CANNES REVIEW: On the Road

On the Road
Directed by: Walter Salles
Written by: Jose Rivera (screenplay), Jack Kerouac (novel)
Starring: Sam Riley, Garret Hedlund, Kristen Stewart and Viggo Mortensen

Too much goes wrong in the movie adaptation of On the Road that what it does get right  is overshadowed almost completely.  In adapting Jack Kerouac’s classic Beat Generation novel, the time period is completely lost amid a cast of venerable modern actors who are cluttered together on the screen as if it would be a felony to exclude someone who was in the book.

At almost two-and-a-half hours, director Walter Salles and screenwriter Jose Rivera do with this story what many other bad book adaptations do: they drag things on for too long.  I haven’t read Kerouac’s book, but as many people I know who’ve read it feared, his stream-of-consciousness writing style does not translate very well.  Much of the screenplay is very well-written, to be sure, but the complete lack of atmosphere drains them of much of their power.

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Our Favorite Performances of 2011

1. Kirsten DunstMelancholia– In Lars von Trier’s apocalyptic new film, Dunst creates one of cinema’s most fully realized portraits of numbing depression.  In all of her performances, Dunst has shown a skill sometimes greater than the films she is in.  Here, she takes the role of Justine, a woman who self-destructs on her wedding night and takes shelter with her sister as the planet Melancholia goes on a collision course with Earth.  Key Scene: In the deepest part of her depression, Justine even needs help getting down to the dinner table.  Her sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) made meatloaf, her favorite dish.  When Justine tastes it, her face crumbles, and she says it tastes like ash.  That’s all that will be left of the planet in a couple days, and she can’t wait.

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SPOTLIGHT: Kirsten Dunst

Kirsten Dunst is so much more than Mary Jane Watson.  Yes, Spider-Man’s muse is her most famous role, but Dunst gives terrific performances in several other lesser-known films.  She uses her expressive facial features to convey unbearable sadness as well as inescapable joy.  Though her career is thought to have ended when the Spider-Man franchise went up in flames after the third installment, she’s been doing some of the best work of her career since then.

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REVIEW: Melancholia

Melancholia
Directed by: Lars von Trier
Written by: Lars von Trier (screenplay)
Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kiefer Sutherland and Alexander Skarsgard

When Lars von Trier announced “No more happy endings,” after the premiere of his last film, Antichrist, people were a little dismayed.  Had any of his movies actually had a happy ending in the traditional sense?  Bjork dangling from a rope at the end of Dancer in the Dark, an entire village (and America by extension) facing a woman scorned at the end of Dogville, a man walking through the woods and then being overcome by persecuted female ghosts (or something like that) in Antichrist- he’s not exactly Disney material.

His latest, Melancholia, certainly contains a grim conclusion whether or not you subscribe to the “more” part of his proclamation.  This is a film in which the world ends and everyone on it perishes, but not before a young woman succumbs to crippling depression during her wedding.

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