Thursday, 9 November 2017

RAMBLIN' RANT: In which a SEVENTH SON gets TULIP FEVER and loses his mind

These reviews are prime evidence that a good cast does not a good movie make. I became a big fan of Alicia Vikander after I saw A Royal Affair and Ex Machina. And as with all actors you like, eventually you run into some pot holes - and that is where I am now with Vikander. 

Let's get to the movie which is currently in theatres.

Tulip Fever (dir. Justin Chadwick)
Set in the Netherlands during the tulip craze of the 17th Century, a young artist (Dane DeHaan) finds love and inspiration in a young married woman (Alicia Vikander) who he is commissioned to paint. As their love grows, they come up with a plan to escape her wealthy husband (Christoph Waltz) and make a new life together... Whatever. 

The only good thing about this movie
This review is basically a public service announcement - if you saw the poster and thought it might be good, stay away. This movie is garbage. 

If you have seen any minor period movie since Shakespeare In Love, then you will have  a rough idea of what to expect with this. A young hot cast; based on a book; produced by the now-disgraced Harvey Weinstein. However, this movie feels like that trend reaching its endpoint.  

Right from the beginning, this movie is off. Like Rogue One, this movie speeds from character to character, and location to location so fast that nothing feels established. You don't know who the main character is you do not know what the plot is (for awhile), you do not know what the tone is, and by the end you do not know why you bothered watching this POS in the first place.

Watching this movie was like getting at a Ferris wheel. Everything is spinning and you cannot focus on anything.

The actors are stranded - I cannot tell if it is the script or the edit, but I could not get a handle on any of them. The movie is so chopped up and busy that I could not tell you who any of these people were. Vikander, DeHaan and Christoph Waltz all feel like they are in neutral. This is based on speculation but I feel like part of the reason I cannot describe these performances in more detail is because the movie never establishes any character for them to build off. Maybe there was a script or an edit where these performances were more developed. The supporting cast (Holly Grainger, Jack O'Connell and Judi Dench) are fine, but there is an abyss in the middle of this movie that dampens the impact of everyone's contributions. 

Ugh. Thinking about this movie makes me sick. Go see Thor: Ragnarok or Brigsby Bear instead. 

Seventh Son (dir. Sergei Bodrov, 2015)
The witch Queen Malkin (Julianne Moore) has escaped her prison just in time for the centennial blood moon. It falls to elderly witch hunter Gregory (Jeff Bridges) and his green apprentice Tom (Ben Barnes) to defeat Malkin and her army before the blood moon is full.

A throwback to eighties fantasy like Dragonslayer and Willow, it is easy to see why Seventh Son failed - a wooden protagonist; Jeff Bridges's strange accent; the rote story. It just lacks a little special something to stand out. However, on its own modest terms, Seven Son is fun.

The acting is a real mixed bag, and your mileage may vary as to how that affects your enjoyment.   Ben Barnes is a complete blank and Jeff Bridges buries himself in a fantasy version of his True Grit accent. It is absolute insanity. There is something kind of watchable about him, but not in the way the filmmakers intended.

Someone who needed to go for broke is Julianne Moore. One of the best actresses working today, she is weirdly off-game here, never finding the right take for her OTT villain.

Thankfully for this review the standout performance - and character -is Alicia Vikander as young half-witch Alice. She leans into the character's duality, giving Alice a small measure of ambiguity that makes her far more interesting than the role probably was on the page. Clearly an early gig (this movie was shot in 2012), she is utterly captivating in her few scenes.

This movie has three editors, and it has clearly been cut down to the nub. The film moves quickly through the key plot points to the ending, which improves its watchability but it means the movie lacks its own character. With Barnes in the lead, the character dynamics are leaden as hell. 

It is a pity because the movie is built on some interesting ideas about the nature of good and evil. Both Bridges and Moore are presented as cut from the same cloth - they are both willing to use the same methods to achieve their goals, with no concern for anyone who gets in the way. Their love - hate relationship is mirrored in the romance between Barnes and Vikander.  It is a potentially meaty subtext, but the movie is so anxious to move the plot forward that it never builds to anything interesting.

If you are in the mood for an amiable time-waster you could do worse than Seventh Son.

No comments:

Post a Comment