Accidentally ordered the Blu-Ray from LoveFilm, which meant that I had to wait for an opportune time to hijack my dad's Blu-Ray player and ridiculously big TV, but it was entirely worth the wait for this spectacle.
Directed by the visually talented Tarsem Singh, who's 2000 psychological thriller The Cell, similarly based on the inner workings of the mind, is responsible for my incessant defence of Jennifer Lopez on film - despite tripe like Maid in Manhattan. Screenplay by Dan Gilroy (who doesn't seem to have written anything as interesting as this before) Niko Soultanakis (his writing debut but worked with Singh as associate producer on The Cell) and Tarsem Singh himself.
A girl, Alexandria (Catinca Untaru), of Eastern European descent is in hospital in 1920s Los Angeles after falling from an orange tree on the grove where she works with her family. Also in the hospital is a suicidal film actor, Roy (Lee Pace). He tells the girl a story in order to entertain her, get her on his side, then withhold the rest of the story unless she robs him morphine and other pills he can try and overdose on. They strike up quite the unlikely friendship and the story he is telling takes on a much greater significance.
What I liked:
Beautiful. The film was so beautiful that it seemed almost like fate that I had accidentally ordered the Blu-Ray. The music and the exotic locations complemented this beauty.
Convincingly young: The girl did certain things that had me fully convinced that she was just a child talking to this man and listening to a story, rather than simply reading out her lines. This was only clear to me because of my own experiences trying to tell Corey something or getting the truth out of him; especially simple things like what he had for dinner that day. The girl came out with the same kind of imaginative lies, showing how the young mind is so eager to tell and be involved in stories; something the film was predominantly about (see themes).
Strong Relationship: It took a while to get going, but the unlikely pair build up a really strong bond.
Things I didn't quite like:
Took a while to engage me: The characters were really hard to engage with for quite some time. They certainly had won me round by the end, but there was pretty much the first half of the film where I wasn't particularly bothered about the characters in the real world (problematic term I know, but you get what I mean) never mind the characters in the story, but this really strengthened on both fronts in the last act. I think while the characters were difficult to engage, there could have been a little more spectacle to fill that gap (especially seeing as it was so beautiful).
Storytelling: Obviously, on a metalevel, the film itself is a story; Roy was in the movies, themselves a considerably new form of telling stories in the 1920s; but the most important point in storytelling here was the story Roy was telling and the intense significance it held for this girl. It started off as just fun, which is what many (philistines) would dismiss stories as, but as it went on, the filmmaker made a clear point that even the simplest of mystical stories can be so powerful.
Do not sugar coat (Disneyfy) stories: It stresses the importance of including reality in a child's story, as he does not shy away from killing off characters, despite the heartbreak it causes the girl.
Meaning is a two way system: The significance of a story is not only brought upon by the storyteller, but is always negotiated. There are a few specific things that exemplify this. One example is that when Roy introduces 'The Indian', the girls' understanding of the word was a grand looking Sikh, but Roy meant native American; hence, when he says squaw she sees a beautiful Indian woman and when he says tipi she says grand temple looking building. This is one of many pointers regarding the subjective nature of experiencing a story and negotiating meaning.
Scene of the film:
The scene that, more than any other part, gets right inside her head (almost literally). She sees flashes from her childhood mixed up with the present, the story-world and with a sinister stop motion animation sequence of two priest looking puppets removing the top of her head to reveal paper with writing all over; i.e. the stories in her head.
Performance of the film:
The girl, Catinca Untaru, for the reason above (her being so believable as an actual kid rather than just reading her lines).