Saturday, December 24, 2011

Capsule Reviews: Submarine, The Iron Lady, I Melt With You

Submarine (Richard Ayoade, 2011)

Referencing The Catcher in the Rye with equal parts sincerity and irony, Submarine likewise moves so awkwardly between self-aware hipness and uncomfortable neediness that it never settles into anything other than an attempt to make some Welsh kitchen-sink version of a Wes Anderson film (think the cutting scene of The Royal Tenenbaums stretched to feature length). Ayoade, so effortlessly quick on The IT Crowd, languishes behind the camera, holding some potentially funny and/or insightful moment until it simply collapses. There's a lot of potential here, and I like that Craig Roberts' (a fine newcomer) character arc is paced with an exponential growth rather than a facile epiphany, but I was still left wanting more from this.

The Iron Lady (Phyllida Lloyd, 2011)

To say that The Iron Lady resembles a television movie is an insult to television. Incoherently assembled into a downright hysterical mélange of randomly ordered shots that turn the political career of one of the most controversial figures of modern international politics into a you-go-girl story of a gung-ho women sticking it to all those men who thought she couldn't do it. Not that I'm a supporter of Thatcher's in any respect, but to reduce her life to such shallow nonsense is laughable: upon arrival at Parliament as the only woman, she opens the female bathroom to find naught but a chair and an ironing board. And I haven't even broached the subject of its handling of Thatcher's dementia, which it uses so unsubtly as to generate compassion for the real Thatcher not for her deeds or motivations but merely out of disgust for this level of exploitation. Jim Broadbent plays her hallucinated, dead husband like Jacob Marley come to haunt Scrooge; well, that or he's Margaret Thatcher's peevish but affable Tyler Durden. As the entire film branches out from this addled present, perhaps that explains why the movie is so completely chaotic in its construction, but whatever the reason, I ended up feeling sorry that an old woman had been so crassly used for a film that combines the worst of The King's Speech and J. Edgar into one garish whole.

I Melt With You (Mark Pellington, 2011)

I Melt With You is a glibly nihilistic tour through a midlife crisis that really thinks it's saying something. Four friends meet up for a yearly drug vacation in a house on Big Sur's shoreline that looks as if it would cost more to rent for a week than most houses are to own, where they engage in brotastic antics edited with masculine zeal. But when a cruel twist after one too many Oxycontin orgies uncovers a 25-year-old pact that the men made in college, which they decide to honor because that is what grown men do. Pellington, a music video director, packs the film with great but horrifically misapplied tunes that he seems to prioritize over the actual narrative, which vaguely trundles about dealing with some unexplained past as the present becomes an increasingly incoherent hodgepodge of fatalistic statements. Its self-flagellating tone borders on the parodic, and every intended shock is but one more unintentional laugh. The men are bad enough, but I was perhaps most irritated by the waste of the always-excellent Carla Gugino as the world's most clueless police officer, who basically comes in just to vent the smell of unwashed dude yet gets bizarrely emotional over the fates of these idiotic, self-immolating strangers. An utter piece of trash from start to finish.


  1. Really good read. The Thatcher movie is in for a kicking no matter how good the performances are but I'll definitely be checking it out. I did like Submarine but I must give it a second viewing as I was unsure whether or not it was stylish, honest and well-made or derivative and uninspired - you mention Wes Anderson which I think it does remind me of but it also has more than a scent of Harold and Maude (one of my faves).