(David Mackie photo)
With the Spousal Unit away on his Manly Fishing Trip and the Resident Offspring enjoying a rare Saturday off work, the RO and I decided to indulge ourselves by not only going to a movie on a Saturday afternoon, but by going to the screening of one of the most widely anticipated block busters of the summer which had only opened the night before, and which was showing at the most insane shopping mall in the city, if not the world.
I know what you are thinking. Did I not learn from the last time I went to that mall on a Saturday? Do I have a secret death-wish or am I just a masochist in zombie's clothing? Those are all things which I kept asking myself as we headed there, but I was delighted to find that nobody (relatively speaking) goes to that mall on a beautiful summer weekend, so not only were we able to park, but we were able to shuffle into the temple of conspicuous consumption and find decent seats at the theatre.
I have to admit to being skeptical when I started hearing Oscar buzz about Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker in The Dark Knight. I dismissed it as mere sentimentality for a young talent prematurely demised. But to be truthful, he really did turn in a mesmerizing performance, certainly surpassing what you would expect from a comic book movie.
Some of the dialogue in the Dark Knight is pretty lame, but this is a comic book movie after all, and, as the Resident Offspring so rightly pointed out, DC Comics to boot, so this was excusable. I could not, however, get past the bat-voice. Christian Bale speaks normally when he portrays Bruce Wayne, but when he switches to his Batman persona, he adopts an annoyingly harsh stage whisper, which is bad enough, but it gets worse.
Have you ever had to wear a retainer or that plastic guard on your teeth to keep you from grinding them at night? Do you know how it makes you talk like you have a mouth full of marbles? That's what Batman sounds like. Why Batman has to wear a retainer to disguise his voice was something we could never quite figure out. I mean, he had the high tech suit and all (although not nearly as cool as Iron Man's suit), why wouldn't he use something a little more technologically advanced than a mouth-guard to dissuade voice recognition? A vocoder or something.
Griping about details aside, I really did enjoy The Dark Knight. It's not Iron Man, but it's still worth the ticket. I'm still a little stunned to admit that I have seen two comic book block busters this summer at the theatre, but one must keep an open mind.
Then, because we hadn't sat on our butts nearly enough for one day, we headed home and watched The Savages.
I recall Urban Blonde reviewing The Savages a while back and thinking that she enjoyed it far too much for such a bleak sounding film. And the subject matter is certainly not sweetness and light, dealing as it does with a brother and sister who are forced to step in to care for their alienated father, who is now suffering from dementia. Jon and Wendy certainly have enough issues trying to cope with their own fragmented lives, and they now face the burden of this additional responsibility and must struggle with what it means to be a family.
But for all the heaviness of the subject matter, this is a wonderful film. It is darkly comedic, and it is smart, and it has what is probably the most realistic portrayal of the complexities of sibling relationship that I have seen in film in a very long time. Philip Bosco is wonderfully poignant as the ailing father, and Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman are both outstanding as the emotionally-scarred siblings. Their characterisations are multi-faceted and completely believable. Wendy is an anxiety-ridden, struggling playwright, involved in a relationship without a future; Jon is a theatre professor who lives in semi-squalor and is about to forgo a relationship to which he cannot commit. They may be needy and dishonest and crippled, but they are also clever and witty and drawn from life. The Savage family is hugely dysfunctional, but they are still family. Personally, I have a hard time believing that they are fictional.
Do yourself a huge favour and rent this one. Better yet, buy it.