Archive | September, 2013

Sightseers

7 Sep

Sightseers

 

Director: Ben Wheatley

Writers: Amy Jump (additional material), Alice Lowe (screenplay)

Stars: Alice Lowe, Eileen Davies, Steve Oram

Motion picture rating: R

Runtime: 88 minutes

 

What if Mickey and Mallory from Natural Born Killers went on their crime spree in a cheap and cheerful caravan? That has to have been Alice Lowe’s launch point for dreaming up this dark comedy; two amorous psychopaths, the open road and a shabby mobile home. It is a unique set up and Lowe found talented collaborators in husband and wife team Ben (Kill List) Wheatley and Amy Jump. Together they have fashioned a twisted comedy that the sicker members of the English tourist board can have only dreamt about in feverish dreams.

The writer Lowe plays Tina to Steve Oram’s Chris. They are a quirky couple in their early 30’s and in the early stages of a romance. They head out in Chris’s car / caravan combo on a road trip of English tourist attractions leaving Tina’s invalid and disapproving mother behind. She is wary of geeky Chris and with good reason because it’s not long before he’s meeting out tough justice on litterers, opinionated ramblers and Daily Mail readers. Chris is sociopathic and possibly psychopathic. He is the Travis Bickle of the caravan society and carries a full rack of emotional baggage. He desperately wants to be respected, but is dismissed at every turn. Frustration and rage boil inside.

Simple minded Tina learns to understand her deadly companion and then wants to join him. We have seen a wicked side to her earlier in the film, but the relish with which she ups the murderous ante is shocking. Soon Chris is worried about Tina, but by then they are too far gone down the road of train museums, rough sex, caravan sites, and bloodshed.

Wheatley shoots this with panache and the script from Lowe and Jump has some very funny lines. The leads are convincing with Oram particularly effective as the edgy Chris. The film owes something to early Shane Meadows’ films (such as A Room for Romeo Brass) and as such mixes black humour with social comment. It is not easy to watch at times, but it is often surprising and certainly a lot more fun than the overblown Oliver Stone road trip rampage from 1994. I liked Sightseers a lot and, whilst sick and twisted, there is something undeniably English about it.

Spring Breakers

1 Sep

spring breakers

 

Director: Harmony Korine

Writer: Harmony Korine (screenplay)

Stars: Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson

Motion picture rating: R

Runtime: 94 minutes

 

 

Spring Breakers opens with a montage straight out of a ‘girls gone bad’ reality compilation. Spring Break is that quintessential rite of passage for US college kids and the opening shots show them drinking, dancing and fooling around like there is no tomorrow. That is the primary theme; kids taking a time-out from ‘normal’ life to go completely crazy for a few days. They do act as if there’s no tomorrow or more likely as if they don’t want tomorrow (and another day of “seeing the same things every day” as nice girl Faith explains early on).

There are five main characters in the film and two distinct parts to it. Four best friends (Faith, Candy, Brit and Cotty) head to Florida for Spring Break, having robbed a diner to fund their excursion. In prepping for the felony they tell each other to “pretend like it’s a video game”. That is the secondary theme; the desensitisation of young adults that are inundated with images of sex, drugs and violence. Certainly the girls take to armed robbery with glee. They also take to Florida and soon Korine is adding montages of them drinking, dancing, fooling around and riding scooters.

The film changes with the introduction of James Franco as local drug dealing rapper Alien. He bails the girls out of jail and takes them under his tattooed wing. He loses Faith (Selena Gomez), but keeps three of them interested by showing off his mansion, money and weapons. Alien is a youthful Tony Montana (with De Palma’s Scarface on a continuous loop in his crib). As such he is ambitious and he has enemies. Faith is right to be concerned about his lifestyle and once Cotty gets caught in the crossfire it is just Brit (Ashley Benson) and Candy (Vanessa Hudgens) that remain. The final threesome thus head for a showdown with Alien’s nemesis and a bloody end to Spring Break.

Doubtless there is some cool camera work and a slickness to this that will appeal to college kids everywhere. The montages are overdone, but most capture the euphoria of reckless youth. It is impressive at times, but depressing for anyone older than 35. The kids are almost feral and their consumption of sex and drugs and rock n roll is boundless. They have no redeeming qualities and don’t care for anything. Accordingly it is impossible to care about them or the film.

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