IIFF 2009: The Messenger delivers

September 29, 2009 at 8:56 am (Festivals, IIFF, Movies, Reviews)

Day 3 in Iasi began, as usual, with a tiring, annoying hunt for Internet. There’s no wifi in our rooms, the wifi at the theaters rarely works, and I’ve seen no internet cafes downtown, so the most reliable way to send reports from over here is to go to the mall, grab some crispies from KFC and use their wifi. Right after noon, we headed back to the main theater, for lunch. Meals are also on the house, but it’s a 1-star lunch in a 4-star hotel, and it’s so bad, I actually prefer spending my own money for something better.

First movie of the day, an American drama named The Messenger, the story of a couple of soldiers in charge with notifying the families of the casualties of war. Despite being 100% American, the film has some sort of a European feel, mostly because it’s a film that is built around and for its main characters, while the plot is most of the times irrelevant. First-time director Oren Moverman is helped by some strong performances, especially from Ben Foster and Samantha Morton, who, against all odds, form a relationship with a better chemistry than what I’ve seen in most movies lately. Woody Harrelson is also solid, and the movie features a bunch of memorable scenes, making it a must-see for every real movie lover.

After a serious, realistic drama, I caught a very easy, conventional, but nonetheless funny comedy, called The Rocker. Rainn Wilson goes all Jack Black in a family film about a washed out drummer who gets a second chance at fame when he’s recruited by his nephew’s band to play for the high school prom. The similarities between The Rocker and the School of Rock are too many to even begin to describe, but probably the most annoying was Wilson’s reincarnation of Jack Black. Unfortunately, he’s really not as funny. Still, the film is enjoyable, and despite its flaws, turns out to be a good addition to the schedule.

Film no.3 of the day was supposed to be Diamant 13, starring Gerard Depardieu, at Republica Theater, but huge problems with the subtitles made it unwatchable (unfortunately, subtitle problems, bad sound and bad image seem to be recurring constantly in most theaters here at IIFF. The only one with no problems yet has been Victoria). So I ended up back at Victoria for Les grandes personnes, a low budget character piece about a father-daughter trip to Sweden that turns bad. This is another movie where the plot barely exists – but its two main characters are strong, interesting and they evolve – offering plenty of good, believable moments. Unfortunately the cinematography is bad and bland, and the stumbling plot and some boring scenes make it less than stellar.

For the last film of the day, I had to choose between a few titles that I’ve already seen, so I went with the group and watched Be Kind Rewind, thus satisfying my desire to see Jack Black again, after Wilson’s earlier performance. The movie left me with the same impression as when I first saw it. A very inventive, original and heartwarming comedy about belonging; another obvious must-see, and not only for Gondry fans, but for everyone who still likes their films fresh and soulful.

In this report: The Messenger: 9/10, The Rocker 6/10, Les grandes personnes 5/10, Be Kind Rewind 8/10.

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