The Young And Prodigious T.S. Spivet Reviews
THE YOUNG AND PRODIGIOUS T.S. SPIVET is one such film that never made it to HK... until now. Released commercially in late 2013, and on DVD in early 2014, it seems a strange entry to the HK cinema scene at a time when the box office is being dominated by the likes of JURASSIC WORLD and TERMINATOR: GENISYS. The film is being released here the same week as the remake of POLTERGEIST. What's the connection, you ask? Actor Kyle Catlett stars in both movies. The films' local distributor may be hoping that if audiences like him in SPIVET, they'll go see him in POLTERGEIST. That may be a smart move, as the advance word on the latter film is not positive.
Based on the 2009 debut novel by Reif Larsen entitled The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet, the film follows the whimsical adventures of a 10-year-old boy genius (played by Catlett), who lives on a range near Divide, Montana, along with his anachronistic cowboy father known only as Father (Callum Keith Rennie), his entomologist mother Dr. Clair (Helena Bonham Carter), an older sister who aspires to be Miss USA and a "dizygotic" twin brother who seems to be the apple of their father's eye. After one of T.S.'s science experiments ends in tragedy, T.S. withdraws into his own fantastical world while his family members cope with their grief in their own ways. He invents a perpetual motion wheel that catches the attention of the scientific world and, soon after, he is invited to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC to accept its prestigious Baird Prize. Knowing that his family is preoccupied, T.S. packs a suitcase and hops aboard a freight train heading east. So begins a new round of adventures as he makes his way by rail to Chicago and then by semi hauler to DC.
One of the things that made the book so entertaining was that the margins of each page were filled with drawings, maps, charts and lists, purportedly drawn by T.S. himself. Screenwriter/director Jean-Pierre Jeunet (AMÉLIE FROM MONTMARTRE and DELICATESSEN) tried to capture the boy's creative mind by incorporating many of these elements into the film. SPIVET was purposely shot in 3D, and throughout the film (more so in the first half than the second) T.S.'s maps and drawings come alive on the screen.
But it's a rare case when a movie outshines the book it is taken from and SPIVET is no different in this regard. The film cannot sustain the whimsy - or perhaps it is just a question of missed opportunity. I would have liked T.S.'s rail journey to have provided him with more opportunities to be delighted and curious with the world outside his window. Instead, we are shown the train inching along through drab towns while T.S. turns his attention inward. Similarly, his encounter with a policeman in Chicago started off with promise but it quickly morphed into a farcical foot chase.
The film hit its lowest point, though, with Australian actress Judy Davis. Playing the Smithsonian's administrator who invites T.S. to Washington, she quickly sees dollar signs when she realises who and what T.S. is. Much like the Wicked Witch of the West in THE WIZARD OF OZ, once she has the young boy in her clutches, she shows no intention of letting him go. His intellect is her ruby slippers. As she begins to lose control, she starts throwing around the "F" word, which is not only strange for a kid-friendly film but is completely unnecessary. As I mentioned in my review of '71, there's a time and place for vulgar language, and this isn't it.
With all of its darkness (especially in the second half), the story does have a happy ending. Just as Dorothy Gale discovered, T.S. also learns that there's no place like home.
THE YOUNG AND PRODIGIOUS T.S. SPIVET is not a bad film. It's just not as good a film as it could have been.
The film was produced by three countries from three different continents, carved by one of my favoutire French directors that talks of a prodigy child. An English language film set in the American soil. If you had liked his films, then you would like this one as well. Like all his films, it was visually fantastic and it was his first digital 3D project. One of the underrated film of the recent time. A road adventure and a coming-of-age film that neatly rendered especially for the family and children film fans.
More like it was a kid version of 'Amelie' and now I realise why the author picked this particular foreign filmmaker for the cinematic translation. This is not some kid's summer vacation tale or the school related stuff, but a rural kid and his weird family. They're united by family, but divided by their field of interest. Born in such family, the film focused his life and mostly the fighting of his loneliness.
It was based on the book about a 12 year old boy T.S. Spivet who lives on a ranch in the Rockies with his family. He's a scientific research enthusiastic and so one day he receives an unusual call from the Washington DC that he had won a prestigious award for his invention. After a sudden tragedy in the house he set to travel by his own to the other side of the country. The adventure begins as he hitchhike to his destination where he learns many things.
"The amazing thing about water drops, is that they always take the path of least resistance. For humans, it's exactly the opposite."
The kid was brilliant, it was his perspective story. In one of the scenes when he gets hurt, that felt like it was real. His co-stars supported him all the way, but not as a game changer. You might agree with me that it is not a great story, somewhat familiar too, but the film topic is inspiring like how an atypical family cooperates during the bad times that compared with their negligence to each other at one point before. There are a few fun moments, but also gets emotional at the final part.
The train journey had lots of effects on the narration, because I'd seen a road movie, but this is a very rare, especially it gives us some glimpse over awesome landscapes of different part of the country. Like I said, the cinematography was the best part of the film followed by many others. In the end, I was very satisfied for it is being somewhat simple with having an extraordinary boy character. Because, you know, genius boy means usually the writers goes for an extra mile to make him shine with his brain powers to perhaps face the bad guys or the bad situations for which the audience sets to go awe.
Really very sad that it was not as popular as 'Hugo' where everyone who saw it comparing with, especially for the digital 3D visuals. That tells how much the people are addicted to Hollywood and of course marketing was not upto the standards as against the film's standard. In fact, it took me two years to learn such film is exist. So I definitely recommend it to all. If you have not seen it yet, just do it, you might like it, surely you would enjoy it.
The end is quite cheesy. For that matter, the movie itself was cheesy.