Average User Score: 6.5Feb 25, 2013Compliance is just about one of the most abhorrent films I've ever seen.
In 2007, there were 70 exceptional cases were reported across to the American Police department. While they all had their own, unsettling idiosyncrasies, they were all loosely connected by subterfuge and prank calls. This is no Steve Penk or The Jerky Boys, but real vile cases of human maltreatment.
It's an extraordinary topic that is crying out to be debunked in an explorative, Errol Morris style documentary. Compliance isn't that film.
Writer/director Craig Zobel decides to focus this seeming pandemic on one exceptional example, based on a mélange of different real cases to make one mega-horrific fictional one. It's just another regular day at an Ohio fast food chain, until a meticulous prank caller convinces the restaurant manager (Ann Dowd) that one of her employees Becky, Gossip Girl's Dreama Walker, is being accused of stealing from a customer. What proceeds is a manipulating interrogation, where everyone idly agrees to whatever increasingly insane task the caller will have them do. Why? Without proving any of his credentials, the prank caller deceives everyone involved into believing that he is a police officer, and thus establishing his unobjectionable authority. By Compliance's nasty end, Becky is naked, humiliated, and sexually violated, and the audience are accomplices; watching on through guarded eyes and clenched fists.
Even though the story comes from a bastardised real place, Zobel really pushes the boundaries of plausibility. Not in a "stranger than fiction" way, but rather because the characterisation, narrative, and Zobel's misguided compulsion to tell it, is shallow. The ninety minute running time lingers for what feels like days and, whilst the repetitious sequences are relatively tame and implicit, it all feels incredibly ugly and exploitative; as if Zobel is forcing the audience to watch a security camera.
At it's most tenuous, one could wring-out a slapdash argument that the film is forcing the audience to look at this injustice like a reflexive meta-narrative, like Haneke's Funny Games. Unlike the unflinchingly austere Austrian, Zobel lacks directorial flare and balls to actually critique or comment on the true events and populace servility to the law.
Even when the film was snapped up at the Sundance Film Festival last year, it was met with notoriety, with walkouts and boos. Later, in a public Q&A, Zobel plainly admitted that the film is misogynistic. But for what reason? Zobel is trying to be forthright and polemical with Compliance, but simply projecting these images isn't enough to warrant a political license. An artless, meaningless, pseudo-video nasty that doesn't earn the discomfort it will leave you with.
My full review, and other things, right here:
Average User Score: 5.9Feb 13, 2013Marketed as the ‘Sort-of sequel to Knocked Up‘, writer/director/producer Judd Apatow returns with his regular blend of bickering tragicomedy, only this time it’s more cantankerous, self-aggrandising, and most painful of all longer then it ever should or deserved to be.
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Average User Score: 8.5Feb 6, 2013After a stomping success in the States, this witty retro gaming homage is the first bow in the Disney Animation Studios’ arrow to be as ardent and artistically ballsy as the work from those neighboring Pixar bigwigs.
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Average User Score: 7.1Jan 30, 2013After dabbling in the world of creepy pseudo-realistic motion capture with Beowulf, The Polar Express and A Christmas Carol, Robert Zemeckis returns to the land of the living with the tonally muddled, Oscar-ripe drab-drama Flight.
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Average User Score: 7.7Jan 17, 2013I expected the insipidly titled The Sessions to be one of two movies. Firstly, it could have been an indie darling. Dished up to the swooshing Sundance Film Festival and the annual Little Miss Sunshine-worshipping crowd as a brave (meaning that the two leads are unsympathetically filmed in their fleshy birthday suits), and treacly (meaning, well, treacly) look at relationships and the woeful public perception of disability.
Secondly, it could have been a Judd Apatow movie. An overlong and ultimately unsuccessful exercise in balancing arcane screwball comedy about awkward sex, whilst still trying to say something prophetic about relationships and the woeful public perception of disability. Thankfully, The Sessions is neither of these things.
Based on the self-penned article On Seeing a Sex Surrogate', it's the true story of Mark O'Brien, a semi-polarized survivor of polio who spends his life being pushed around on a gurney by day, and sleeping in an iron lung at night. He's accomplished a lot for a man of such limited physical capacity; charming character played by charming character actor John Hawkes (Winter's Bone, Martha Marcy May Marlene), who acts his socks off without ever lifting a finger.
But there's something missing in Mark's life: sex. After a trepidatious hunt for the right service, Mark hires surrogate sex therapist Cheryl (Helen Hunt) to fulfil his needs. Like most fumbling male virgins, the road to sexual prowess proves bumpy (so I hear). Caught between a rock and a not-so-hard place, Mark seeks sexual advice in the laid-back catholic clergyman, Father Brendan (played by the ever-sagacious old owl, William H. Macy). Through the six sessions, Mark is sexually liberated, and his heartstrings are plucked.
It could have been a source for crude slapstick comedy, but director and adapted screenplay writer Ben Lewin doesn't settle for cheap sight gags and befuddled pious figures. The unflinchingly presented scenarios are certainly humiliating, but more poignant then hilarious. When we do laugh, Mark is in on the joke, more often than not he is telling it; from his belief in 'a god with a sinister sense of humour' to jousting with the priest about sexual positions.
While Hawkes' astounding performance comes as expected, Helen Hunt is the real revelation and beating heart of the film. Her Oscar nominated appearance as the naked counsellor is so multifaceted and melancholic. A career best for her, in so few words Hunt manages to detail how Cheryl gets just as much emotional connect out of 'the sessions' as Mark does.
It's not twee, laugh out loud hilarious or deeply profound; it's not even that remarkable. What Ben Lewin does deliver is a drama-comedy in the purest sense, filled with fantastic performances, an excellent script and an unashamedly feel-good factor at it's core.… Expand