TCFF Day 8 Film Highlights and Interview with ‘The Big Noise’ director Dominic Pelosi

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It’s already Day 8 of TCFF! Boy, time flies when you’re having a blast! We’ve got a bunch of great films screening today, check out our host Ingrid Moss introducing what’s playing today:


I’m excited for The Big Noise and One Chance (aka the Paul Potts movie), which couldn’t be more different in terms of story and tone. But hey, the eclectic schedule works for me!

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I’ve posted the premise and trailer of One Chance in this lineup post. Now here’s the premise of The Big Noise which plays at 4pm today:

Morris Falzon works with his father George in a small law firm in Sydney’s Inner West. With his personal life a mess and the business falling apart, Morris is thrown a lifeline when a dying client reveals he is leaving Morris a small fortune in his will. It seems his luck is about to change. However, when his client stages a miraculous recovery, it seems it’s back to the grindstone… or is it? Morris and George hatch a plan that will either make or break them – literally.


Director Dominic Pelosi kindly granted me an interview about his film. Check it out below:

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1. I just saw the film Nebraska by Alexander Payne at TCFF that’s also filmed in black and white. So I’m curious what made you decide to shoot your film in b&w?

Black and white for me gives a separation from reality that I find to be a more traditional approach to cinema and seems to be somewhat under-utilised these days. Whilst aesthetically black and white appeals to me greatly it is also highly dependent on the script – the muted image can often aid in the tone of a film, given that The Big Noise has dark undertones it seemed a logical choice for the story telling. In addition having a very limited budget, scenes were often shot months apart allowing the black and white hopefully, to smooth any inconsistencies in the footage.

2. I read that your cast are largely unknown. How did the casting come about for your film?

Casting nonprofessionals was a choice made very early on, which made the casting process much easier in a sense. If the script called for a lawyer, then we would approach a lawyer, or if it required a real estate agent then we would try convince a real estate agent to do the part. This was a process that heavily borrowed from the Italian neo-realist filmmakers which to me can provide an organic performance; the actor doesn’t have the tools to rely on, the tools that modern viewers have become accustomed to seeing. This can obviously have varying results, but the overall tone is something that I think is unique to this process. We did however cast a couple of professional actors in minor roles to try and better balance some of the more dialogue intensive scenes.

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Maurice Marshan as Morris Falzon


3. Would you speak a little (or a lot) about the Italian-Australian community depicted in your film? Does this film stem from a personal experience? I’m also curious what was the significance of the title.

Many Italians migrated to Australia in the 50’s and much like anywhere else set up pocket communities that maintained much of their heritage. My brother Andrew (screenwriter) and I have grown up around that type of community as our father arrived in Australia from Italy in the mid- 50’s. The Big Noise borrows heavily from those experiences. That element of the Italo-Australian community has somewhat faded in recent years and in a way The Big Noise depicts the struggle for that 1st generation to adapt to that change. The sense of uniformity in Australia has been slowly blanketing these pockets and there was certainly an attempt to present this in the film. To comment or have an opinion on this point wasn’t my intention, rather to show the consequences of big societal changes on the individual – this particular story was something both Andrew and I know well so the Italian-Australian angle became a good vehicle for us.

4. The writer of your film, Andrew Pelosi, I presume he’s related to you? Did you both come up with this film concept and how was your experience working with Andrew?

TruffautShootPianoPlayerWe both share very similar interests and love, for the most part, the same movies. One of our favourite films is Truffaut’s Shoot the Piano Player, so we spoke about someday possibly making something in that type of framework and tone. Andrew gave me a script that he has been able to evolve over time to suit our actors and budget restraints that I felt had a similar spirit to Truffaut’s film. He was able to conceptualise ideas that we had expressed to each other into a much more digestible screenplay with regards to plot etc. We would then work together in fleshing things out throughout the filming process. We are extremely close anyway so making a film together was fairly seamless, there were times like any relationship where I’m sure he’d had enough me. We will no doubt continue to make films together.

5. Since this is your debut and your film was made on a small budget, what was the biggest hurdle/challenge, as well as rewarding moments, that you faced when you made this film?

Not having a great budget meant undertaking many of the necessary technical aspects of filmmaking whilst trying to direct. This probably proved the most difficult aspect for me personally. Learning the camera and pulling my own focus whilst trying to get a performance from a nonprofessional actor definitely had its moments. But was also the most rewarding aspect. I’m not sure if we could have made the film any other way. For many of the actors this being their first time performing in any capacity meant that having a crew of two or three people (at most) allowed for a level of comfort that wouldn’t be found on many film sets.

The film is also around 50% in Italian which made it extremely difficult for me as I don’t speak a word. Our father translated those scenes for us as Andrew is very limited in the language as well. There are two key actors that don’t speak a word of English so trying to direct them was challenging, I would attempt to direct them by physically showing them what to do. Editing the film was a real process, trying to correct technical errors and cut a film that was true to the script took a very long time, but it was thoroughly enjoyable. Working with nonprofessional actors and having them be involved with something that they wouldn’t have ever thought of being involved in perhaps provided the greatest satisfaction. It is certainly something I hope to continue on future films.

THANK YOU Dominic for the insightful interview!! Hope you’ll check out The Big Noise when it plays near you!


Second screening added for August, Osage County
Tonight (Oct 24) at 9:15 pm!

Now, another film I’m super stoked about is August, Osage County. Since I’m flying to NYC on Saturday morning, I couldn’t see the original screening at 6pm. Fortunately TCFF just added a second screening tonight, wahoo!! Check out the latest poster w/ Julia Roberts attacking Meryl Streep, that about sums up the dysfunctional family plot, doesn’t it? Plus the cast is just killer! Check out the trailer on this post.

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TCFFTickets

There’s still time to get your tickets!
General Admission $10; Opening/Closing Gala $20; Centerpiece Gala $20; Sneak Preview Galas $20. Festival Passes can also be purchased: Silver $50 for 6 films; Gold $70 for 10 films; or Platinum $120 for 12 films + 2 tickets to Opening, Closing or Gala. (Silver and Gold Packages do not include Opening, Closing or Gala Tickets).

For more information and to purchase tickets visit www.twincitiesfilmfest.org.


Stay tuned for more TCFF coverage. So any of the films above that caught your eye?

TCFF Day 2 Film Highlights: The Search for Simon, Gladiators Football doc, Trust Greed Bullets and Bourbon & more!

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The Opening Night went on without a hitch! I can’t post my review for Nebraska yet but suffice to say I highly recommend it! It was wildly entertaining and amusing. If you like The Descendants which also deals the quirky family dynamics, I think you’d enjoy Nebraska. Kudos for Alexander Payne for crafting such an engaging, poignant but also hilarious film, boasted by great performances by the cast, especially Bruce Dern. That Best Actor win at Cannes is well-deserved, here’s hoping for more award love for the man.

It was fun to see all the buzz at the Showplace ICON Cinema with everyone mingling and people talking/posing on the red carpet area. There’s even a flashmob going on at the lobby! As people come in the door, our vehicle sponsor FIAT with TCFF logo emblazoned on its shiny exterior is on display!

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Speaking of which, did you know there’s a complimentary FIAT Drive-In event on Tuesday night (10/22) from 7-9:30pm right at the Shops at West End. Check out the link for more info.

It’s now DAY 2!

Here are some of the film highlights for today:

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The Search For Simon

TCFF Showing: Friday, October 18, 2013 at 12:00pm + Sunday, October 20, 2013 at 9:30pm

In 1979 David Jones’ younger brother Simon, aged 7, disappeared without a trace and was never seen again.

34 years later David is still looking.

This is The Search for Simon.

Directed by: Martin Gooch
Starring: Carol Cleveland (Monty Python), Tom Price (Torchwood), Sophie Aldred (Dr. Who), Lucy Clements (The ABCs of Death), Millie Reeves, Noeleen Comiskey and Chase Masterson (Star-Trek Deep Space 9).

I LOVE British sci-fi comedies and I’ve heard people calling this Shaun of the Dead meets the X-Files! Director Martin Gooch was kind enough to make this specially-made video to answer my questions about the film, check it out!

On behalf of TCFF, THANK YOU Mr. Gooch for your kindly making that video for us. I will post the review after I see the film.


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Trust Greed Bullets and Bourbon

TCFF Showing: Friday, October 18, 2013 at 6:45pm (with director Scott Kawczynski attending)

Five years after a simple heist goes awry, a group of thieves reconvene at a cabin in upstate New York, hoping to recover the diamonds they initially stole. Tensions rise as allegiances are made and broken, backs are stabbed and the dirty past is dredged up as the group searches for the diamonds and answers.

Directed by: Scott Kawczynski
Starring: Max Casella (THE SOPRANOS, BLUE JASMINE, INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS) and 4 times Tony-nominated actor Danny Burstein (BOARDWALK EMPIRE).

Check out the trailer:

Stay tuned for a special interview post with Scott Kawczynski as well as the review for the film!


Gladiators: The Uncertain Future of American Football documentary

TCFF Showing: Friday, October 18, 2013 at 4:30pm + Friday, October 25, 2013 at 1:45pm

GladiatorsFootballA historical film that tells the story of a game that was always dangerous, and whose dangers, though controversial, were also desired. Since its beginnings in the late nineteenth century, football has become not just Americans’ favorite spectator sport but also a supposed training for manhood; a fundamental part of the American educational system; a pathway for social and economic mobility, with millions of dollars now paid to top players and coaches; a source of personal and communal identity; an unparalleled social ritual; and some of the most powerful stories America tells about itself.

Directed by: Todd Trigsted
Written by: Michael Oriard

Check out the trailer on TCFF Official page.


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We Are What We Are

TCFF Showing: Friday, October 18, 2013 at 9:00pm

The Parkers, a reclusive family who follow ancient customs, find their secret existence threatened as a torrential downpour moves into their area, forcing daughters Iris and Rose to assume responsibilities beyond those of a typical family.

Directed by: Jim Mickle
Written by: Jim Mickle and Nick Damici

This horror mystery has been playing in the film festival circuit and got some great critical reviews (85% on Rotten Tomatoes). Seems like a perfect Friday night film for horror fans just in time for [almost] Halloween.

Check out the trailer:


TCFFTickets

Ticket Prices are as follows:
General Admission $10; Opening/Closing Gala $20; Centerpiece Gala $20; Sneak Preview Galas $20. Festival Passes can also be purchased: Silver $50 for 6 films; Gold $70 for 10 films; or Platinum $120 for 12 films + 2 tickets to Opening, Closing or Gala. (Silver and Gold Packages do not include Opening, Closing or Gala Tickets).

For more information and to purchase tickets visit www.twincitiesfilmfest.org.


Stay tuned for more TCFF coverage. So any of the films above that caught your eye?

TCFF Opening Night featuring Alexander Payne’s NEBRASKA premiere

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Twin Cities’ cinephiles rejoice! Twin Cities Film Fest annual film festivities is upon us again, can’t believe it’s our fourth year already.

10 Days, 75 Films, 8 Top Awards Contenders & 22 Red Carpet Events. World premieres, Minnesota breakthroughs, one-of-a-kind treasures and Oscar front-runners.

Yes, TCFF is back!

But on top of all those movies, TCFF also feature educational panels, Q&As with filmmakers, as well as special events and after parties! All taking place at the SHOWPLACE ICON THEATRE at The Shops at West End. Special thanks to Wade Financial Group who’s our Auditorium Sponsor.

I’m thrilled to be the official blogger again and this year I’ve got two blogging volunteers, Sarah Johnson and Adam Wells, so stay tuned for reviews and other coverage from the three of us throughout the film fest!

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If you live in the area and you haven’t visited the TCFF Official site by now, well what are you waiting for? The full schedule is online, complete with info and trailers. Getting your tickets have never been easier and more affordable. The more you watch the more you save with TCFF passes, available from Silver to Platinum.

In case you haven’t seen the awesome trailer yet by WonderVision, check it out below:

This year we open the film fest with a film that’s been receiving Oscar buzz! In fact, the 76-year-old lead actor Bruce Dern won Cannes’ Palme d’Or, whilst director Alexander Payne garnered a nomination.

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After receiving a sweepstakes letter in the mail, a cantankerous father (Bruce Dern) thinks he’s struck it rich, and wrangles his son (Will Forte) into taking a road trip to claim the fortune. Shot in black and white across four states, Nebraska tells the stories of family life in the heartland of America.

Starring: Bruce Dern, Will Forte, Stacy Keach, June Squibb, Bob Odenkirk

Here’s a clip from the Cannes premiere:

When I saw the trailer (which you can see on the TCFF page), I wondered why it was shot in B&W. Well, this is what Payne had to say when asked the inevitable question at the Cannes’ press conference:

“It just seemed like the right thing to do for this film,” he said. “It’s such a beautiful form, and it’s really left our cinema because of commercial, not artistic, reasons; it never left fine-art photography. This modest, austere story seemed to lend itself to being made in black and white, a visual style perhaps as austere as the lives of its people.”

Source: Vulture

It’s also been 25 years since Dern was the first-billed star of a major motion picture, having worked with auteurs such as Elia Kazan, Alfred Hitchcock, Douglas Trumbull, Francis Ford Coppola, and Quentin Tarantino in his long, illustrious career. I was quite impressed with Payne’s last film The Descendants, so I’m looking forward to seeing this one tonight!


TCFFTickets

Ticket Prices are as follows:
General Admission $10; Opening/Closing Gala $20; Centerpiece Gala $20; Sneak Preview Galas $20. Festival Passes can also be purchased: Silver $50 for 6 films; Gold $70 for 10 films; or Platinum $120 for 12 films + 2 tickets to Opening, Closing or Gala. (Silver and Gold Packages do not include Opening, Closing or Gala Tickets).

For more information and to purchase tickets visit www.twincitiesfilmfest.org.


Stay tuned for more TCFF coverage folks! So which of the TCFF films are you looking forward to most?

Twin Cities Film Fest: Preview of 2013 Lineup

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Twin Cities Film Fest (TCFF) is excited to offer a sneak peak at several films coming to their 2013 lineup, including some of the most anticipated films of the year. TCFF is less than two months away, it will will run from October 17 – October 26.

Jatin Setia, executive director of the Twin Cities Film Fest, said this year’s slate of studio premieres represents the most promising, star-studded lineup in TCFF history: “The buzz we’re already hearing, from people wanting tickets to the new Meryl Streep-Julia Roberts premiere, to the new Alexander Payne film – which is sure to be a Best Picture contender – is deafening. And to then see subjects like Nelson Mandela and Simon Cowell in our lineup – for any serious movie lover, this is the true beginning of the Oscar race.”

While specific dates and showtimes are not yet public, TCFF is excited to showcase the following films:

NEBRASKA

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After receiving a sweepstakes letter in the mail, a cantankerous father (Bruce Dern) thinks he’s struck it rich, and wrangles his son (Will Forte) into taking a road trip to claim the fortune. Shot in black and white across four states, Nebraska tells the stories of family life in the heartland of America. NEBRASKA is written by Bob Nelson and directed by Alexander Payne, which last film The Descendants won Best Adapted Screenplay.

Dern won Best Actor award at Cannes in this comedy drama, and in this interview with Filmmaker Magazine, Dern “…considered Alexander Payne to be a “genius” and why he “wouldn’t dare” to deviate from Payne’s script because “he’s too good.” Check out the first trailer:

ONE CHANCE

James Corden as Paul Potts
James Corden as Paul Potts

From the director of The Devil Wears Prada, ONE CHANCE is a comedy based on the remarkable and inspirational true story of Paul Potts, a shy, bullied shop assistant by day and an amateur opera singer by night. Paul became an instant YouTube phenomenon after being chosen by Simon Cowell for ‘Britain’s Got Talent.’

Fresh from celebrating his Tony Award-winning Broadway run in One Man, Two Guvnors, BAFTA winner James Corden (The History Boys) stars as Paul Potts and is supported by an acclaimed ensemble cast that includes Julie Walters (Mamma Mia!, Calendar Girls, Billy Elliot), Colm Meaney (Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa ), Jemima Rooper (Kinky Boots, Lost in Austen) and Alexandra Roach (The Iron Lady). Directed by David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada, Hope Springs) and written by Justin Zackham (The Bucket List).

No trailer yet but here’s that Britain’s Got Talent clip from a couple of years ago of the real Paul Potts. Make sure you have some Kleenex handy:


TCFF’s Silver, Gold and Platinum Passes are now available!

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GET THEM EARLY
(while supplies last)


MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM

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The film is based on South African President Nelson Mandela’s autobiography of the same name, which chronicles his early life, coming of age, education and 27 years in prison before becoming President and working to rebuild the country’s once segregated society. Idris Elba (Pacific Rim, Prometheus) stars as Nelson Mandela, Naomie Harris (Skyfall) stars as Winnie Mandela, with Justin Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl) directing.

I LOVE this cast! I’m a huge fan of Elba, who I think would make a fine Bond (if the producers are brave enough for a Black Bond) and Naomi was a sassy Bond girl in Skyfall so what a perfect pairing! I’ve seen about three Nelson Mandela films so far, with actors of various built and height portraying the titular world leader. I must say that Elba seems too big physically (not to mention hunky!) to play Mandela, but hey, it sounds like a meaty role for the talented actor, so I’m definitely looking forward to this!

AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY

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This is one of those movies I’d watch just for the cast. I mean, just look at the names in that poster! This film is based on Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name made its Broadway debut in December 2007. It continued with a successful international run and was the winner of five Tony Awards in 2008, including Best Play.

It tells the dark, hilarious and deeply touching story of the strong-willed women of the Weston family, whose lives have diverged until a family crisis brings them back to the Midwest house they grew up in, and to the dysfunctional woman who raised them. AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY is directed by John Wells (The Company Men) and features an all-star cast, including Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliette Lewis, Margo Martindale, Dermot Mulroney, Sam Shepard and Misty Upham.


This is one of my most-anticipated Fall movies so I’m thrilled TCFF’s got it! There’s already Oscar buzz on Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts in the Best Supporting Actress category. Now, I’m particularly curious about Cumberbatch’s role in this, who along with McGregor are the only two Brits in this star-studded cast. Their roles are probably pretty small though.


In early September, TCFF will announce its full 10-day slate, compiled from more than 300 viewed contenders and submissions. Tickets will go on-sale at twincitiesfilmfest.org beginning October 1, 2013.


What do you think of this early lineup folks? Any one of these on your must-see list?

Double Clooney Reviews: The Ides of March and The Descendants

As part of the LAMB Acting School 101 on George Clooney, I thought I’d review two of his recent films, one of which garnered him an Oscar’s Best Actor nod. Now, the idea of this monthly LAMB event is to highlight a different actor/actress whose performances, for better or worse, have left a mark on the cinematic landscape.

Truth be told, I’m not as enamored with 50-year-old actor as most people. Yes I think he’s dashing but for some reason he’s not the kind of actor whose film I’d go see just because he’s in it. That said, I understand his appeal and he’s played his card right in the business, rising steadily from his days as a TV actor to becoming quite a Hollywood royalty if you will. Plus, the man knows how to pick good films and in the case of The Ides of March, he knows how to make a decent one.

So in honor of his Oscar nomination, here are a double reviews of his two latest films:

The Ides of March

I’m generally not a big fan of political films. Heck I’m not into politics in general, call me cynical but I feel that for the most part, there are just so much unethical stuff going on and it’s just a matter of what people can get away with and how much they’re willing to sacrifice to gain power. This political drama directed by Clooney is full of such back-alley dealings and takes its name from a historical event from the Roman Calendar. It’s a date commonly associated with the death of Julius Caesar, who was stabbed to death in the Roman Senate by a group of conspirators led by his most trusted allies and long-time friend Brutus.

There’s a loose connection between that event and what happens in this film, but a theme of betrayal is certainly ripe in the story. To understand the plot, we’ve got to meet the players:  Pennsylvania Governor Mike Morris’ (Clooney) is campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination, and his campaign is led by a world weary campaign veteran Paul (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his second-hand-man, an idealistic and ambitious 30-year-old Stephen (Ryan Gosling) who’s shrewd at handling the communications with the media. Morris’ biggest rival remains faceless throughout the film but his campaign is run by the cynical and ruthless Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti). Caught in the center of it all is one of Morris’ 20-year-old intern Molly (Evan Rachel Wood) who has the hots for Stephen.

Stephen ends up getting himself in two major predicaments involving Molly and Duffy, two separate occasions that both threaten not only his political career but also the career of his big boss, Morris. Loyalties are tested and the game of survival of the fittest are full on, lives are at stake and not just in political sense. This is a movie where there are no real heroes or villains, just a bunch of ruthless people who’s really tough to root for, in my opinion anyway. None of the characters are really sympathetic as they’re only concerned about themselves and how to get ahead. Perhaps the only person whom I despise the least is Paul who at least still strives to play by the book, perhaps too much for his own good.

I don’t think this film tells us anything new or fresh perspective that we don’t otherwise already know about politics. If anything it just reaffirms the ‘dirty politics’ reputation of every political party. Career victory wins over virtue, that seems to be the message, which is hardly surprising. Still I think overall I think it’s a decent film that offers intriguing dialog and a great deal of intellectual suspense. I like the subtlety of Clooney’s direction, he doesn’t show every single thing to the audition but instead scenarios are implied in a clever way, such as when Paul enters the big campaign SUVs with Morris in a back alley, it’s clear that his fate within that campaign is sealed. The face-off between Stephen and Morris in a dark kitchen of a restaurant is also shot in a sinister way that shows their faces in the shadows most of the time.

The performances are top notch and that’s another props from Clooney to draw sharp performances from his cast. Gosling is sleek and confident in this role, but I feel that he has that same cocky aura he displays in those DRIVE trailers and movie posters. Clooney doesn’t have as much screen time here but he certainly makes for a believable Obama-like figure, and seems like he’s likened his character to Obama as his campaign posters are done in the exact same way. To me, the two scene-stealers are the actors playing the campaign managers of both parties, Hoffman and Giamatti. They don’t share a screen together however, but their scenes with Gosling are quite memorable. Evan Rachael Wood proves that she’s one of today’s brightest young stars, she embodies her role with sheer drive and youthful recklessness that plays a key role in the downfall of the political candidate, as well as her own. Marisa Tomey is good but it’s a nothing special as she’s done a similar type of supporting roles in other films I saw recently.

Final thoughts:

I think fans of political films will enjoy this one and those who are already fans of the cast will definitely appreciate them all the more. I appreciate Clooney’s direction and the performances, but the film itself is not entertaining or even compelling enough for me to want to watch again.

Three and a half stars out of Five
3.5 out of 5 reels


The Descendants

I went to see this film largely because of Clooney’s casting and the fact that he was nominated for an Oscar for his performance. I’ll tell you right off the bat that I think his nomination is well-deserved, and it’s perhaps one of my favorite roles from this actor to date.

The story from writer/director Alexander Payne (Election, Sideways) is centered on the life of Matt King (Clooney), a workaholic attorney living in Hawaii. His life is turned upside down when his wife Elizabeth suddenly fell into a coma following a boating accident that leaves him to care for his two daughters. At the same time, Matt is also at the crossroad involving the decision to sell his family’s 25000-acre land that’s been handed down from his ancestors of Hawaiian royalty and missionaries, hence the film’s title. As the trustee of the estate, Matt torn between his family who want to sell the land and the rest of the island who wants him to preserve it.

The film opens with Clooney narrating the story, it’s done in a matter-of-fact manner refuting the common preconception that people who live in a place like Hawaii is devoid of personal problems. His friends seem to think that life in this tropical paradise must be equally perfect, not lacking anything. “Paradise? Paradise can go f*** itself.” Matt scoffs. That is such a perfect opening as it sets the tone to the whole film and how Matt’s life is definitely far from the pristine look of his surrounding.

Prior to Elizabeth being in a coma, Matt was an absentee father, he’s the ‘back-up parent’ that’s how he describes himself, thus his relations with his daughters is obviously not going to be easy, especially when he takes 17-year-old Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) home from her private school in the last days of her mother’s life. Alex seems like a typical rebellious teenager but when she tells her father a secret involving her mother’s infidelity, it’s clear life hasn’t been easy for her either.

This story could easily be overly sentimental and unbearably glum, but yet Payne somehow manages to inject subtle humor and the way Matt deals with his seemingly endless quandaries is often funny without diminishing the weight of those circumstances. The scene of Matt running to his neighbors’ house in a drab polo shirt, shorts and sandals is shot almost like a comic sequence even though he’s about to question them about his wife’s affair. The same with the scenes when Matt is spying on the man his wife is cheating on and when he pays him a visit. The script and Payne’s direction perfectly capture such complicated and extremely awkward situation with dexterity that makes you go, ‘wow, I sure hope I’d never end up in such predicament.’

Though I haven’t seen Payne’s previous work, I’ve read enough reviews about them that makes me think he like to incorporate all kinds of quirky characters in his films, though not to the degree of Wes Anderson. This film is no exception, Alex’s friend Sid’s stoned-like mannerism provides comic relief, but later we reveal that he too is not exempt from personal tragedy. In fact, the variety of characters in this film is what makes this film so wonderful to watch.

What I like about Clooney in this role is how far it is from his glamorous movie-star persona. In a lot of his films, one could argue that he’s just playing a variation of himself but I can’t say that it’s the case here. I feel that he’s able to epitomize the pathos and the personal hell his character goes through with precision and care. A less capable actor could easily resort to overacting, but fortunately Clooney manages to avoid that and the astute script definitely helps him achieve that. The rest of the performances is good as well, even the small roles by Beau Bridges as one of Matt’s cousins and Judy Greer as the oblivious wife of Elizabeth’s lover. I’m impressed with relative newcomer Shailene Woodley who’s done mostly TV work by this point. It’s touching to see Alex’s emotional growth that helps repairs her relationship with her dad, and that subtle transformation is believable.

The seemingly two separate storyline about Elizabeth’s coma and the sale of his family’s land somehow connect together at the end as Matt finally comes to a unexpected decisionIt’s not entirely unpredictable as we’ve sort of been cajoled to root for the King family to keep the land, but it’s a satisfying ending nonetheless. There’s no fairy tale ending but it’s a heartwarming one that definitely puts a smile in my face as tears run down my cheek.

Final Thoughts:

This neatly-paced drama boasts wonderful performances and carries an inspiring theme about second chances and forgiveness. The message about the importance of family over wealth is also quite strong which is always nice to see in today’s films. On top of that, it also boasts a beautifully-shot scenery of the island of Kauai that lends an authentic flavor to the story instead of becoming a distraction.

4.5 out of 5 reels


Well, have you seen either one of these films? I’d love to hear your thoughts on them and also on Mr. Clooney.