Big screen romances are such a dependable genre because we
like to relive that which pleases us, and love’s mad pursuit and rich bloom are
universal if frequently still mysterious feelings. Since the very earliest days
of the medium,
told in broad strokes and stark relief, with war and other grand spectacles
serving as both backdrops and obstacles to be overcome. This continues to suit
filmgoers — though some more regularly and open-armed than others — mostly
because falling in love can feel so
big and completely overwhelming, like a massive tilt on life’s pinball machine.
The advances of modern filmmaking, meanwhile, have helped love stories span
time in new ways.
Love Story, have also been looking for
ways to dress up romance in such a fashion that we step back and take a look at
the very smallest pieces of attraction, and what it means to tether ourselves
to another person. Penned by Academy Award-winning screenwriter Ron Bass, Mozart and the Whale is, like 1999’s The Other Sister, a movie about two
people whose emotional and mental challenges threaten to sabotage their budding
Josh Hartnett portrays Donald, a young cab driver afflicted
with Asperger’s Syndrome whose obsessions with numbers, patterns and birds keep
him isolated and largely unable to form connections with others. Things change
when Donald meets Isabella (Silent Hill’s
Radha Mitchell) in a support group of his own creation. Rambunctious and
freewheeling, she’s in many ways completely contrary to Donald, but as Paula
Abdul and MC Skat Cat once famously taught us, opposites can indeed attract. As
Donald and Isabella try to reconcile their two worldviews and fumble toward a
private understanding that others can’t fully comprehend, we come to bear
witness to a surprisingly poignant connection.
Based on title alone, of course, Mozart and the Whale would make an interesting double feature with
Noah Baumbach’s The Squid and the Whale.
In tone, however, the film is like a genial cross between a Hallmark Channel presentation
and something like the aforementioned Other
Sister, which located the robust humanity of its characters with honesty
and aplomb. Hartnett and Mitchell — an odd pair on the surface — have a nice if
somewhat reasonably dry chemistry together; anyone still thinking of Hartnett
as a Tiger Beat pin-up would do well
to see both this and the spry, labyrinthine Lucky
Number Slevin. Yes, Mozart and the Whale is a bit syrupy, but it doesn’t tip over into flat-out embarassing sentimentality.
Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, Mozart and the Whale comes with in matching
Dolby digital 5.1 audio tracks in English and French, with optional subtitles
for each language as well. The only supplemental extra is a so-so audio commentary
track with screenwriter Bass, in which he talks at length about the development process
for the film and the true story upon which it is based. C+ (Movie) C+ (Disc)