You know me and the movies. They are my passion, my joy, my muse. So it's safe to say I see a fair amount of them. I have a few early favorites for this year.
Something strange has happened. I think I may have seen one of (if not my favorite) movie of 2008 already and it is only March. What movie am I talking of? In Bruges of course.
This movie took me delightfully by surprise. I expected to get two hours of the gorgeous Colin Farrell, an entertaining dark comedy and perhaps a cult favorite in this film. Instead, In Bruges turned out to be one of Farrell's best roles, and a magnificently acted, written and suprisingly deep story that leads Farrell's character into the depths of hell before he realizes that perhaps he should listen to his older and wiser friend and find a way to forgive himself and find a way out of hell.
In Bruges is at once a sly dark comedy, a gangster film, a buddy flick, and an artfully woven morality tale with three complete and compelling characters that each represent something unique and different within the human sphere. Ralph Finnes is the hard nosed crime lord who care for rank and respect, and sees only black or white in a situation; Brendon Gleeson is the wise comerade torn between his loyalty to a man who once saved his life and the mentor-like love he feels towards Farrel whom he wants to save from a life like his; lastly, there is Colin Farrell who stumbles between the line of feeling he is damned for his actions and must shoulder all the blame and feeling as though he is a victim of random coincidence and forces outside his control.
This film is a magnificent tale handled with such an experts touch by Martin McDonagh that one would never know that his was his first forray into the realm of feature films, or that his characters began as Englishmen and were only converted into Irishmen when the leads were cast.
The next phenominal film of 2008 is the recently relesed film Married Life starring Chris Cooper, Pierce Brosnan, Patricia Clarkson and the astonishing Rachel McAdams. Set in the not-yet-hopeful days just after the end of World War II Married Life raises the complicated question posed by the narrator (Brosnan) finally at the end of the film - how well can you know the thoughts of the person that lies next to you.
Married Life begins with Brosnan telling the story of his friend Harry (Cooper) who has been married to Pat (Clarkson) long enough to have a grown child who has a child of her own, and he longs to leave his marriage to Pat because he believe he has found true intimacy with war widow Kay (McAdams); the complications arise when Richard (Brosnan) meets Kay and though he has often described marriage as a fatal disease he become smitten with Kay and cannot bear the thought of Harry having her instead of he. Harry, unaware of Richards feelings for Kay pushes the two together as he wants his best friend to be a friend to the woman he now loves as he is with the woman to whom he is still married. Durring the fateful courtship of Kay by both Richard and Harry the later devises how to get out of his marriage without shaming or hurting his devoted wife - he has to kill her in the most humane way he can think of.
In Married Life Ira Sachs blends together the best of its predecessors Far From Heaven and Double Indemnity and creates something new and bold that is sure to garner a place in the American film cannon and if relesed in the Fall instead probably a few Oscar nominations.
I was also plesently surprised by Penelope. I do not argue that you can figure the entire plot structure andbeats of this film by watching the trailer but this film so marvelously creates a unique world that you are captured. This film is a fairy tale to it's very core and if you are willing to be caught up by it's innocent spirit then you cannot help but enjoy the ride. Technically, I had to admire the production and costume design in this movie which were things of beauty and went the extra mile to help create a contemporary fairy tale.
Finally, one of the great early surprises of this year is the Frances McDormand, Amy Adams headliner Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. Set just before Brittan is caught in the escilation of World War II never-do-well nanny Gwenivere Pettigrew (McDormand) is cast out by her most recent employer and seeking anyway to gain employment fakes her creditentials to become social secretary to Delysia Lafosse a cabret singer and aspiring actress who cannot get a handle on the men in her life much less decide what she really wants out of her life.
This film operates as a critique on the spolied upper class who are interested in nothing but frivolity and their own joy, advancement and ignorance as their contry begins to be plunged into war. Delysia must decide what is most important to her: being rich and famous, being taken care of in the manner she is acostumed to or being loved but penniless. At the same time Miss Pettigrew and Joe watch the oppulence around them and try to not get too attached as they remind each other that this generation doesn't remember the last war.
As it stands so far 2008 is turing out to be a stellar year for movies, though if my picks thus far are any indication the little movies are going to be the ones worth seeing this year.