each other.  It seems as though David is having a mid-life crisis, taking the time to sow his wild oats for a second time, but at the same time there seems to be some genuine love between the two of them, something that can’t be defined in terms of black and white.  It is obvious that she is taken with him and that he is taken with her.

As the movie progresses, I can feel a sort of whimsical quality to their relationship, and it’s easy to realize that it’s not going to work out between them after a while, which is actually a lot harder to take than I would have expected.  Even though the viewer knows that their relationship is doomed, you still feel that you silently wish they could stay together.

All in all, it's one of my favorite May-December romance movies, even though it has a depressing end. Hugh Laurie and Leighton Meester do an amazing job at bringing the chemistry and relationship to life on the screen. Five out of five stars!

Jane Eyre

#13 - Jane Eyre (2011)


SUMMARY (Spoilers below)

Based off of Charlotte Bronte’s novel, this story is about a young woman who has been in servitude in one manner or another her entire life, and is trampled on for most of her life, until she finally finishes her education and receives employment as a governess for a young, French girl in the care of a man named Mr. Rochester.  She does so, and for the first time in her life she feels she is free of any oppression.  Mr. Rochester finds her a suitable speaking companion, but she is unsure about him.  There are unexplained incidents around the manor that she cannot explain and will not be explained by him, as it is obvious that he is the only one who knows the reasons behind the strange occurrences.  Nearly at the end of the movie, Mr. Rochester eventually admits to her that he is madly in love with her and proposes to her, to which she says yes, as she has silently fallen in love with him as well.  Just as they are about to be married, they are stopped by a magistrate who tells them that they cannot be married as Mr. Rochester is already married.  In absolute terror, she runs from the house and ends up near death.  She is taken in by a man and his two sisters, and is given a place to stay.  She stays, but tells them nothing of where she came from.  A year later, she discovers that a man has been searching for her and she soon finds out that she is to be an heiress, as an uncle that she did not know existed has passed away and has bequeathed all of his earthly possessions to her in his will, which includes a large fortune.  Upon receiving this information, she leaves and goes back to Mr. Rochester’s manor, only to find that it has burned down.  But he is alive, though blind, and they are reunited.


They only gave this movie three stars, but it deserves all four in my opinion!  I’ve read other reviews that say it is very reminiscent of all of the other films that have been made about this classic novel, but in my opinion that is a good thing.  That means that it’s staying true to the story, and not the other movies.  They are all so similar in style because of the fact that they are all trying to accurately portray the atmosphere and proper setting of the novel. 

However, what sets this one apart is the superb acting of Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender.  They both seem to transmit all of their energies into their roles without having to say very many words.  The subtlety throughout this film is breathtakingly beautiful and wonderfully refreshing.  Their body language speaks volumes, and because of how superb it is, this movie, all two hours of it, could not have a single word in it and we would still know exactly what was going on.  The chemistry that these two actors have is stunning and…well, I simply don’t have the words to truly explain how stunning the two of them are.

From an artist’s perspective, I would have to say that the movie is a masterpiece from start to finish.  The music…well, the music is exquisite and helps set the mood of the movie in so many different ways.  It speaks when the actors do not and says things that their words cannot.  The colors throughout the movie are in accordance with the mood of the scene.  When Jane first meets Mr. Rochester, it is in the woods and then when they talk by the fire, being introduced formally, there is a passion that underlies the scene that is so subtle as to almost not be noticed, but the music portrays their feelings better than any words ever could.  Whenever there is distance between them, the colors are cool and washed out, but whenever they’re close to each other and actually feeling emotions, the colors are in red and gold tones.

And then there is the scene that takes place after Jane saves Mr. Rochester from the fire in his bedroom.  He takes her hand and thanks her…and they are so close, they are almost kissing.  But they don’t. It is a tense scene, and absolutely captures the atmosphere of the movie. I give it five out of five stars.