ShoWest: Get Low and Letters to Juliet
JoBlo.com reader 'Bob Esponja' is out checking out all the fun stuff at ShoWest for us and just passed along two quick reviews for GET LOW with Bill Murray and Robert Duvall and LETTERS TO JULIET with Amanda Seyfried. Check out his thoughts below:
Earlier tonight, a film called Get Low screened at ShoWest. You may have heard something about it, as it played at Sundance earlier this year. Walking in, I knew very little about the story, my knowledge limited to a brief clip that I had seen online a few months ago, and the paragraph synopsis I had read around the same time. Set in 1930s Tennessee, Get Low tells the story of Felix Bush (Duvall), a crotchety old hermit who decides to throw himself a funeral party while he is still alive. Bill Murray is the down on his luck caretaker who agrees to make it all happen (for a reasonable price, of course).
It's a simple enough conceit, and you can imagine this being handled in a pleasant, comedic fashion, but that is not at all what Get Low is. Rather, this is a serious drama that is often very funny (which is not the same thing). I don't want to spoil a worthwhile trip to the movies, so I'll skip the details and give you some general impressions.
- This is a very well cast film. Duvall's performance is one of his best, and Bill Murray once again proves that his range extends well beyond comedy.
- The film is beautifully shot by David Boyd (21 Rounds). The camerawork is subtle and affective, the camera moving only when necessary. This is integral to the tone of the film.
- Speaking of, there are frequent shifts in tone throughout, but the transitions are graceful and controlled by the director, Aaron Schneider. A very steady hand seems always to preside over this film. I think he is one to watch.
- Music is a crucial element that can make or break a film. In the case of Get Low, Jan Kaczmarek (Finding Neverland, The Visitor) contributes a beautiful and affective score, which incorporates bluegrass (as one would expect), but is primarily orchestral, and quite haunting.
- I found Get Low to be surprisingly moving. Ultimately, it is the story of a dark secret that has kept an old man trapped for nearly forty years of his life. But I fear I have already said too much. See the film (which is sure to get some Oscar nominations next year), and marvel at the brave choices on the part of Aaron Schneider. It would be easy to make Get Low as a broad comedy, but he wisely chose to make it something more: a film about real people and real choices, and how grief can get you low, real low.
Last night at ShoWest, Summit screened Letters to Juliet, starring Amanda Seyfried, who is the recipient of this year's Breakthrough Female Star of the Year award. I went in with relatively low expectations, having seen the spoiler-heavy trailer that suggested we were in for a typical rom-com. That being said, I was slightly intrigued by the fact that the film took place in Italy, and that Vanessa Redgrave was in it. She automatically elevates anything she's in.
Seyfried plays Sophie, an aspiring writer who works as a fact-checker for the New York Times. She's engaged to Victor (Bernal), a chef who is on the verge of opening his own restaurant in Manhattan. In effort to get some time together before the restaurant opens, Sophie and Victor head to Verona for a "pre-Honeymoon" vacation. But the romantic getaway is quickly drained of all romance, as Victor becomes distracted with sampling the region's wines and cheeses for his restaurant, and Sophie finds herself wandering the city streets alone. She stumbles upon the Verona Courtyard, where lovelorn young women leave letters for Shakespeare's Juliet. Through some investigation, she discovers that these letters are answered by the Secretaries of Juliet, a judicious group of women who apparently have nothing better to do with their time. When Sophie discovers a letter hidden in the wall, written forty years ago by a woman named Claire who was heartbroken at having left her true love, she decides to write back.
Claire (Regrave) arrives in Verona, intent on seeking out her long-lost lover. Tagging along is her grandson Charlie (Egan), who isn't so enthusiastic about the idea, and makes that abundantly clear to Sophie. This is called romantic tension. Before long, Sophie is on the road with Claire and Charlie in their pursuit, and (you guessed it) sparks begin to fly between her and the initially resistant Charlie.
This is all fairly standard rom-com material, but you know what? This is actually a pretty good movie. You certainly know what to expect, but Seyfried has an indelible charm, and she is surrounded by a very good supporting cast. Egan is particularly likable and shows great promise (you may have seen him in the underrated show Kings). Throw in some beautiful locations, and you have a worthwhile night at the movies with your significant other. This one won me over by the end.