Monday, August 13, 2007

Capsule Reviews: Waiting for Guffman (Guest, 1997), MirrorMask (McKean, 2005), A Bittersweet Life (Kim, 2005)


"Well, then, I just HATE you... and I hate your... ass... FACE!"

The "mockumentary" is not a genre that I am particulary aversed to. Christopher Guest has created a reputatation for himself over the years by embracing this style of filmmaking and Waiting for Guffman was my first exposure to his work. Full of colorful characters, spot-on-humor and even its short run time (84 minutes), offers up more laughs than most mainstream comedies released today could ever dream of. It takes a certain level of creative finesse to make a successful mockumentary because one mistep could potentially lead to the downfall of the film. To be more specific, by crafting a fictionalized story within the confines of a documentary format requires that the film be grounded in a believable reality so the audience can take it seriously without straying into farce. Christopher Guest and co-writer Eugene Levy have done just that without being condescending to their characters who could have have become a parody of themselves. Even though this is a comedy, Waiting for Guffman remins genuinely heart-felt despite all the hilarious shenanigans with real characters who very well could exist in this small American town. With a witty and hilarious script crackling with spontaneous moments of comedic bliss, this is a fresh, funny little film for those looking for something different than your typical run-of-the-mill comedy.
[*** 1/2]

MirrorMask (McKean, 2005)
Imagine if Tim Burton directed Alice in Wonderland on acid and you get the idea of what your in store for. With a modern twist on the popular fairy-tale, McKean and writer Neil Gaimen craft a gothic fantasy of a young girl named Helena who finds herself stuck in an alternative universe where everyone including abnormal creatures that seem straight out of a Nightmare Before Christmas wear ominous masks. Much like Alice, she wants to find her way home and bumps into a wild bunch of eccentric characters along the way such as the fast-talking Jester named Valentine who becomes a close ally and helps her to carry out an important task that threatens the very balance of this new world. The further she travels, the weirder the inhabitants and places become. Unfortunately, the story is hollow and confusing with too much time devoted to the haunting, creative visuals which is what essentially keeps the film interesting.
[**]

A Bittersweet Life (Kim, 2005)
I want my two hours back. A silly revenge tale of style over substance with good intentions that starts off strong and then dwindles into stupidity soon after. Fans of Oldboy should get a kick out of this violent chaotic film that tries too hard to be cool with something important to say about the gangster lifestyle only to be nothing more than an empty bloody affair. The action is entertaining enough with a great score that is used effectively. Too bad the story is laughably idiotic with an ending that doesn't feel warranted.
[**]

290 comments:

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Heath said...

If you liked Waiting for Guffman, you really need to see Best in Show; its my favorite of the bunch. I don't know if i'm with you about these movie not being condescending toward their characters, though. I always thought the contempt Guest et al showed for these silly figures was the funniest part, but maybe I'm just an ass. Anyway, thanks for the post and for doing such a good job at collecting so many great links to some spledid film sites.

Jason said...

Thanks for dropping by Heath. I'll definitely be checking out Best in Show and any other of his films I can track down. Thanks for the recommendation.

Maybe 'condescending' was the wrong term to use but I never got the sense that Guest was merely exploiting these people to draw laughs but I understand how you could feel this way. For me, it was their quirky personalities and obliviousness to everything around them that I found to so humorous.

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