In a world where religion and politics often divide folks quite nastily, sports — and of course in particular sports heroes — can serve to unite and uplift people, especially if their field of competition is international, and therefore allows for a degree of nationalistic fervor to creep into play. Such was certainly the case with Ayrton Senna, a fiery and hard-charging Formula One racing star who rose to prominence and a certain level of domination in the sport in the 1980s and early ’90s, serving as a rare beacon of pride and hope for his homeland of Brazil. A new documentary bearing his name — and the not undeserving stamp of Audience Award prizes at both the Sundance and Los Angeles Film Festivals — tells his story, in a unique and interesting way that doesn’t necessitate an abiding occupational interest in racing. For the full, original review, from ShockYa, click here. (Universal/ESPN Films, PG-13, 104 minutes)
A cinematic smart-bomb of heavily processed yet still not entirely inescapable sunny uplift, Glee: The 3-D Concert Movie mixes almost two dozen energetically pitched musical numbers from the hit FOX series’ recent spate of concert dates with laudatory audience testimonials and footage of three different teenage fans for whom the show’s embrace of diversity and individualism has made a difference. The movie is chiefly just a cash-grab hymnal to the choir, but briskly paced enough to still remain inoffensive to those outside of its prescribed demographic. For the full, original review, from Screen International, click here. (20th Century Fox, PG, 83 minutes)
Coming off the success of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, author Ken Kesey in 1964 set off on a road trip across the United States with a bunch of like-minded friends — a renegade group of counter-culture truth-seekers known as the Merry Pranksters. The ostensible target or end-point destination of their journey was the World’s Fair in New York City, but in truth this, ahem, trip was as much about the hedonistic experience of the open road as it ever was about getting to the other side of the country. Poised somewhere between the beatnik and hippie generations, Kesey and his clan — including Neal Cassady, the central figure immortalized in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road — intended to make a documentary about their expedition. Magic Trip: Ken Kesey’s Search for a Kool Place is a rangy, messy sort of snapshot memoir of that unfinished work, pieced together under a spate of new and collected interviews by filmmakers Alex Gibney and Alison Ellwood.
A presentation at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Magic Trip is most notable as a historic document, since as a stand-alone movie it mainly succeeds in just making one never want to do drugs. At Stanford in 1959, Kesey volunteered to take part in what would later be revealed to be a CIA-funded study of psychoactive medications at the Menlo Park Veterans Hospital. He would trip through LSD, Psilocybin, mescaline and alpha-Methyltryptamines, among other substances, and some of the reel-to-reel audio recordings of those post-dosage discussion sessions (including one in which Kesey pontificates about the tape recorder’s reel serving as its brain) make for a trippy, slurry delight. The build-up to the road trip, too, is interesting, as Kesey and his pals purchase a big school bus, name it “Further,” remodel the interior, deck it out in wild colors, and even retrofit it with an exterior storage appendage and a sort of turret.
Soon we’re off, and on the road. Well… sort of. Kesey and company, totaling about 14 or 15 in all, run out of gas at the end of his property, which is perhaps an inauspicious and somewhat telling opening to their voyage. They finally get going, though, and the 16mm footage of their progress is often wild and weird. Since no one on the trip really knew how to use the camera (or the sound equipment, which was a big obstacle and the chief reason that their planned documentary never happened), there’s a decided lack of stuffy formalism or composition to the captured footage; it’s wildly subjective, but offers sometimes quickening glimpses into the mindsets (and maybe even souls) of those operating the camera at any given moment — zooming in on a fellow traveler’s ample bosom (presaging the “free love” movement, there was plenty of partner-swapping along the way), a befuddled gas station attendant, or the swirling detritus in a pool of water.
Possessing a handful of these sorts of unique moments, Magic Trip connects intermittently as a fascinating piece of captured history, a sort of “prima facie” document of the cresting impulses that would eventually take take form in the hippie movement of later in the 1960s and ’70s. Overall, though, it’s just a self-indulgent and kind of boring mess. Gibney and Ellwood don’t show their interview subjects, and while this tack sometimes works to the benefit of the material — most recently in Senna, for instance — here it has a distancing affect. Since so many culled interviews are from participants we see on screen in the captured footage, failing to show them robs the movie of a chance to carve out more discrete personalities. As a slice of Americana, there’s some measure of value to Magic Trip, but mostly it’s just another artifact of boomer self-obsession, and a reminder of their heavy hand in our current national predicaments. For the full, original review, from ShockYa, click here. (Magnolia/History Films, R, 107 minutes)
Anselm Kiefer and the notion of the venerated artist more generally is celebrated in Sophie Fiennes’ documentary Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow, a kind of ethereal, meandering nonfiction look at the aforementioned German painter and sculptor. Attempting to mine greater meaning out of the minutiae of artistic production, this glacially paced film will hypnotize some with its often beautiful compositions and mesmeric rhythms, but mostly confound general audiences, and those desiring a pinch more of a conventional biographical hook upon which to hang the hat of their captured interest.
Kiefer isn’t necessarily what you’d call a widely known commercial or pop artist, but casual art world viewers expecting a lot of insight or contextual explanation of Kiefer’s work will be sorely disappointed. Narrated by Klaus Dermutz, Fiennes’ film is an almost oppressively removed and arty thing in and of itself. Save for a mid-film segment in which Kiefer submits to queries from an art historian, the movie is otherwise composed largely of shots and sequences that track around its subject’s work.
Fiennes’ movie is supposed to kind of ironically showcase the gritty and often mundane processes required to transform elements into art, into something grander than their mere parts, and in doing so at such an emotional remove (perhaps?) serve as a parallel commentary on cinematic creation. But the sad fact remains that this is just a brutally unengaging forced expedition. Some of the images themselves are quite attractive to look at, but when people attack the ivory-tower elitism of academic treatises, it’s works like Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow about which they are speaking. One leaves with the rather remarkable but unpleasant feeling of simultaneously having not learned much, and yet also having contempt for what they have gleaned. For the full, original review, from ShockYa, click here. (Kino Lorber, unrated, 105 minutes)
When critics use the shorthand phrase “festival film,” in either praise or derision, they essentially mean movies like writer-director Rashaad Ernesto Green’s feature debut, Gun Hill Road. From its evocative title and kind of self-consciously gritty style to its blowout emotional moments and hook-y social issue conceit transposed to a working-class familial setting, the film seems constructed in moralizing fashion to pull dramatic levers and kick-start off-screen dialogues, so it’s no particular surprise that it played in dramatic competition at the Sundance Film Festival this year. Its failure to land a top-tier indie distributor, however, speaks to the movie’s familiar qualities and the unfortunate fact that — despite some engaging performances — its narrative just doesn’t have enough oomph to leave a lasting impact. For the full, original review, from ShockYa, click here. (Motion Film Group, R, 87 minutes)
The differences between French cinema and Hollywood studio offerings are various and sundry, but perhaps best illustrated by something like Rapt, a sprawling and inventive kidnap drama which doesn’t so much deliver an adrenaline shot of nervy thrills as steadily ooze disquieting tension over the course of its two-hour running time. Watching this superb high-wire balancing act unfold, one is struck by the myriad ways American thrillers typically angle for car chases and other jolts of immediacy, even if it doesn’t always make sense within the confines of the narrative. So when word of a planned English-language remake of Rapt broke not long before its slotting at the City of Lights City of Angels (COLCOA) Festival in 2010, it elicited both tingles of anticipation (it’s rich material) and knowing sighs of all the misguided compromises and tweaks that would almost certainly distill the grim effectiveness of writer-director Lucas Belvaux’s morally grey film.
Nominated for four Cesar Awards in its native France, including Best Director, Best Actor and Best Film, Rapt was inspired in part by the real-life 1978 kidnapping and rescue of businessman Edouard-Jean Empain. Its story centers around Stanislas Graff (Yvan Attal, above), a wealthy, powerful and politically connected industrialist/CEO with a couple dark secrets (a mistress, an affinity for gambling) that a group of criminals may have used as leverage in their plot. On the eve of a trip abroad with the French president, Graff is kidnapped in a brilliantly executed snatch-and-grab on a city street. His kidnappers want cash, and lots of it, so they promptly cut off his middle finger to show the police and Graff’s wife Francoise (Anne Consigny) that they mean business.
While the particulars of the ransom are being hashed out, the man charged with overseeing Graff’s corporation in his absence, Andre Peyrac (Andre Marcon), tries to walk a tightrope between legitimate concern and the protection of broader, multi-national business assests. As tabloids threaten to get hold of some of the less than flattering particulars of Graff’s personal life, Peyrac worries about how it will impact the value and worth of the company. The police, meanwhile, often seemed more concerned with merely apprehending the kidnappers and holding them up as a public example than actually ensuring Graff’s physical well-being.
What’s most remarkable about Belvaux’s film is the way it habitually avoids pat judgments about its characters, while also coming up with interesting story twists and simultaneously burrowing deeper and deeper into its characters’ individual emotional states. No one gets off easy here. It spoils nothing, really, to say that Graff is separated from his kidnappers much earlier than the film’s final reel, leaving his family and others to grapple with the changes in their lives, and the fact that this act is not some discrete threat to be overcome and shelved away, but rather a stone thrown in the placid pond of their privileged existences, with ripples spreading farther and father after the fact, and in unknown directions.
Attal gives a superlative performance, morphing from cocksure captain of industry to an emaciated and ruminative victim of prey, and Marcon and the rest of the cast are similarly effective in projecting the interior monologues of their characters. It will be interesting to see who plays the role of Graff in Rapt‘s American remake, but it’s almost certain that the film will be injected with the sort of muscular, pop-out set pieces that chip away at the opportunity for the sort of unique nonverbal connection that Rapt affords. It may yet land in the right hands (witness the artful Swedish film Let the Right One In and its equally beautiful American counterpart, Let Me In), but Rapt should definitely be given a chance by American fans of quality arthouse cinema. For the full, original review, from ShockYa, click here. (Kino Lorber, R, 120 minutes)
A sprawling, Los Angeles-set, somewhat self-consciously multi-ethnic drama of struggling immigrants from writer-director Yong Mun Chee, Where the Road Meets the Sun is a movie which means well, in unspooling its story of hard-knock, off-the-grid America, and both the unique opportunities and special perils that presents for those with headstrong dispositions. Unfortunately, despite some relaxed, inviting performances — including from Luke Brandon Field and Laura Ramsey (above) — the film repeatedly identifies plausibility as an enemy, and never truly locates a compelling enough through-line to hook and pull an audience through from beginning to end. For the full, original review, from ShockYa, click here. (Big Machine Films, R, 93 minutes)
Romantic comedies can live or die on chemistry alone, and 1997’s Just Write is a good example of a movie that has a serviceable meet-cute concept, but a certain gulf of personable connection between its two leads.
Hollywood tour bus driver Harold (Jeremy Piven) spots his favorite actress, Amanda Clark (Sherilyn Fenn), sitting alone in a diner, and decides to approach her. When she assumes he’s a screenwriter, he doesn’t correct her, and then tumbles deeper into deceit by offering up the name of a hotshot agent as his own. When Amanda proposes a date to discuss her next movie with him, Harold finds himself scrambling to make good on his white lies.
Written by Stan Williamson and directed by Andrew Gallerani, Just Write has a nice set-up, and the ability to make good on plenty of cool local locations. Unfortunately, Piven and Fenn are just never really a good match. Williamson’s script favors cutesy interactions over digging into Amanda’s psyche with any appreciable depth, and Piven — for all his surface charisma — just isn’t really an actor into which an audience can invest an enormous amount of sympathetic identification as a vessel for pent-up sexual or romantic yearning.
Housed in a regular plastic Amaray case, Just Write comes to DVD presented in 1.78:1 widescreen, absent any supplemental features or Final Draft trial offers. To purchase the DVD via Amazon in this, the latest iteration of several bare bones home video releases, click here. C (Movie) D (Disc)
In my latest spin around Blu-ray and DVD releases over at ShockYa, I take a gander at two interesting subcultural documentaries, a pair of releases (!) co-starring erstwhile Starship Troopers mates Patrick Muldoon/Casper Van Dien, the Blu-ray release of Four Weddings and a Funeral, and more. Oh, and I also adjudicate whether humans need Mars Needs Moms. It’s a fairly quick and breezy read, so trip on over to ShockYa for a look.
A tonally heightened comedy of criminal hijinks, misunderstanding and male bonding/reconciliation, 30 Minutes Or Less is a manic yet middling comedy that elicits a few laughs but mainly exudes the impression that a better, more rigorous treatment of the same wild concept could have yielded something truly special. For the full, original review, from Screen International, click here. (Sony, R, 83 minutes)
As the release of Final Destination 5 looms on the horizon, it seems worth noting that Warner Bros. must be feeling fairly bullish about what they have, and not merely because of the franchise-rejuvenating $186 million gross of its 2009 predecessor (almost two-thirds of which came from overseas). No, in addition to carpet-bombing specialty programming (they’re pretty much temporarily renting MTV and Comedy Central these days), the studio is peppering writers with an assortment of small but catchy swag — spread out over the last couple weeks, and including an eye chart, a luggage tag, a branded mini-wrench, some incense with an accompanying holder, and a faux-winner’s medallion emblazoned with the admonishing dictum, “Death doesn’t like to be cheated.”
Actually, that phrase — the movie’s tagline — also appears on little, different-sized cards with a medical examiner’s logo on the back in each package, which are great to leave as threatening notes to movie-ignorant enemies outside of the film’s target demographic reach. Errr… I mean, theoretically. Yeah, that’s the ticket. I caught a junket screening of the movie this past weekend, and will look to post a proper review closer to release, but it’s safe to say that Final Destination 5 is the antidote to Glee 3-D: The Concert Movie, and should be received warmly enough to ensure the continuation of the franchise.
The Misfits stands as the last completed film for both Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable, but its value and engagement extends well beyond that trivia question value, or any of the other salacious stories behind its troubled production. An unusual and illuminating ensemble drama from director John Huston and screenwriter Arthur Miller, the 1961 film is long on color and a bit short on plot, but so striking for the empathy it radiates for its fringe-dwelling, booze-happy characters. For the full, original review of its new Blu-ray release, from ShockYa, click here.
A powerhouse drama set against the backdrop of a very complicated and muddied story, The Whistleblower is one of those dramas that induce wearied sighs, furrowed brows and worried thoughts about the default state of human nature. Inspired by actual events, it’s both a crusading cop investigatory thriller and a sort of surrogate, gender-politic struggle-for-equality tale loosely in the vein of North Country.
The story centers around Kathy Bolkovac (Rachel Weisz), a tough and exceedingly competent Nebraskan police officer who — facing a divorce, denied a job transfer and wanting to scrape together enough money to move and still be close to her daughter — takes a part-time assignment working as a United Nations peacekeeper in post-war Bosnia, where ethnic strife has left a largely destitute population distrustful of both one another and outsiders. Kathy’s expectations of helping to rebuild a devastated country and mostly assist in procedural matters are upturned when she uncovers what she believes to be a forced prostitution ring operated at least partially for the benefit of a corrupt local police office. While she labors to first find and then flip a frightened girl she can use as a corroborating witness, Kathy takes her concerns to her new mentor and confidant, Madeleine Rees (Vanessa Redgrave), who eventually loops in a friend and Internal Affairs investigator, Peter Ward (David Strathairn). As Kathy comes by more evidence, though, the layers of complicity and corruption disturbingly seem to widen even further, including UN contractors and throwing into doubt who at all she is able to trust.
The script, co-written by director Larysa Kondracki and Eilis Kirwan, offers up some squarely righteous and on-the-nose dialogue plus a fairly pat ending, propped up by multiple explanatory codas both general and specific. But The Whistleblower ably summons the distrust that victims of crime (especially of a sexual nature) and war have towards a system that turns a blind eye to their suffering and pain. The film doesn’t come by this lightly, with overwritten monologues of angsty exposition. Instead, it shows, and not just tells; there’s an intense sexual assault scene in which the violence is inflicted merely for the point of showing a group of women what happens when someone cooperates with authorities. Handheld camerawork further communicates the palpable anxiety and despair of this and other scenes.
A small bit of familial material with Kathy — her calling home to check in on her daughter — is perfunctory, and The Whistleblower is better once it sheds its obligations to this thread, no matter how rooted in real-life events it might be. The story is better served by pivoting away from “mere” maternal anger (i.e., the patronizing notion that Kathy is so doggedly invested in the case and the lives of these young girls because she’s separated from her own daughter), and tapping into a deeper, more fundamental rage over this deplorable sex ring, and entire idea of human trafficking. That sense of indignation, along with a well-seeded sense of who-can-she-trust paranoia, help give The Whistleblower both a nice emotional pull and overall sense of engagement and investment.
Channeling all that anger is Weisz, of course, who packages it alongside a determination, unshowy intellect and heartrending vulnerability. In this foreign land, far away from home, Kathy is a character that exists independent of her sexuality, even as she experiences womanly wants and needs, and her gender informs the manner in which others interact with her, and accept her investigation. It’s a strong central role, yes — the sort upon which awards nominations are built, definitely — but neophyte director Kondracki also crafts a grim and gripping movie that asks tough questions about the boundaries and responsibilities of occupying, ostensible do-gooders, and one all the more stomach-churning for the fact that it’s based on a true story. For the full, original review, from ShockYa, click here. (Samuel Goldwyn, R, 118 minutes)
There’s an odd and easygoing charm to Superheroes, a colorful new documentary which enjoys its world broadcast premiere on HBO on Monday, August 8. While in the narrative realm James Gunn’s Super, Peter Stebbings’ Defendor and Matthew Vaughn’s ultra-stylized Kick-Ass, among others, have examined the warped worlds and worldviews of those who take on a superhero guise without any particular special powers, Superheroes is a nonfiction look at those who don self-made spandex costumes along with alter egos, patroling city streets at night to stop evildoers and protect the innocent. An engaging if ultimately intellectually lightweight subcultural safari, the movie offers up something for and ultimately connects about equally with clucking gawkers and admiring comic book fanboys alike. For the full, original review, from ShockYa, click here. (HBO Films, unrated, 82 minutes)
A special feature debut from multi-hyphenate Evan Glodell and a group of collaborators with whom he shares a long list of short-form credits, Bellflower is the sort of polished, distinctive freshman effort that unfolds with such cool assurance as to restore one’s faith in independent filmmaking.
Set in grubby Los Angeles, and gorgeously photographed in super-saturated, feverish tones by cinematographer Joel Hodge, working with a customized SI-2K camera, Bellflower centers on aimless best buds Woodrow (writer-director Glodell, sort of a more masculinized Jack McBrayer) and Aiden (Tyler Dawson), whose joint focus in life is the construction of a flame-thrower and a tricked-out muscle car, so that they can do damage with chicks after the apocalypse. (Yes, seriously.)
The film’s opening indicates quite plainly that some very bad things are going to happen. It then flashes back in time, charting Woodrow’s awkward courtship with a wild party girl, Milly (Jessie Wiseman, above left). On a dare/whim, they drive to Texas on their first date, while Aiden slowly nurses a crush on Milly’s friend and roommate, Courtney (Rebekah Brandes). Later, construction of their big-boy toys continues, until unraveling relationships bring different sorts of ruin to almost all involved.
For all its emotional honesty, there’s a certain ceiling for the film, since it eschews the heavy lifting of pointed interpersonal conflict for flashier acting out in its third act. And the cast/characters seem a bit old for some of their doomsday preoccupations, which aren’t delved into with enough specificity to illuminate Woodrow and Aiden’s true mental states. But no mind — the basic conflicts and jealousies here are timeless, and Bellflower is so superbly constructed and well acted that it basically exists to approximate the haze of adolescence and young adulthood, when the actions of emotionally charged-up boys and girls are dictated more by hormones than sense. Glodell and his cohorts will continue to grow up, and hopefully make even more interesting films together. (Oscilloscope, R, 106 minutes)
In my latest spin around DVD and Blu-ray releases over at ShockYa, I take a gander at two new family-oriented films, two slightly different and canted science-fiction entries, and a couple manufactured-on-demand releases. Oh, and a film collection for someone who is not related to Sarah Palin. It’s a quick and breezy read, so trip on over to ShockYa for a look.
A tender, well sketched drama of familial reconnection and rebirth in the wake of tragedy, Julie Bertucelli’s The Tree, a French-Australian co-production set in the rural environs of the latter country, for the most part successfully balances the literal and metaphorical in its telling of coping with loss, and trying to move on after the death of a loved one. Engaging acting and some gorgeous and involving cinematography make this movie a treat for arthouse audiences. For the full, original review, from ShockYa, click here. (Zeitgeist, unrated, 100 minutes)
Writer-director-star Miranda July’s follow-up to Me and You and Everyone We Know is another precious, peculiar, cunningly mundane arthouse bauble — a movie whose abstractions will undeniably baffle certain viewers while also eliciting smiles of bemused engagement from its intended specialty audience target.
Forced to wait 30 days before adopting a terminally ill cat, Paw Paw (who provides occasional narration to the proceedings, in a high-pitched, plaintive voice), live-in Silverlake sweethearts Sophie (July, above left) and Jason (Hamish Linklater, above right) find themselves suddenly overcome by all they haven’t accomplished in life. In preparation for their new pet, they quit the jobs they hate, but as the month slips by Sophie finds herself paralyzed by fear, and unable to complete the dance-a-day YouTube video project she so wanted to do. So she throws herself into an affair with a middle-aged man (David Warshofsky) who makes promotional signs for a living, while Jason gives door-to-door environmentalism a spin. When Jason is on the precipice of learning of Sophie’s infidelity, he tries to literally stop time, in order to prevent change.
Seeded in equal measure with playfulness and poignancy, The Future is a reflection on the accumulated burdens of generational anxiety, as filtered through a quasi-Dadaist, quasi-Absurdist sensibility. It’s about the panic of time becoming an active antagonist in one’s life, and how a seemingly well-matched couple reacts to that in different ways. Precocious and decidedly not always literal, the film requires a more active viewing experience than your typical indie dramedy; July wants to provoke parallel trains of thought as much as tell a simple story with these characters. Her efforts are never less than absorbing, however. And in a nod to the imponderables of its title, The Future of course doesn’t end in neatly packaged fashion, but rather the possibility of both heartache and uplift. (Roadside Attractions, R, 91 minutes)
If or when extraterrestrial aliens ever dissect the full and complete library of our entertainment options, they will surely be somewhat puzzled by our fixation, per capita, on lawyers, ER doctors and hitmen. Murder, of course, in theory represents the ultimate in dramatic stakes, but given our collective genre preoccupation with for-hire killings, one could be forgiven, from the outside looking in, for thinking this was a growth sector with no tangible ceiling. The latest movie to till this earth is Assassination Games, the first action entry from Jean-Claude Van Damme getting a bit of a Stateside theatrical shake in a while. It’s a credible enough genre entry that gives the “Muscles from Brussels” a nicer showcase than anything his erstwhile action-flick competitor, Steven Seagal, has had in recent memory, but it’s also a movie that drops the ball with respect to a lot of the conflicts that it sets up. For the full, original review, from ShockYa, click here. (Samuel Goldwyn, R, 100 minutes)
In celebration of its September 6 Blu-ray debut, Universal Studios Home Entertainment and NCM Fathom will present a special screening of Scarface at more than 475 movie theaters nationwide, for one night only, on Wednesday, August 31, at 7:30 p.m. local time. Audiences will get the opportunity to experience one of the most influential gangster films ever made like never before — with all-new restored high-definition picture and enhanced audio — and also get an exclusive peek at one of the Blu-ray’s bonus features: a 20-minute featurette that showcases interviews with popular filmmakers and talent expressing how this sprawling, bloody epic redefined the gangster genre and left an enduring influence on cinema. For more information on this event and ticketing, click here.
Born of a partnership between Ridley and Tony Scott’s production company, Scott Free, and YouTube, Life In a Day is a unique, user-generated documentary given formal shape by director Kevin Macdonald, editor Joe Walker and a small army of cataloging research assistants. The idea: to enlist the global community to capture and upload fragments of their lives on a single day, July 24, 2010, and then sift through the material to try to provide a fleeting snapshot of modern life, in all its dazzling arrays of form.
Culled from over 80,000 submissions, representing 4,500 hours of footage, Life In a Day ping-pongs from bustling metropolitan centers to some of the furthest and most remote corners of the Earth. What’s perhaps most impressive, in its own fragmented-shard way, is the clarity and quality of some of the shots, which indicate set-ups with specific ideas of composition. It’s interesting to ponder (if one is so inclined) the manner in which consumed film and television has in turn framed and influenced the way we witness and experience our own lives, and thus record it in our own photos and videos.
Small parts of Life In a Day dazzle, no doubt. It’s most interesting to see how incredible montages of seemingly pedestrian meaning can be winnowed from material from such a wide variety of sources. A “breakfast montage,” for instance, incorporates quick cuts and dozens of short shots, yet speaks volumes about the simultaneous worldwide similarities and differences in this most basic and shared of human acts, eating. A couple births are shown (a giraffe, a bird, and a human baby, the latter of which brings about the fainting of the video-recording father), and a marriage proposal is engagingly juxtaposed with romantic rejection.
There are moments, too, that are both nervy (a gay youngster calling his grandmother to break news of his homosexuality) and touching (a father lighting incense and goading his young son into ringing a bell to give greetings and respect to their obviously deceased wife/mother; an awkward and pimply Toronto teenager shaving for the first time, under the guidance of his father). Life In a Day also takes some time to get to know some characters, too, returning a couple times to a Korean man who has already traversed 190 countries as part of his mission to ride his bicycle across the world.
Still, Life In a Day is a movie that succeeds more in theory than practice. It’s a fabulous concept, but overall less than the sum of its parts, largely because the film slips back and forth, in kind of jarring fashion, between different modes of storytelling. It’s a perhaps impossibly difficult task, finding an order in this sort of disorder. And that’s emblematic of real life, one supposes. But there are more engaging examples of that paradox than Life In a Day, even for fans of reflected reality in cinema. (National Geographic Entertainment/Scott Free/YouTube, PG-13, 95 minutes)