Love vs Sex. Movies reviewed: The Best of Me, White Bird in a Blizzard PLUS TIFF Cinematheque Free Screen

Posted in Coming of Age, Cultural Mining, Drama, Romance, Suburbs, Uncategorized by CulturalMining.com on October 17, 2014

99ada23afcc96f7a37df270ff635a7c4Hi, 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, helpingf28bb1f7988be1aeeafed4a48f550325 you see movies with good taste, movies that taste good, and how to tell the difference.

Some things in life are free.

TIFF Cinematheque has a program of experimental and avant-garde film called Free Screen. The fall season opens tonight featuring, new films by Canadian director 26dcb0a8be64f52a691beb4793335eb1Barbara Sternberg and work by Cliff Enns. Both fimmakers will be at the screening. These art films are shot with unusual techniques. Sternberg uses rotoscope animation (that’s projected photographic images traced and redrawn, frame-by-frame, into animation). Enns’ film uses Fisher-Price PixelVision, a 1980s B&W toy video camera. Very cool and aesthetically pleasing stuff. For details go to tiff.net/cinematheque.

This week, movies about about  “free” things, like love, friendship and family.

There’s a teary, romantic drama about lovers torn apart in the bayous of Louisiana, and a mystery drama about a disappearing mama in a 1980s suburbia.

The Best Of MeThe Best of Me
Dir: Michael Hoffman (based on the Nicholas Sparks novel)

Dawson Cole is a shy kid at a Louisiana High School. He likes science and is good at fixing things — like cars. And when he helps his perky classmate Amanda with car trouble, sparks fly. She invites him on a date. The problem? Amanda is rich and popular, while Dawson comes from the wrong side of the tracks. He’s a member of the notorious Cole clan, under The Best Of Methe sway of his evil daddy and his two mean brothers. Most kids sneak alcohol or contraband past their parents. Not in this family: he gets punished for sneaking homework into their shack when he should be getting drunk and playing cards with his pappy! You think you’re better than us? You ain’t better than us, you’re white trash and don’t you forget it! Daddy beats him up so he runs away. And misses the first date.

He ends up in the garage of an old man named Tuck, who takes pity on the good kid from the bad family. Dawson and Amanda stare into each others’ limpid eyes by the The Best Of MeSpanish moss, ‘neath the twinkling stars. He picks a red rose…they have their first kiss. Together they spin plans for an idyllic future… until an unexplained event splits them apart.

Decades later, they meet again in their small town, after the death of a mutual friend. Dawson works as a roughneck now on an oil rig in the Gulf. Amanda is a housewife with a weasel-y, unloving husband. She adores her teenage son but he’s heading off to college. Though both are haunted by sad memories, can they rekindle their romance? Or are they just captives of class and destiny, never to The Best Of Melove again?

Dawson and Amanda are played by two sets of actors. Luke Bracey (he co-starred in the recent action thriller November Man) and Liana Liberato play the dewy-eyed teens. She’s the fiery, sharp-tongued one matched with his strong and silent type. Grown-up heartthrobs James Marsden and Michelle Monaghan play the same characters as adults, but more wistful and filled with regret.

This movie is a totally weepie romance. It’s got everything you expect: true love – unrequited; innocent teens burdened with their families’ prejudices; and passions left to smolder for decades. Total cheese, clichés, and stock charicatures. What’s its point? To tug at your heartstrings and make you cry. It’s a weeper. And I did. Not my cup of tea, but if you’re into classic romances, this one does it right, serving up love on a silver platter in the deep, deep South.

Shailene Woodley as Kat Connor and Shiloh Fernadez as Phil in White Bird in a BlizzardWhite Bird in a Blizzard
Dir: Gregg Araki (Based on the novel by Laura Kasischke)

It’s the 1980s – that means kids have big hair and wear bright colours that don’t match. Kat (Shaileen Woodley) has an OK suburban family, taken directly from a TV sitcom. Mom’s a glamorous model-type (French actress Eva Green) who always puts her down. Hapless Dad (Law and Order’s Christopher Meloni) is a total loss – he looks like John Cleese on Fawlty FawltyTowersS1_06-ep-1_OPTowers (complete with bad moustache and receding hairline, but without the witty repartee.) Kat hangs with her two best friends – both self-described fat chicks. One’s black the other a skinny gay Shailene Woodley and Christopher Meloni in White Bird in a Blizzardguy, who has a “fat chick deep inside”. Kat self-identifies too, even though she recently lost weight and grew breasts, She discovers sex and can’t wait to try it out with Phil, the good-looking chowderhead next door. Phil lives with his nosey blind mom.

Then suddenly Kat’s mom disappears and her life starts to change. Did she run away and abandon her family? Is she coming back again? Or is she dead? She is Shailene Woodley in White Bird in a Blizzardhaunted by dreams – her mom and other people appearing in blinding white snowdrifts. She sees a therapist (Angela Basset) and talks with the police – one detective in particular. She’s crushing on him, and tries to seduce him. Meanwhile she follows the clues like an amateur detective, to find out what happened to her mother. Her boy-next-door boyfriend Phil seems to have flirted with her mom! Does he know where she is? Even her dad seems to have a secret to hide… What’s going on?

Gregg Araki is known for his stylized indie films, that offer a queer look at coming-of-age and sexual awakening in the suburbs. He’s good about shifting sexual and ethnic mixtures. This one fits his style, with an attractive cast, a quirky main actress, and lots of sex, nudity, music and nostalgic looks at the counter-culture. It doesn’t quite hold together. It jumps from painfully wooden family tableaux, to fresh and realistic portrayals of 80s youth culture. Are they part of the same movie? The acting ranges from the dreadful (Meloni) to great (Woodley and Gabourey Sidibe as her BFF). Still, White Bird in a Blizzard is pleasant to watch, with a great ambient soundtrack, and a few whopper surprises.

The Best of Me opens today, and White Bird in a Blizzard starts next week in Toronto. Check your local listings.

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies, each Friday morning on CIUT 89.5 FM and on my website culturalmining.com

 

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