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Ever since she can remember, Robyn Davidson (played by Mia Wasikowska) has been an outsider and a bit of an adventurer. As a girl, she avidly listened as her father (by Robert Coleby) told stories of his courageous journeys around the globe and she has grown up with a yearning to explore her world. In April 1977, she decides to take on an epic journey – to walk across Australia’s outback from Alice Springs to the West Australian coast. This 3,200 km trek will take months and all Robyn plans to take with her are some camels and her dog, Diggity. Some say this is brave, others say it’s plain stupid, but she’s doing it – regardless of the views of friends and family. She sets off, but needs money to fund her journey so she accepts an offer from National Geographic magazine to publish an article about her adventure. Although it goes against her want to be completely alone, the article means one of the magazine’s photographers, Rick Smolan (by Adam Driver) must regularly check in with her for updates and photos. She hates it and would much rather be with her thoughts, her animals and her environment. Her journey takes her through the rugged Outback, across sacred aboriginal grounds and much of the vast continent until somehow, the unlikely grouping finally sees the trek through to its end.

This is a great story, but for me it loses something in its telling. There’s no doubt about the bravery and utter determination that Robyn Davidson has shown to do this in the first place – and Australia is showcased wonderfully here, thanks to the marvellous cinematography. This is particularly so in the scenes where humans, animals and the enrivonment interact with great depth. A glimpse into Australia’s indigenous culture is also provided along the way. Mia Wasikowska is good – she is determined, stubborn and brave, as she needs to be for this. Her role was clearly taxing and the environment demanding. As photographer Rick, Adam Driver is appropriately nerdy and pathetic – which explains Robyn’s irritation every time he turns up. There is a great cameo performance from Rolley Mintuma as the Aboriginal elder, Eddy and one from John Flaus, who teaches Robyn how to relate to camels. But unfortunately, I found the movie too long and not terribly engaging – perhaps that’s just me.

Made in 2014. Directed by John Curran.

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Posted by on June 2, 2014 in Movies

 

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Restless

Annabel Cotton (played by Mia Wasikowska) is a beautiful young woman full of the joys of life. She finds pleasure in every day, particularly birds and nature – and she lives for the moment. She also has terminal cancer. One day, she meets enigmatic loner Enoch Brae (by Henry Hopper) and they find a kindred connection. Enoch has never been much into social occasions, but he feels drawn to funerals. Since both his parents died in a car accident, he lives with his sister Mabel (by Jane Adams), but he mostly hangs out with Hiroshi (by Ryô Kase), who was a WWII Japanese kamikaze pilot. Annabel lives with her mother Rachel (by Lusia Strus) and sister Elizabeth (by Schuyler Fisk) but they focus too much on her impending death, rather than her life in the here and now. It seems that death is always going to be around both of them. As Annabel’s condition worsens and her family struggle with the situation, Annabel and Enoch’s love grows …

This movie starts off in an interesting place … Enoch is at the funeral of someone he doesn’t know. Annabel is there too and she catches on to him straight away … although she doesn’t know him, she recognizes something in him and calls it. The two characters continue to be honest and direct with each other, which is refreshing and good to see. However, although the movie does raise some interesting issues – serious illness, death, relationships, love, happiness and risk-taking, it doesn’t really make a key point or resolve anything. Mia Wasikowska is lovely as Annabel – she’s so carefree and light, just as you’d hope a young woman facing her own mortality could be. Henry Hopper is very nice as Enoch, he’s got his own quirks and the two characters are interesting. They are good together, both well cast and balanced nicely. Enoch’s relationship with Hiroshi makes the movie a little more interesting, but the other characters don’t really add much value. As a thought provoker, it’s fine – as a drama, it’s only okay.

Made in 2011.  Directed by Gus van Sant.

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2013 in Movies

 

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Jane Eyre

Jane (performed by Amelia Clarkson and then Mia Wasikowska) has had a lonely and bleak childhood. She was abandoned by her parents and a heartless aunt I(by Sally Hawkins) gave her lodgings before sending her to a charity home for girls. From here, Jane is engaged as a governess at Thornfield, the home of Mr Rochester (by Michael Fassbender), to care for his daughter. The housekeeper, Mrs Fairfax (by Judi Dench) is the first person to ever treat Jane kindly and she warms to her. She has a happy life at Thornfield, excelling as a governess and enjoying the landscape and lifestyle in the country. Gradually a tentative, then deep relationship develops between Jane and Mr Rochester. But the path of true love is difficult for this pair and several barriers arise that threaten to destroy any chance of happiness they may have.

Although this story is one of searing passion, wide Yorksire landscapes and beautiful costumes – all the hallmarks of a wonderful, true “girls own” romance – this particular version did not “get” me. Unlike others (such as Pride and Prejudice, Northanger Abbey or Sense and Sensibility), I did not feel any empathy towards these characters. Mia Wasikowska is beautiful and a very authentic Jane – and Michael Fassbender is perfect as the mysterious and flawed Mr Rochester, but unfortunately I could not “feel the passion” in this story. There is little on-screen chemistry between them.  Judi Dench is wonderful as the lovely housekeeper, Mrs Fairfax.  I would say it is okay as a period movie, but there are certainly better.

This movie is adaptation of the story by Charlotte Bronte, which was her first novel published in 1847.

Made in 2011.  Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2012 in Movies

 

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Albert Nobbs

Albert Nobbs is an enigma. Albert is a woman (played by Glenn Close) who, since the age of 14, has dressed as a man to gain employment as a waiter/valet. It is late 1800’s Ireland and Albert has worked as a waiter at the Morrison Hotel in Dublin for several years. Albert has worked hard to save every penny with the ultimate dream of owning a business to eventually be able to finance a comfortable retirement.

The story focuses on Albert’s life and relationships within the hotel. The hotel mistress is Mrs Baker (by Pauline Collins) and the portly cook is Polly (by Brenda Fricker). These two women run the hotel upstairs and downstairs respectively and Albert (along with other service staff) tends to the needs of the guests as they come and go through the hotel.

Having had a life in service since 14 years old, Albert is work-experienced but not worldly wise. Relationships are a relatively unknown phenomenon and Albert is quite inept and innocent of life’s social intricacies. Through circumstance, Albert meets another cross-dresser at the hotel, Hubert Page (by Janet McTeer), who fascinates her and she is keen to discover Hubert’s reasoning for the life choice. Presently, Albert decides the time has come to make plans for the future, so sets about courting hotel maid Helen Dawes (by Mia Wasikowska). The development of the relationship, the people involved and the eventual outcome are the main thread of the story.

I found this movie totally fascinating. I wanted to learn all about Albert’s life motivations and to understand the reasons Albert made this life choice. This is all made clear as the story unfolds. There is no sexual undertone to the movie, it is primarily about life choices and motivations. The movie is not a happy one but it is made beautifully, cinematography is well done, period fashion and scenery is wholly complementary to the drama and there is very little music. Silence pervades many of the scenes, which adds to the deep emotions portrayed for the audience at the same time.

This is a marvellous movie – Glenn Close’s performance is outstanding.

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2012 in Movies

 

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The Kids Are All Right

Sometimes the label of “comedy” really mystifies me when it is applied to movies. This movie is an example.  Nic (played Annette Benning) and Jules (by Julianne Moore) are a long-term lesbian couple who each conceived one of their two children from the same anonymous sperm donor.  Nic is a doctor, she is an older, more practical and controlling partner in the relationship, whereas Jules (who has not yet settled into a career direction) prefers a less structured approach to life.  At 15, their son, Laser (by Josh Hutcherson), decides he wants to meet his biological father and persuades his 18 year old sister Joni (by Mia Wasikowska) to go through all the legal steps to find him. They have success with this and meet their Dad, Paul (by Mark Ruffalo), a still single restaurateur. The two women later meet him and they tentatively form an uneasy new group.

The film explores the relationships between all these characters – it includes betrayal, anger, pain and poignancy. I do question the presence of “comedy”, some of it is quite tedious – but I suppose it could be found laced through the realistic relationship between the totally different personalities of the women, the challenges of parenting and miscommunication with their teenagers and the the single 50 year old biological father caricature.  The performances are all great – the women play out the foibles of their relationship perfectly, the teenagers are typical and the father is a believable type of guy.

Yes, I’d say this movie is Alright.

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2012 in Movies

 

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