Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Son of Rambow

Son of Rambow (2007) is a touching, funny little British film about two young boys who make a movie together and become best friends. I recommend the movie highly. It's rated PG-13 but it's not a film for children, due to some bad language and what the rating industry calls "reckless behavior."

The acting of these young kids is amazing, especially that of Will Poulter, who plays the bully Lee Carter (below in the photo). Lee forcibly takes shy Will Proudfoot under wing and makes him be his stunt man in a movie that eventually becomes "Son of Rambow." By the end of the film, Lee has experienced the stubborn love of a friend and Will has tamed Lee's wild self-centeredness.

There's a note of suppressed sadness in Will's life. His father died some time ago from a brain aneurysm. Will often breaks his mom's rule and visits an old shack behind their house, where some of his dad's things are stored. To bring peace to his broken heart, Will retreats into the world of his amazing drawings. He invents stories that become part of his and Lee's movie. Lee grows to appreciate the talents of his young apprentice.

The Bible celebrates friendship like the one portrayed in Son of Rambow. "Two are better than one," says the writer of Ecclesiastes. "Pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up." Jesus, of course, is the best of friends. At one point in the movie, Will says to Lee, "Good morning, Lee Carter. I'm here to help you." Without knowing the truth of his words, Lee replies, "Jesus Christ!"

Will and his family are devout Christians on a journey to understand God in a broken world. I love the prayer they pray at bedtime: "O my God, I've come to say thank you for your love today. Thank you for my family and all the friends you give to me. Guard me in the dark of night, and in the morning, send your light. Amen."

Amen. See this movie.

Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas is the strangest, most confusing big-budget movie I've seen in a long while - maybe ever. It stars Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, Susan Sarandon, and several others, each of whom play as many as seven different characters from the past, present, and future. It's directed by the Wachowski  siblings (the Matrix trilogy) and Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run). Rather than try to tell you the story (er, stories), I'll refer you here and you can read for yourself, but beware of numerous spoilers.

Cloud Atlas deserves its R rating. There's plenty of bad language, skin, and bloody violence in it. And for those and other reasons, I don't recommend this movie.

For one thing, it's long (172 minutes). An hour in, I congratulated myself that I didn't shell out money for it, as I used a Regal reward to get in for free. But that tells you that I wasn't liking Cloud Atlas very much - until another hour or so had passed. Then it finally started to grow on me. By the end, I thought that to do it justice, I really should see it again. But...no, I'm not going to do that. For several reasons.

Much of the acting is just not that good. Halle Berry in particular looks like she's in a high school play. And for me, Tom Hanks is totally out of place - in every iteration. The weird language his and Berry's characters speak in post-apocalyptic Hawaii is just silly. I can imagine Tom and Halle must have burst out laughing in take after take. In order to play five, six, or seven different people, all the actors had to have amazing makeovers. The prosthetics and wardrobe budgets alone had to be ginormous. In a way, it's kind of fun trying to identify who's who. But after a while, I was wondering if it was really all that necessary to make the same people play all those different parts. Obviously, the point was to show that people are connected over time and space. But still.

One actor who is really great in this movie is Jim Broadbent. In one of his five roles (as Timothy Cavendish) he is hilarious. Cavendish is a publisher who owes some thugs a bunch of money and ends up "imprisoned" in a nursing home. His escape with three other "inmates" becomes a really funny misadventure.

Another fine and haunting performance is turned in by Hugh Weaving (of Agent Smith fame). In one of the film's stories, he plays a devil-like character. I had a new image of Satan tempting Jesus in the wilderness.

Along the way, Cloud Atlas manages to preach against Big Oil, nuclear power, capitalism, homophobia, and of course Christianity. However, there is a redeeming element that I should mention. The film ennobles self-sacrifice for the good of others. A refrain heard throughout the movie is, "Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present. And by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future." That's true, so far as it goes. But John Calvin (1509-1564) had a more God-centered philosophy:
We are not our own: let not our reason nor our will, therefore, sway our plans and deeds. We are not our own: let us therefore not set it as our goal to seek what is expedient for us according to the flesh. We are not our own: insofar as we can, let us therefore forget ourselves and all that is ours. Conversely, we are God's: let us therefore live for him and die for him. We are God's: let his wisdom and will therefore rule all our actions. We are God's: let all the parts of our life accordingly strive toward him as our only lawful goal.