5:00 PM, 18th February, 2017
The plot seems familiar… where have we seen this before? Oh, that’s right – it’s from every second MGM musical ever made. Yes folks, the ‘let’s put on a show’ musical is back!
And you know what – we can see why it was so popular in the first place. For one thing, we don’t have to worry about all the laborious woodwork required to make the songs fit: we simply sit back and watch to see how the animators have staged them. We don’t even have to like the songs in order to like watching them.
In the overarching plot we follow the efforts of an amiably optimistic koala (McConaughey) trying to rescue his historic theatre from ruin. He’s staging a talent show; and after the advertised value of prize money is accidentally increased by a factor of 100, he finds he actually has some talented applicants, each with their own unique reason for wanting to win. They’re all worth watching and any one of them could become the star of his or her own film (but hopefully they won’t). I was particularly fond of the faux-rebellious teenage porcupine, probably because she’s voiced by Scarlett Johansson.
I have just one reservation about this film: the artwork (art direction and character animation) is merely ordinary, well below what I know Illumination is capable of, let alone other studios. But I’m put in my place: watching this immensely fun film with an audience, it was obvious that no one cared.
7:00 PM, 18th February, 2017
A teenager named Star (newcomer Lane) relies on discarded food in dumpsters to feed the children in her care. When an opportunity arises to join a group of youths selling magazine subscriptions door-to-door, Star leaves her abusive home and travels to Kansas City, knocking back booze and drugs with her newfound friends. She is particularly drawn to Jake (LaBeouf), the charismatic chief salesman.
Director Andrea Arnold has shown herself to be an articulate storyteller when it comes to tales of youthful passion. Movies like Fish Tank and Wuthering Heights depict characters on the brink of adulthood going after love and life. This is her first American film and it’s a road trip worth taking. Whilst not being plot-driven, it is frequently breathtaking in its raw-nerve depiction of the pursuit of the American Dream, millennial style. The film has intentionally been framed in the Instagram-like 4:3 ratio, allowing the cinematographer to zoom in on faces with emotional effect whilst also making other parts of the imagery bold and dream-like. And it has the best bus-singalong (the title track, by Lady Antebellum) since Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous.
If your tendency will be to dismiss this movie’s characters as rowdy exhibitionists with tattoos and hippety-hop music, then I am sorry to say you are officially An Old Fart, and have failed to see this marvellous movie for what it is: an ode to youthful impulsiveness and recklessness, with characters familiar with life’s cruelties, and all set amongst America’s rural poverty and class divisions.