Again, another Oscar nominated film that I've actually seen (My past history with viewing Oscar nominated movies is quite shoddy, since they never come to my town). And this one seems to channel the spirit of Billy Wilder, which is a good, good thing.
Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) is a professional downsizer. He works for a company that his hired when companies want to lay off employees, but are too afraid to do so. So Ryan spends the majority of the year traveling from city to city and firing people. He also occasionally gives motivational speeches focused upon letting go of what he deems to be baggage (family, friends, anything that may tie you down in one place). During one trip, he meets a fellow traveler Alex (Vera Farmiga), and they strike up a casual romance, planning future rendezvous based on their travel schedules. Soon, Ryan begins to question his life choices, is a life untethered a life he really wants?
Along the way, he must travel with the company's newest and most ambitious employee, Natalie (Anna Kendrick). She's a young upstart, fresh from college and full of ideas about how firings can be conducted via webcam in order to spare traveling expenses.
The three leads in the film, Clooney, Kendrick, and Farmiga are all excellent and deserving of their Oscar nominations. George Clooney creates a charming character who only feels comfortable when he is on the road, he revels in going from airport to hotel to airport to hotel and feels burdened only when he has to spend time at his home. Anna Kendrick's able to take a character that could have been completely annoying and make her human. We empathize with the young girl being exposed to the world and the harsh career of firing people. Vera Farmiga conveys perfect confidence and naturalness as the witty match to Ryan Bingham. She makes the character feel lived in and we sense a history within her, it's not overbearing, just a slight touch of sadness.
The film itself is wonderfully written, with director/writer Jason Reitman (his third film, with the others being Juno and Thank You for Smoking) As I said, this almost feels like a Billy Wilder film, like a modern day The Apartment. It's a somewhat funny film tinged with a sense of sadness that follows a man's journey of realizing what he truly wants in life. The writing is sharp, interesting and the performances are mesmerizing. And to be honest, if I had my choice, Anna Kendrick would be getting the Oscar come Oscar night.
Watch it. Of all the films on my "Oscar List", this is easily near the top.
Oh, and on a different note, I've been thinking of starting another blog. Since I have trouble finding time to sit down and watch a movie without school work or dog drama acting up, I've been thinking of creating a blog more about me (because I am fascinating individual) since that would be much easier to update regularly. I wouldn't be abandoning this blog, so it's just something I've been considering. What say you, readers? Of course, I'm assuming I have any readers at this point.
Saturday, February 6, 2010
Meryl Streep delights in this merging of two real-life stories. Amy Adams however....
Julie Powell is not happy. She works for a development center where she has to answer phone calls from people affected by 9/11, unable to work towards her goal of being a writer. At her husband's suggestion she begins a blog that chronicles her journey through Mastering The Art of French Cooking, Julia Child's landmark cookbook. The challenge is that she must cook every recipe within one year. Meanwhile, we get to see how Julia Child discovered French cooking and slowly but surely became the Julia Child so beloved by America.
The parts with Julia Child are easily the best parts of the film, with Meryl Streep fully embodying the warbly-voiced cooking maven. She doesn't try to add any sort of darkness to Julia Child, instead playing her as America remembers her, witty and full of life and a love for food (And according to Meryl Streep, she injects her mother into the performance as well). Stanley Tucci is great as Julia's supportive and adoring husband, and their relationship is beautiful to watch.
The parts about Julie Powell, however, aren't as successful. And before I go on, I must tell you that I love Amy Adams. Really, I adore her, and this movie actually made me find her slightly irritating. Something that in my book, is unforgivable. She just comes across as so selfish and treats her husband so poorly whenever a mistake occurs when she's cooking. Granted, a point of the film is that this whole blog process changes her, but with her being so grating, it's hard to really care if she changes or not.
Luckily for us, the film is greater than the sum of its parts, with the verve and zest for life injected into the film by Meryl Streep causing the film to ultimately leave a good taste in our mouths.