If you've read anything else I've written about Tarantino, you know I'm not right up there as one of his biggest fans. For one thing, I don't care for his sense of humor. I also don't care for his exuberant, almost juvenile use of violence. <p> I watched this movie because I'm a huge Kurt Russell fan. And you know what? I've not laughed that much at a movie in a good long while. I mean, I don't like to think that gore is the center of my humor universe, but the gory moments in this movie were often -- not always by any means -- hilarious. <p> The acting is terrific too. That's another thing you'll not see me say often about a Tarantino movie. Mostly, I believe, his movies find success not because of their acting or their scripts, but because people like Tarantino's artificially contrived time sequence shifts and his gore. Lots of gore. Well, sire, I loved the time sequence shift in this movie. It was appropriate and, well, timely. I've already talked about the gore. <p> True, there are enough truly tragic deaths in this movie to match many a tragic movie, but the overpowering strength of the humor in this movie wins the day. This doesn't mean I'm all of a sudden a big Tarantino fan. Interesting how he chooses to tell you up front what number movie this is he's made. It's like a brag. Either that, or it's a plea that he needs to make so you won't forget his prior work, perhaps.
Without doubt, although my memory is foggy, this movie is in part a tribute to Federico Fellini. Shot in the same neo-realistic style of Fellini's early work, complete with the beauty of the black and white trademark of neo-realism, my first instinct is to go back and watch Fellini's own film entitled Roma. Both films speak about a director's formative years, and are attempts, I think, to give an objective, maybe even documentary appearance to that story. But they both leak emotional subjectivity all over the place. <p> Specifically, Cuarón's Roma makes very moving points about the treatment of women, about class distinction, and about how life in his childhood Mexico was a place where you could meet death at any moment, whether due to natural environmental causes, such as earthquakes or dangerous water, or at the hands of a mob, or even at the hands of lunatic machismo-driven, egocentric, misogynist. <p> Life is precious, and at the same time it is not. Life and death are two sides of a coin that seem to be flipped on a fairly regular basis. The death of Cleo's baby is one such flip: Had she been able to make it to the hospital in a more timely manner, would the baby have lived? <p> And I tell you, that ocean scene, up until its conclusion, had my stomach tied in knots the same way Man on Wire did. Spoiler alert: If she had died . . . man, I would have been heart-broken. A horrible end for a quotidian life. Awful. Cleo, despite love for the family being her reason raison d'être up to this point in her life, is the one who climbs the ladder to the sky at the end. She has yet to hit upon her real life's purpose, she is yet to make her mark. Perhaps not. Perhaps she has risen as far as she might. After all, that is the laundry room up there. That's another coin being flipped in 1970s Mexico, maybe. <p> All in all, Roma is very interesting for its documentary style, and I love Cleo. Who wouldn't? Brave, that woman. Braver than anyone around her. <p> I must go back and watch Fellini's Roma, while Cuarón's is fresh in my mind. I hope I'll see many parallels.
I realize this was nominated for awards. BUT. Whoever dreamt up this film was definitely not thinking about "entertainment." It's unnerving when the only comic relief you get in a film so brutal as this is just for one single second out of two hours of emotional bludgeoning, and it's a guy accidentally slicing his arm open. Normally I would never laugh at something like that. It really is unsettling to think that's "funny." I totally surprised myself when I laughed out loud.
It's absolutely true that Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern, Alan Alda, Ray Liotta, and Julie Hagerty give strong performances, and this is a strong movie. I like strong, but strong when it means unrelenting brutalizing of the audience is not for me. What this really could have used is Wally Shawn moments of pure comic relief.
If it weren't for Kurt Russell being in this, I would never have watched it. For those of you who know my reviews, you know I'm not the world's greatest Tarantino fan. This is 113 minutes of my life I'll never get back. One star for Kurt Russell, of course.