October 31, 2012
The Loneliest Planet
The city's been quiet and dark these last couple of days, work isn't happening, and there's not a lot to do. If the movie theaters were open this would be an almost perfect scenario, but they're not, so options have been largely limited to 1) TV, 2) bar, or 3) Video on Demand.
One of the new little indie movies that's out right now is The Loneliest Planet, which is about a cute young couple in love, Gael García Bernal and Hani Furstenberg, who are traveling in Georgia (the country) with a local guide. They're into being playful and adventurous and having a lot of sex.
It's a good thing I didn't have anything else to do, because this is a movie where nothing happens. For a good 2/3 of the movie, it's almost an exercise in travel photography, with majestic Georgian mountains and careful composed shots of the lushest, greenest patch of foliage contrasting the girl's flaming red hair. Then something does happen, and it colors the rest of the movie and threatens to permanently mess up the couple and their cute relationship. There are some interesting themes explored, like the struggle to communicate, independence and vulnerability, protection and self-sacrifice, and how traditional gender roles play out in a young, unconventional couple. (Spoiler alert!: very conventionally.)
The problem is that writing those last sentences was the most enjoyable thing about this movie for me. There are momentary interactions between characters where you can tell through subtle gestures that things have shifted one way or the other, and seriously, the only truly fun part of the movie is trying to catch a glimpse of those, then rewinding it when you or your viewing partner misses them. As my friend said, some movies get better when you talk about them afterwards, but they still need to grab you and make you care while you're watching.
This movie reminded me of Kelly Reichardt's movies, which are also subtle, slow-paced, and light on dialogue, but even though not much happens in Wendy and Lucy, for example, I cared about what happened to Michelle Williams every second of that movie. Reichardt's characters are more compelling, the risks are bigger, and even the slow moments where nothing's happening feel meaningful instead of tedious. Reichardt's characters don't talk very much because they express themselves in other ways. In The Loneliest Planet, they don't talk very much because they're terrible communicators, and also kind of immature. The actors were pretty good, but not quite expressive enough to make me care about them when they had nothing to say.
Maybe I just prefer movies where nothing happens and everyone talks non-stop (The Trip, Slacker) to ones where nothing happens and no one talks. Or more likely, maybe slow-paced indie movies should all star Michelle Williams.
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