No full reviews for Lincoln or any of the myriad films I saw this weekend because of college and whatnot. So here’s some mini-reviews to tide you all over…
Lincoln (Steven Spielberg, 2012)
It’s Steven Spielberg. It’s Daniel Day-Lewis. It’s Abraham Lincoln. With a combined pedigree such as that, you’re bound to get accusations of being stifled by your own pompousness, but that’s furthest from the case from Spielberg’s humanistic portrait of the iconic president. Spielberg deftly mixes in elements of both myth and realism to his portrayal of Abraham Lincoln, creating a figure that manages to be a “stoic everyman”; someone who knew the game of politics and could inspire followers of all kinds, but was just as ordinary as you or I.Plus, it helps that he’s being portrayed by Daniel Day-Lewis, who just completely disappears into the role of Lincoln from not just his physical appearance, but his voice and mannerisms as well, fully immersing himself into the historical figure in a dignified manner.
But what truly makes this work is that this isn’t just a biopic or even a character study. It’s an ensemble piece that has more to do with the passing of the 13th Amendment than anything else, with Lincoln just one of the primary figures. The ensembles features a slew of great actors in many roles ranging from small to large. Tommy Lee Jones kills it in his best performance since No Country For Old Men, John Hawkes, Tim Blake Nelson, and James Spader steal each scene together as a group of some of Lincoln’s advisers, Sally Field is superb as Mary Todd Lincoln, and various other actors get many good scenes, including Jackie Earle Haley, Joseph-Gordon Levitt, Adam Driver, Hal Holbrook, Lee Pace, that guy who played Gale Boeticcher in Breaking Bad, and more. And not only that, but the movie is very clinical and matter-of-fact in its portrayal of the politics of the 1800s. This movie just goes down to the brass-tax of it all, with very little of Spielberg’s signature schmaltz getting in the way (And this is coming from a fan of War Horse).
All in all, this is definitely worth seeing, especially since it’s guaranteed a buttload of Oscar nominations this year. You didn’t need me to tell you that.
The Sessions (Ben Lewin, 2012)
A rare film that treats sexuality not as something taboo or as something that should inspire provocation, but as an important part of human contact that eventually everyone goes through, all while still treating it seriously. At the center of it all is the fascinating real-life character of Mark O’Brien (John Hawkes), a poet who contracted polio as a young boy and must live the rest of his life on beds, gurneys, and iron lungs. He decides to lose his virginity at the age of 39 for an article about sex surrogates, hiring one (Helen Hunt) to teach him how to perform intercourse. The result is a light yet affecting character study of a man who doesn’t let his shortcomings stop him from expressing his love for others. John Hawkes is Oscar-worthy as Mark O’Brien, using only his face and his voice to magnificent effect, and Helent Hunt is a warm, genial presence. Alongside of that is some thoughtful examination on how love and sex affect religion, gender politics, our own biologies, disabilities, etc.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky, 2012)
Crap! I saw a bunch of good movies last weekend! And surprisingly enough, this one may actually be my favorite out of all of them. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is perhaps the best teen movie I’ve seen in a long time. Stephen Chbosky, who wrote the book that this film was based on, did something I don’t think I’ve ever seen before: Wrote and directed his own film adaptation. I haven’t read the book, but I saw it with my sister who had read and had a strong connection to it and its characters. Apparently, there’s changes (Of course), but it still gets the spirit of the book just right, which is what counts the most.
But as someone who never read the book, I never had a problem with the way the story played out. There were a few moments that I can tell were more detailed on the page rather than on-screen, but overall, everything worked as well as it could in the medium it was in. Mainly because this is one of the few films to really capture the awkwardness, anxiety, and euphoria of high-school freshman relationships. In its attention to all the details and nuances of high school life, it transcends its own genre and the cliches that come with it. As a result, we get a nuanced portrait of a somewhat mentally unstable teenager who learns to connect with the help of some seniors. The characters are all exceptionally well-drawn, and played by a fantastic, generally flawless teen cast. Logan Lerman especially surprised me considering his weaknesses in other films and how he revealed unseen depths as a dramatic actor in this one. Oh, and Emma Watson is insanely gorgeous, but you didn’t need me to remind you of that.
Also, can Ezra Miller be in everything now, please?