Tag Archives: Andrew Garfield

Breathe

Breathe is the directorial debut of motion-capture artist Andy Serkis, and if there was any justice in this world, it would be his last. [there isn’t: he’s already got a live-action Jungle Book slated next – but at least he seems uniquely qualified for that]

It’s the based-on-a-true-story of Robin and Diana Cavendish, an adventurous, fun-loving couple who are brought low when Robin (Andrew Garfield) is suddenly and irrevocably paralyzed by polio. He wants to die, but she wants their unborn son to know him, so they compromise: she springs him from the hospital, and he does his best to stop being so gosh darn glum. He’s the first of his kind to live away from a hospital setting, and it’s thanks to the devotion of his wife (Claire Foy) and the ingenuity of a friend (Hugh Bonneville) that he’s able to do more than just survive.

So yes, there’s an inspiring story in there somewhere. This is Andrew Garfield’s most hero_Breathe-TIFF-2017Eddie Redmayne role yet, but he can’t quite live up to those man-in-chair heights. As his character is paralyzed from the neck down, all he has to use is his face, and of course he overuses it. I liked Foy’s performance a lot better than Garfield’s. He came off as grating; Sean called it nearly unbearable. But he’s far from the only problem with the movie. First, the script is cloying, predictable, and overly sentimental. It’s an emotional predator, designed to wring tears from your face. I refused to comply. It hits the all-too familiar beats of a biopic and doesn’t stray once from conventional story-telling. But Andy Serkis’s direction does stray from the norm, and from the tolerable. It’s shot in an ultrawide aspect ratio that I hated. I felt like I was watching a skinny rectangle at best, but often felt as though I was viewing the movie through a fishbowl. Serkis’ angles are often weird, and not quirky weird, but uncomfortable and off-putting. But I suppose the worst crimes against this little against-all-odds love story is that Serkis rushes through the prologue, the courtship, the thing that should make us understand why this guy deserves so much devotion, why their love is so strong that she’s willing to wipe his shitty bum and go without sex for the rest of her life in order to keep a suicidal man alive. It’s a crap life for her. I’m not saying it’s not worth it, just that it’s always going to be difficult. And I realized that though there are seemingly lots of movies about men being tended by loyal wives, the same is not true in reverse. Husbands cut and run. So really the movie’s most interesting character is Diana, and we know little about her. We don’t see any of her struggles or her inner life. In fact, for Breathe’s 117 minute runtime, I’m not sure we got to know anyone particularly well in this movie. And that’s really too bad.

Advertisements

Silence

Martin Scorsese and I had very different reactions whilst reading Shusaku Endo’s acclaimed novel, Silence. He thought: this will make a great movie, even if it takes me 28 years to bring it to theatres (and it did). I, however, got through the book like one gets through a prison sentence: head down, one day at a time, putting in my time, hoping it rs-silence-8ec449bd-cf0f-4008-942e-3d25d5a334f7doesn’t kill me. Having read the book, I knew exactly what we were in for with the movie, and I warned anyone who would listen, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t want to see it. It’s Scorsese. I mean, that alone is enough. But I also know that Martin Scorsese has something to say about spirituality, and if he’s gotten away from it with his last few movies, this one is a major reinvigoration of his theme.

Little Marty was friends with a loving and influential priest growing up, and this encouraged him to join a seminary to become a priest himself. Lacking a true calling to the vocation, Scorsese flunked out, but he never stopped asking himself how a priest got past his own ego, his own pride, to put the needs of his parishioners first.

In many ways, that’s exactly what the film Silence asks of its main protagonist Father Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield), a Christian missionary sent to Japan in the 1600s, when Christianity was outlawed, and his presence forbidden. He and Father Garrpe (Adam Driver), in search of their mentor Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson), make the voyage to a land unknown. They haven’t heard from him directly in years, but there are rumours that he has renounced his faith. Certain that this cannot be true, the two young missionaries vow to find and rescue him, while restoring the faith of their underground followers.

Praise be to Scorsese’s cinematographer, Rodrigo Prieto, who helps create this world with so many natural touches: fog allowed to hide and obscure, fire reminding us of the hell silence-01083r.jpgthat Rodrigues faces, or the hell that he’s in now. Even though the movie is relentlessly brutal, you’ll still be wowed by the images, the beauty lurking within the swamp.

Silence is uncomfortable – truly, truly uncomfortable. The tortures are otherworldly. What’s the takeaway from these 161 minutes of quiet pierced with merciless violence? Silence leaves you with more questions than answers, and how you feel about it will depend on how filled with god’s love your heart is going in. Yes it’s a meditation on religion and spirituality, but it isn’t afraid to point-blank ask us whether we’ve heard or felt god in the silence. Is he there, quietly observing his people be tortured and killed? Is he there, silently allowing persecution and murder? Does silence sow seeds of doubt?

For the most part, Scorsese seems to be fairly neutral in the plight of Christians vs. Japan. I definitely felt the strong whiff of colonization, the belief that the stories white people tell each other about their god and heaven are somehow more true than the stories the Japanese have been telling for centuries. Not just more true but The Truth. These might be 17th century problems, but they sound very familiar – almost like those same problems are here in the 21st century as well.

SILENCEThis Asshole Atheist really noticed the distinction between religion and faith – religion being something a government can choose to eradicate; faith, however, is much more difficult. Silence is really a question of belief, not just what you believe, but how strongly you believe it, how strongly you think others should believe it, how far you’re willing to go to impose those beliefs, how much pain you can endure before you abandon those beliefs. And if god himself can hide in silence, can belief dwell there also?

With Martin Scorsese at the helm, you already know this is a disciplined and wondrous exercise in film making, perhaps a masterpiece among masterpieces from this celebrated auteur. But Silence is best discussed by the feelings it evokes in the viewer. It’s meant to be thought-provoking. If god is love, is it better to love god even in the face of threat, or is it better to love our fellow man even when it means denying god? One gruesome scene marches into another, never quite glorifying the martyr, never quite condemning the oppressor. Maybe the point is that there is no point. Silence is a theological debate that grants permission to test the limits of faith, to ask the unanswerables. It is difficult to watch and difficult to process but I believe that Silence is meaningful even to the non-believer: it’s just that good a film.

Hacksaw Ridge

hacksaw-ridge-2016-andrew-garfieldThere are two main takeaways from Hacksaw Ridge: (1) even American acting jobs are now going overseas, as aside from Vince Vaughn every American soldier in this movie seems to be played by an Australian (included in that tally is Andrew Garfield, who I have since learned is British, not Australian, but still…); and (2) if the Japanese had just prayed harder they might have won the Second World War.

The Australian angle is natural since this movie is brought to you by “the director of Braveheart”. A similar thing is happening right now to Ben Affleck, now known as the artist who formerly directed Argo and the Town. Is this going to be a thing? Because I find it annoying that their actual names aren’t mentioned in the promotion of these movies at all. If the reference to their past movies means anything to you then you know who’s being referred to, so let’s say their name already and move on! Conversely, if the reference to the movie doesn’t mean anything to you then it’s unlikely to be a selling point. Either way, it’s wasted trailer time that could be better spent on spoiling more of the plot.

hacksaw_ridgeIncidentally, if the intent behind not putting Mel Gibson’s name up front in the marketing was to create some separation from those all-too-frequent racist comments in Mel’s past, it might also have been a good idea to cast at least one non-white guy. Just saying.

The prayer angle refers to Desmond Doss, a devout Seventh Day Adventist who was the first American conscientious objector to receive the Medal of Honor. Doss doesn’t want to kill anyone or even hold a gun, but he still enlists during WWII to serve his country as a medic. In typically American fashion, his refusal to carry a gun while training to march into a hail of bullets is viewed as a sign of cowardice rather than bravery (or insanity, or a mix of both). His objection is based on religious grounds as well as a bad childhood, and due to his objection every soldier he comes across in basic training looks down on him and tries to force him out. Fortunately for them,hacksaw-ridge-2016-ryan-corr-vince-vaughn he doesn’t hold a grudge, and hauls 75 of them off the Okinawa battlefield even after they made his life so rough.

Doss’ story is an incredible one and Mel Gibson’s direction does it justice. It’s a bit over the top at times, and you may get tired of the battleground shots being blurred or showing just the barrel of a firing gun or being in slow motion complete with matching audio. Despite that, the movie shines at the important moments, naturally displaying Doss winning over his detractors and putting the audience at Doss’ side as he sneaks through enemy territory looking for one more wounded soldier to save. Though the characters are largely one-dimensional, the cast led by Andrew Garfield, Vince Vaughn and Sam Worthington deliver quite a few memorable moments, including some well-timed humour amongst the horrors of war.

Hacksaw Ridge is cheesy and over-the-top in a mostly good way, and the sum of its parts is enough to overcome some significant flaws. Its unusual perspective and celebration of a dogged outlier makes it a worthy addition to the bloated catalogue of WWII movies.  Hacksaw Ridge earns a score of eight cringe-inducing battle wounds out of ten.

99 Homes

This movie is bumming me out. Like, big, big, big time bumming me out.

In it, a young guy named Dennis (Andrew Garfield) hits some tough times and he, his young son, and his mother (Laura Dern) get evicted when their home goes into foreclosure. Real estate mogul Rick (Michael Shannon) is making 99homesserious bank helping to make those foreclosures happen, then buying up those empty homes for real cheap and repackaging them for new buyers. The money is staggering. Dennis is dazzled by it. He’s never made this kind of cash before, and mid-recession, he’s not likely to find even a fraction of it anywhere else. But it means working for the bad guys and evicting people, nice people, just like him.

Rick isn’t really the villain though, it’s the system that made him. “Americaandrew garfield 99 homes doesn’t bail out the losers. America was built by bailing out winners. By rigging a nation of the winners, for the winners, by the winners.” Fucking ouch, eh?

Matt already reviewed this movie, but I feel compelled to write a bit about how devastated I am watching this. This is the real story, the faces that The Big Short failed to show us. THIS is the housing crisis. These are the real people who were booted out of their 635784495381804272-99HOMES-02238-CROPhomes. In fact, when Andrew Garfield is pounding on people’s doors, those are, more often than not, real evictees answering them, often standing in their own foreclosed homes. Jason Reitman went for a similar effect in Up In the Air, interviewing real victims of downsizing on camera. Both these movies are symptoms of the same dirty disease, and it’s heartbreaking. And I can’t help but wonder if any of these homeless people are comforted by being portrayed, however compassionately,  by Hollywood millionaires.

 

99 Homes

99 Homes, the fifth film from Ramin Bahrani (Chop Shop, Goodbye Solo), made me feel something no movie ever has.  Movies have made me angry.  Movies have made me cry. I’ve walked out of theaters sometimes feeling inspired and other times defeated.  But until watching 99 Homes, no movie had ever made me feel heartbroken.

The old man got to me. In a movie about people losing their homes, it’s easy to grow as numb to the eviction scenes as the evictors do.  Most refuse to accept their situation, hurl threats, and yell “How can you sleep at night?!”  But not this old man.  He just doesn’t quite understand what’s going on and doesn’t put up a fight.  He seems to sense that something’s not quite right here but, confused by all the fancy talk and not wanting to cause any trouble, keeps his protests half-hearted as he is forced out of his home.

This poor old guy is one of many people we see forced out by real estate broker Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield).  Nash wasn’t always this way.  When we first meet him, he is an out-of-work construction worker and single father who is behind on his house payments.  He soon endures the humiliation of being escorted out of his family home by two sheriff’s deputies and moving his family into a sketchy motel.  Needing money and having very few options, Nash goes to work for Rick Carver (Michael Shannon), the broker who profited in a big way both from Nash’s eviction as well as from the housing crisis in general.

We’ve all seen this story before.  Carver’s business practices are ruthless and unethical and, as a recent victim himself, Nash is at first revolted by him at first.  His questions about the legality and ethics of what their doing, though frequent at first, are quickly silenced when he starts to enjoy the steady cash flow.  It’s a familiar arc but the back drop of the housing crisis makes it more relatable.

Garfield takes some getting used to as Nash.  Best known for playing skinny nerds, his casting as a working man isn’t a perfect fit, even with the beard and tattoos.  As his performance matures along with the character, I found the actor’s baby face to be gradually less distracting.  The part of Carver, however, fits Shannon like a glove and he is always believable and never dull.  The most compelling thing about the Carver character, and Shannon’s performance, is that the script knows when to stop just short of making him a complete monster.  Carver does terrible things the way a real person does, not like a villain in a film.  In my heart, the “film villain” label is reserved for Nash after what he did to that poor old man…

The Social Network

Mark Zuckerberg is a big, fat, shit-eating dick and Jesse Eisenberg is the man who was born to play him (if only he had retired right afterward – he is seriously the most one-note motherfucker in Hollywood today).

Once upon a time, a pretty girl (Rooney Mara) broke a nerd’s heart. Mark (Eisenberg) is an asshole and deserves it, but he’s also a pretentious prick at Harvard so in his privileged, entitled little head, he thinks this gives him the right to declare war on women everywhere. He has an all-night coding sessions with his buddies (has anyone EVER written on a window with marker in real life, I wonder?) and by the next morningMV5BMjI2NzQ4MDMyM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDA1NTUxNA@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,642,1000_AL_ he’s got the most misogynistic piece of programming he can muster, and he shares it like wildfire. It attracts the attention of a couple of conceited, ambitious BMOCs – The Winklevoss twins (Armie Hammer), who have an idea of their own for an exclusive social network.

Famously, Mark Zuckerberg accepted the job offer but then strung them along, stealing the idea for himself. He talked his friend Eduardo (Andrew Garfield) into bankrolling their fledgling company but then pushed him out just as Facebook hit the big time, in favour of the snake Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake). And he didn’t just push him out, he FUCKED HIM OVER. Royally. Shares that were nearly invaluable the day before were rendered almost worthless overnight. And Eduardo was his friend! His only friend, really. This movie is about the ensuing lawsuits but mostly it’s about a young guy with a brilliant mind and a cold heart who pursued his dream single-mindedly until he was a billionaire with no friends.

Mark Zuckerberg, as he is portrayed in the film, seems to be a young man on the verge of becoming on of those woman-hating incels before he finds salvation in programming and intellectual property theft. In real life, he may not be quite so villainous, but the truth would have made a far more boring movie, and with David Fincher in the director’s seat and Aaron Sorkin writing furiously, The Social Network was never going to be hindered by the truth.