If Terrence Malick didn’t take himself so seriously, he’d probably make something like Lucy. Luc Besson’s got him covered. It has the stylistic leanings of The Tree of Life, but it displaces brooding performances and philosophical heaviness (if you receive it as authenticity and not pretension) with absurdist premises and violent lightness. Both films are delightful to me. You might describe Lucy as “fun” and “sexy,” but that would largely be informed by your sexist bias toward Scarlett Johansson as the protagonist. The film doesn’t ask you not to look at her body, but it also doesn’t over-emphasize its standard aesthetic appeal. Instead, it mocks the audience by presenting a conceit about maximizing brain access while we sit passively in a low hum of brain energy use. Unless new mirror neurons were somehow being activated just by watching Lucy do anything and everything she wants. She opens the film by asking what we’ve done with a billion years of evolution and concludes the film by saying we now know what to do with those billion years. Which I can only assume is fit the mold of a Hollywood superstar and then matter to an adoring public. Or treat life like weed and “pass it on.” At least that was God’s advice to her as she was searching for what to do with her growing brain power. God being Morgan Freeman, of course. That’s what life has always done. One cell passing information on to the next over time. Time being our fundamental unity, the thing that brings being into existence. Without time, we are nothing. Things are made manifest in time. When you’re out of time, you’re nothing. I could go on, but the film does a much better job of eschewing deep thought for lively action. Life is motion.
Bridge of Spies
Tom Hanks + Stephen Spielberg = a predictably well-crafted story with a subtle accumulation of powerful emotional energy. Near the end of the film, Tom Hanks comforts a U.S. soldier worried about his reputation (and his life because of it) with this: “It doesn’t matter what people think. You know what you did.” Which is basically his character’s self-assured “Standing Man” philosophy. Although it’s based on a true story, it felt more like a (completely justified) narcissistic self-portrait. Spielberg knows what he does. Same with Hanks. And so they did it yet again. Fuck what you think.
I did appreciate this refrain between Hanks and the Soviet spy character: “Aren’t you worried?” “Would it help?”
Melissa McCarthy runs the damn show and kills it. Jason Statham in full-on self-mockery (and therefore totally serious) mode rounds it out. Jude Law looks good. That might be a stale part of the movie if they didn’t work that into the humor too.
What We Do in the Shadows
Funny, yes, but in a way where I felt like I was supposed to be laughing more than I was. The werewolf stuff is fantastic, but the rest of it had me thinking, “this is clever, and it’s hitting all the right beats, and I’m enjoying it, but…” And then I missed Flight of the Conchords. Until I realized I had the same relationship with that.