Frenemies? Movies reviewed: The Host, Ginger and Rosa
Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM, looking at high-brow and low-brow movies, indie, cult, foreign, festival, documentary, genre and mainstream films, helping you see movies with good taste, movies that taste good, and how to tell the difference.
Do you have a “frenemy”? Maybe someone who is part of your circle but secretly hates you. Or a best friend who becomes a rival, or, maybe, a bitter enemy who turns out to be someone you can depend on. Well, this week I’m looking at two very different movies about young women and their frenemies. One is set in the future where two women’s souls share the same body; the other is set in the past, in the 1960’s, where two best friends become rivals when a certain man comes between them.
Dir: Andrew Niccol
It’s the future. Aliens have beamed down to the earth from outer space, in the form of glowing, sperm-like liquid crystals. They travel in little silver clam shells and burrow into the brains of their hosts – that’s us — and instantly take over. Pretty soon we’ve all turned into those emotionless aliens. They look just like you and me, except for their eyes: they have glowing rings embedded in their irises.
But one young woman, Melanie, (Saorise Ronan) is a fighter. When her mind gets taken over by an alien called the Wanderer, the internal Melanie refuses to give up. Her boyfriend, Jared, and her little brother are still out there somewhere and she has to save them… So now there are two rivals living in one body – but only one of them can speak to the outside world.
In a crucial mental battle, Melanie wins out over the Wanderer, and they manage to locate the rebels’ hideaway – a redneck, survivalist utopia, full of guns and wheat fields and special mirrors as an energy source — that’s hidden between two mountains in the desert. But Melanie is shocked to be attacked by her loved ones. The rebels only see that alien ring in her eyes, but not Melanie’s soul buried somewhere deep inside. So they lock her up in a cave and treat her worse than an animal.
Gradually, the Wanderer (aka Wanda), becomes more like humans with actual emotions. Wanda has eyes for a guy in the desert hideaway, Kyle, but the internal Melanie still loves Jared (Max Irons). Melanie wonders: if Jared kisses her, would he be cheating? Since, even though she looks just like Melanie, he knows her body is occupied by Wanda’s soul. Melanie forces Wanda’s hand to slap Jared’s face when he seems to be enjoying the kiss too much.
Meanwhile, The Seeker (Diane Kruger) an ice blonde she-wolf of the SS, is in charge of finding the rebels and blasting them into submission or even wiping them out. Will the rebels win or the evil aliens? Will they realize Melanie is still alive? And who will win this split personality’s love – Ryan or Jarrod?
The Host, is a romance set within in a science-fiction/action movie.
It’s written by Stephanie Meyers, who brought us the insipid Twilight series (teen romances disguised as vampire movies). I like the main story, but whenever tension starts to build, it turns back into a sexless romance, where the main topic is Will he kiss me, and Does he really, really love me? and Why is he looking at me that way?
It wavers between a not-bad action drama and a romance suitable for a pre-teen bible camp. Saorise Ronan is quite good as the dual-personality alien, as is Diane Kruger as the Seeker, but the male romantic leads are boring and bland.
See The Host if you loved Twilight and want the same thing but with a bit more action, and a science fiction twist. Otherwise, give it a miss.
Dir: Sally Potter
Ginger and Rosa are best friends. They share everything with each other. They were born in a London hospital in 1945, with their mothers giving birth, side by side, just as the atom bombs were falling on Hiroshima. Fast forward to 1962: it’s the Cuban Missile Crisis, they’re both 17 now, and everyone thinks the atomic bombs are about to wipe everyone out.
Red-haired Ginger (Elle Fanning) is a political activist who writes poetry and goes to protest marches. She sleeps with a peace sign over her bed. She lives with her depressed but beautiful mum (Charlotte Hendricks) but thinks she’s boring and bourgeois. She idolizes her handsome and free-spirited dad (Allesando Nivola), who is an intellectual, a pacifist, and an activist. She also has an extended family, with two gay godparents, Mark and Mark 2, and various protesters, radicals, political organizers, artists and thinkers who hover around her home.
Dark-haired Rosa (Alice Englert) lives with her single mother. She’s Catholic and sexualized. She teaches Ginger about sex, boys, making out, and the church. Ginger, in turn, takes Rosa to demos and CND ban the Bomb youth meetings.
But something is amiss in their friendship. Someone they both know well is attracted to Rosa (the feelings are mutual), and that secret relationship threatens to mess up both their lives and turn them from best friends to rivals.
This is a fantastic movie for so many reasons. Sally Potters film captures the mood of a newly radicalized London youth movement, and the very real fear of nuclear apocalypse. But it’s also a very moving story, a coming-of-age in an era fraught with changes. The acting, the moving story, the historical accuracy, even the period jazz music – just amazing. It’s Sally Potter at the top of her game.
I strongly recommend this movie.
The Host and Ginger and Rosa both open today – check your local listings. Also opening is Spring Breakers, a unique and highly entertaining in a style that only Harmony Korine (Trash Humpers, Gummo) could pull off. And coming soon are Images, Cinefranco, Real World, TJFF, and Hot Docs.
This is Daniel Garber at the Movies, each Friday morning on CIUT 89.5 FM and on my website,culturalmining.com