Explicit Ills Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ July 7, 2008
Ensemble drama clumsily works its way to a Big Message.
September 4, 2010
Three of my favorite young actors are in this movie: Paul Dano, Lou Taylor Pucci and Rosario Dawson. I was bound to like it even if it had been horrible, but as it turned out I liked it because it was wonderful.
July 12, 2009
You're willing to go for it, my pleasure. Oh, such dedicated drama that comes off as a pitiful bore.
½ July 9, 2009
Well acted but the movie is far from exciting and for me it moved along at a snails pace. The Philadelphia setting added nothing to the film. Fair at best.
August 30, 2013
I don't really like giving one star votes but there was nothing fresh about this story and it couldn't hold my attention. I'm a fan of Rosario Dawson and she's why I watched it but she was only part of a vignette so it just wasn't enough to save it. I watched most of it but didn't finish it, unless there was some sort of amazing ending (which I doubt) this one was just boring to me...kind of on the same lines as those cigarette commercials that went on for a while as a public safety announcement that show mortality in a way that's not really effective.
August 30, 2013
I don't really like giving one star votes but there was nothing fresh about this story and it couldn't hold my attention. I'm a fan of Rosario Dawson and she's why I watched it but she was only part of a vignette so it just wasn't enough to save it. I watched most of it but didn't finish it, unless there was some sort of amazing ending (which I doubt) this one was just boring to me...kind of on the same lines as those cigarette commercials that went on for a while as a public safety announcement that show mortality in a way that's not really effective.
½ December 11, 2010
For Fans Of: Weaving story lines, Rosario Dawson, Paul Dano
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...
December 29, 2009
(** 1/2): Thumbs Down

A decent cast is here but the film just didn't quite grab me. A near-miss.
½ November 29, 2009
more socialist propaganda
½ October 24, 2009
Just because this movie has a full cast of wonderful actors doesn't make it a good movie. The message is great (better healthcare), and the examples of what happens to the people in the film who do not have health insurance is needed to see, BUT, it was slow and depressing.
July 26, 2009
NOWwithSUPERsPOILER!!!

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.

SUPERsPOILER

lou pucci a.k.a Thumbsucker is held up and beaten
little baby Babo dies
½ July 9, 2009
Well acted but the movie is far from exciting and for me it moved along at a snails pace. The Philadelphia setting added nothing to the film. Fair at best.
March 12, 2009
Wonderfull movie. A good find.
March 7, 2009
This film is the stunning directorial debut of Mark Webber and was shot in his hometown of Philadelphia. It boasts an incredible ensemble cast including Paul Dano ([i]L.I.E., Little Miss Sunshine, There Will Be Blood[/i]) and Lou Taylor Pucci ([i]Thumbsucker, Chumscrubber[/i]).

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.
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