Beginners X The High Cost of Living

I do not make it out to a movie theater very often.  It has to be a very special occasion or a very special movie to get me out actually.  The last film I saw in theaters not part of a happening was RANGO (which I anticipate the blu-ray of).  During the week of Book Expo America 2011 I made it out twice though.  Both were SAG presentations with a Q & A following.

The first film was Mike Mills buoyant, charming semi autobiographical feature BEGINNERS which had a spirited, yet flawed Q & A with Christopher Plummer.  Plummer was interviewed by a well known critic who would best be served sticking to the page as his interviewing skills are lacking.  Plummer was so awesome though that it didn’t become too much of a distraction.  You can even check out some of what was said at this Youtube video I posted.  I was not aware that security would actually shut down filming on the Q & A and they never turned on the lights during it, so you get what you get.

My friend Rich did a really nice & succinct post on his experience at his blog and it does cover the bases really well.  My added commentary is that I loved the hopefulness of the film.  Ewan McGregor’s character is over 35 and been unlucky in love and relationships for various reasons, never married, no children and yet he still strives, enjoys life and finds love.  The scenes where Plummer was very sick and bed-ridden were rough for me as I had to experience that myself with my father and it was very rough, but very well done.  I must state I find Mike Mills career trajectory to be quite interesting.  This film in many ways is his first time as auter.  Previously adapting a book for a studio and doing a documentary subject in which he had voice, as well as many music videos, this is our first introduction to Mike Mills and the choices he makes here make me very interested in see how/if he follows up.

The next day I went to see THE HIGH COST OF LIVING starring Zach Braff, who was there for a Q & A afterwards.  This is a much different film than Beginnings.  It is a heavy drama, with some truly compelling and difficult scenes, but essentially also has some trite plot resolutions and leaves one very heart heavy and torn on emptiness and appreciation.  The feature is a first for Deborah Chow and I feel she was possibly not ready to tackle her own script without getting her feet wet elsewhere, there are a variety of flaws in the film, from editing decisions, camera shots chosen, and in script choices.  The one place the film never falters is in acting though.  Zach Braff has lately shown an interest in directing and writing more than anything, but he proved with this film he definitely has the chops to chew on some meaty mainstream drama or even more intricately  written and better distributed indies.

Zach’s Q&A was a breath of fresh air.  His candor, biting honesty and undeniable presence were all awesome.  If it hadn’t been for my security snafu the night before I would’ve totally filmed it, instead I actually left my camera home after taking a break from Book Expo to drop off my haul.

These two films have one thing in common, two extremely beautiful, exciting young actresses with French backgrounds.  Mélanie Laurent, the energy and amazing mime in Beginnings, best known for Ingloruious Basterds, was actually born and raised in France.  Isabelle Blais is French Canadian, raised in Trois-Rivières, Quebec, which is part of what is known as New France.  What is very interesting here is that Laurent’s Anna is never specifically French other than her accent, no mention is ever mde, as she never speaks any French.  On the other hand, Isabelle’s Nathalie speaks French for 1/3rd of the film, as everyone she knows other than Braff speaks it as does the majority of the film’s location of Montreal.  This location in High Cost of Living is never very blatant either other than the French and the mention of Montreal bagels, if one didn’t know the topography of Montreal (as I am familiar) it could be any town anywhere in America or Canada as much of Montreal in bits of pieces looks like Toronto, Seattle, New York, DC and Philly.

I want to actually recommend both these films for very different reasons, Beginnings is currently showing in a very limited release, but I am sure will soon find a home on Blu-Ray/DVD/On Demand/Netflix/iTunes.   The High Cost of Living already had a very short limited release, but is currently available for rental on iTunes and other On Demand services and will soon enough see home “video” release as well.