Saturday, January 19, 2013

Bi-polar Film Reviews

 There is a problem in America with how society view and reacts to mental illness. Too often the attitude is "get over it" and from this i can speak from personal experience. Telling someone that's depressed to just cheer up, is about as sympathetic as telling someone with a broken leg to just walk it off. Something else i've had to do, by the way. Ah, the days before cellphones... but i digress.

There is hope however, social awareness about mental illness is on the rise, and certain taboos about shrinks, drugs, or just being "crazy" are fading away. Slowly, but they are fading.

Last year in particular had a pretty great push in this direction in the form of two movies.
They both deal with how society treats mental illness, but go in completely opposite directions.

This first movie is :

Originally this trailer had Nine Inch Nails' Closer, but they didn't really have the rights, so they had to pull it, but honestly, i feel the music here is better, less cliche anyway. Speaking of music though, the song from this film's credits (Waterflower by Pacific Ocean) is really beautiful, reminds me of the paper chase in a way.

i'm not sure what to make of the trailer, it doesn't convey the film in the best way, almost trying to sell it as perhaps an average teenage drama (and in a way, this is true) However the first time i saw it, i knew i needed to see this film. i mean come on, look at those beautiful and disturbing dreams of sex and violence, and John Waters as a priest!

Oh, like we all haven't had this fantasy.

AnnaLynne McCord gives a fantastic performance as Pauline, a teenage girl with some normal teenage problems, but also some really serious mental problems. And the tragedy of this film, is she's on some level aware of how troubled she is, and repeatedly calls out for help, only to be ignored. This sort of thing happens every day.

Pauline's younger sister has cystic fibrosis, so most of the attention is going to her, society treats physical illness more importantly than we do mental. And it seems to be implied that since they're saving money up for the sister's lung transplant, they're not really willing to send Pauline to a psychiatrist, so instead they send her to a priest.

There's this really interesting dichotomy in that every time Pauline acts out as a normal teenager, it's a huge drama, you know "Why must she be so unreasonable?"  but every time she acts out, in really troubling ways, it's ignored, by family, classmates, teachers, everyone. As mentioned great moments of tragedy come from her moments of clarity, realizing how she's acting.

Pauline has aspirations of being a surgeon, while being delusional to how it all works, and sister needs a lung transplant, so, you might be able to guess how this film ends.
How it plays out, however, is truly astounding, i've never seen a film end so brutally, so horrifyingly, so fucking tragic, it's almost beautiful.

While her mother is out, she drugs her father and ties him up, then drugs her sister and the girl across the street, takes them to the garage, and well, cuts them open and switches their lungs, all the while completely oblivious to the fact that she just murdered them.

Now i might just be speaking for myself here, but i have this real existential horror of the body. Not my body, not your body, i'm not talking Cronenberg body horror here, i mean the body, one that is not living anymore. There's just something absolutely terrifying to me, about being in a room with what once was a human. And to me, that horror is perfectly realized in this film when Pauline's mother walks into that garage.

i must take an aside to commend both the writing and Traci Lords performance, from the trailer i was afraid Pauline's mother, would just be some two-dimensional bitch, but she does try in her own misguided way, and she really does have depth.

So when her mother walks into the garage, Pauline is just so proud of what she's done, and everything that her mother has been ignoring comes rushing to her, she charges at Pauline in a rage, but just ends up embracing her, the film ends with them crying and screaming.

By far one of my favourite horror films.

The next film is a much lighter, romantic comedy:
Silver Linings Playbook

This film is actually generating Oscar buzz, which is interesting, i just thought it would be quietly ignored by the majority of people, but like i said, awareness of mental illness is on the rise.

So first up, i also wanted to see this movie based on the beginning of the trailer, the scene where he's ranting to his parents about Hemingway. i can relate to that, and many other things in this film. Though embarrassingly, i somehow missed this movie was by David O. Russel until his name came up in the end credits, which is funny because I <3 Huckabees is on my favourite films, and definitely my most watched.

So handsome Bradly Cooper plays Pat, a man who lived most of his life without knowing he had any issues with mental illness, until he caught his wife cheating on him, which caused him to snap and nearly kill the guy. His wife pulls a restraining order on him, and he's ordered to spend some time in a psychiatric hospital. The film opens with his mother checking him out, it's been long enough for the court, but they ignore the doctors that think he should stay. She's well intentioned anyway.

Pat is in denial of many of the problems he has, and is trying to get better for all the wrong reasons, he wants to get back with his wife, he wants to be better for her.

He then meets the also troubled Tiffany, played by the lovely Jennifer Lawrence. They have an interesting chemistry, they're drawn to each other but also drive each other crazy, drawing out whatever each of them is ignoring about themselves. Eventually they come into an agreement to enter a dance competition, and it all comes together and a cute and romantic way. And i'm not dismissing the film, it really is cute and romantic, it's just the means of coming together isn't as important as the meaning. Like Chuck Palahniuk has said, Fight Club, could have just as easily been Knitting Club, or anything else really.

Tea and cereal. Cereal and Tea.

i did like that Pat almost messed it up by waiting so long to reveal something to to Tiffany, all because he wanted to be romantic, it's just a fun moment with a touch of realism.

i've heard a lot of bitching and moaning about the end of this movie, how it's some unrealistic Hollywood Happy Ending, and you know, that's bullshit. The entire film is about two people trying to get better, overcome their problems, accept their illness, and move on from the past. The final scene of the two of them being and cute and cuddly, it isn't a happy ever after, no more than it's some foreboding sign of doom. The scene takes special care to show their ring fingers, they're no longer wearing their wedding rings. That's huge, it's symbolic, the movie has showed us that there is no such thing as normal, everyone has problems (and the various healthy and unhealthy ways they deal with them). There is no happily ever after, but there is happy. They're not magically absolved, they're just happy. And i like that a lot.

I hope this means Chris Tucker is returning to acting.
The acting must also be mentioned, phenominal performances by everyone, Cooper, Lawrence, Tucker, Oritz. Though honestly, De Niro gave probably the best, he seems a bit unsure over what to think about everything going on with Pat, but is still trying to be a loving father, and he's completely in denial about his OCD and other issues, the two do eventually admit that Pat is a lot like him though. But the moment that really sealed the performance for me was when he was sitting on Pat's bed, crying to his son, about how he wanted to be there to help his son, and how he was afraid to admit he wants his son to be there to help him as well, it was touching.

It's just a fantastic movie.

And while i'm not as angry as Pat was with the ending of A Farewell to Arms, it did bother me that of all the mentions of Metallica, there was none of their music featured in the film. And i don't even like Metallica! So here, take out your stress in unhealthy ways to this:

i hope i've made the case, not only to why these were two of my favourite films from 2012, but why they're important films as well. Mental illness is just a fact of life, it isn't something that's going to go away if you ignore it, and seeing these two films taking on the issue was really refreshing.

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