Explicit Ills Reviews
Date Night: Nope
Art Factor: Medium
Fun Factor: None
Emotional Factor: Low
Intelligence Required: Low
Essential Viewing: No
The Plot: Four stories of various poor people in the same poor area weave about.
My Take: Multiple story lines are usually really fun for me. Babel, Crash, 21 Grams, etc., I find them a fun change of pace from the usual formula. But after watching Explicit Ills I am reminded of what can go wrong.
Before we get to the wrong let me hit the few bright spots. First time director Mark Webber was not bad behind the lens at all. Many of his shots were interesting takes where most would have settled for the usual. He also used some nice transitions that were both creative and sudden. The ensemble cast was wonderful, with Dano and Dawson being the only two established players in the cast. Both Dano and Dawson shown bright, but we just weren't given enough time to see just how bright. Which leads me to...
What went wrong. The multiple story lines are very loosely tied together. In fact, I really never gave a shit that they were. It just never felt necessary to see the big picture because the small ones all felt so damned rushed. That rush speed is this film's problem in a nutshell and a great lesson to film students everywhere. Do not sacrifice intimate moments of a film because you are trying to squeeze in too many intimate moments. Let your actors breathe into scenes and stay with them for a bit. Dont make a film where you want me to care if your not going to give me a chance to find out what I should be caring about...
A decent cast is here but the film just didn't quite grab me. A near-miss.
this is a great drama told in the style of KIDS and A GUIDE to RECOGNIZING YOUR SAINTS. It follows many characters whose story's and paths will all intertwine by the end.
lou pucci a.k.a Thumbsucker is held up and beaten
little baby Babo dies
Although Webber has had great success as an actor ([i]Snow Day, Dear Wendy, The Hottest State[/i]) he produced, wrote, and directed this project because it was a story which he was compelled to tell. He did it from the heart, and it shows. [i]Explicit Ills [/i]is simply a masterpiece.
The film weaves in and out of the lives of "ordinary" Philadelphians -- kids, couples, and families of all races and classes. From the opening shots of tidy middle class rowhomes transitioning to once-neat houses now fallen into disrepair Webber already appears to be making a bold statement about how our society treats its citizens and how their lives are affected by the state of our economy and attitudes.
Separate story lines essentially proceed independently. Given the latest fare out of Hollywood, where one anticipates a [i]Crash[/i]-like blending of the characters' lives, we wait for these characters to cross paths. But Webber holds back. For how long will it be left to the viewer to discern how they (and we) are connected? The message is not force-fed. Will there be great reveals? There is a message, to be sure, but it's not heavy-handed and only comes about with a bit of thought and an open mind. Such care and trust in the audience's own intelligence shows a true sensibility rarely seen in any filmmaker, let alone one this young.
It's always hard to single out individual performances in an ensemble cast. Lou Taylor Pucci's films have held prominent places in the world of independent film, largely on the basis of his intense believability. Paul Dano, who has worked with Mark Webber before ([i]Weapons)[/i], has recently achieved worldwide fame, garnering a slew of awards and critical acclaim for his performances in [i]Little Miss Sunshine[/i] and [i]There Will Be Blood[/i]. Other standouts include Rosario Dawson ([i]Alexander, Sin City, Rent[/i]) whose performance, along with Francisco Burgos as her young son Babo, stays with you long after the end credits. Naomie Harris, Tariq Trotter, Martin Cepeda Jr., Rebecca Comerford, and Destini Edwards also stand out. Even Webber and his mother Cheri Honkala, a well-known civil rights activist in Philadelphia, make cameo appearances.
One of the great strengths of [i]Explicit Ills[/i] is in its visual style (and there are many). Each storyline has its own. Lighting and cinematography each takes on a different tone for each one. For example, hand-held camera predominates in the story of Jacob and Michelle (Lou Taylor Pucci and Frankie Shaw), who spend their days in bed and on drugs. The look emphasizes their frenetic lifestyle. Similarly, another set of characters are showcased with the use of steadicam and long tracking shots. Another features long takes and the use of stationary camera. Each has its own unique color processing -- intense, bright, subdued, or washed out. The soundtrack has special significance to each storyline as well.
I sat with stunned silence as the film ended, both in wonderment at what Webber has been able to achieve as well as in deep thought about what my own role has been in the betterment of society. [i]Explicit Ills[/i] will definitely make you think. Whether or not it will lead you to act on your thoughts is up to you.