Tag: emily browning

God Help the Girl

God Help the Girl (2014)
★ / ★★★★

Eve (Emily Browning) is staying in a hospital as she gets treatment for an eating disorder. One afternoon, however, she decides to leave for the city and stumbles upon a club where bands showcase their work with the hopes of being discovered and making it big. There she meets James (Olly Alexander), a singer-songwriter who is aspiring to create a pop song that will be remembered for years to come. Soon, James and Eve, along with a girl named Cassie (Hannah Murray), decide to form a band.

“God Help the Girl,” written and directed by Stuart Murdoch of the band Belle and Sebastian, offers three or four memorable songs over the course of its nearly two-hour running time (my favorite is probably “Come Monday Night,” followed by “I’ll Have to Dance with Cassie”), but the story is such a drag that whatever momentum it manages to gather between two or three succeeding scenes is quickly dissipated by yet another expository dialogue that explains what is going on inside the minds of its characters instead of simply showing us. The former creates a passive experience while the latter engages. This is a critical misstep that costs this musical drama most of its charm.

The picture comes alive when quirky dance sequences are involved set against a backdrop of colorful backgrounds and extras. There is a real sense of celebration—sometimes ironic because at times the songs have a darker edge to them. For instance, a character might be singing about how unhappy she is when it comes to the direction that her life is heading toward and yet the images remain upbeat. Sometimes these contrasting elements are interesting, providing a much-needed whiff of dimension in an otherwise stale tale of three souls at a crossroad.

What does not work at all is when the characters are allowed to speak. Although Browning, Alexander, and Murray are able to deliver the charm without resulting to being too quirky, the script does not really give them much to work with. Oftentimes the dialogue is quite sad and suppressed—the characters unable to voice out what they really want and how they plan to go about attaining it. One can argue that this is exactly the point, but I counter that, still, it could been done in a more thoughtful or insightful way. Just because the characters have a sadness to them, it does not mean that the material can rest on tedium or ordinariness to deliver that point.

Another missed opportunity is the film’s treatment of the lead character’s anorexia. I thought it was too simplified. Basically, Eve is given drugs and a bit of pep talk from her psychiatrist during the first half of the movie. Supposedly, those two elements are good enough to allow Eve to function and to try to overcome the disorder. It does not work like that in real life. There is concern that young people will see this representation and assume that it is accurate. It would have been great if the picture had embraced more gravity, accuracy, and a sense of urgency when it comes to dealing with Eve’s eating disorder. It certainly would have stood out from other musicals out there.

“God Help the Girl” is not unbearable but ten to fifteen minutes of very good pop songs does not save a musical that is almost two hours long. If one looks at the elements of a great musical, it must have a story that is tightly constructed, relatable, and its messages must be universal. This one wanders with molasses-like pacing, only appeals to a specific group, and its messages are confused, even sentimental.

Sucker Punch

Sucker Punch (2011)
★ / ★★★★

After their mother’s death, Baby Doll (Emily Browning) and her sister were left in the hands of their evil stepfather (Gerard Plunkett). When he found out that the sisters were the heir to the fortune he hoped to receive, he was possessed by rage and tried to hurt the girls. Commotion ensued and Baby Doll was accused of accidentally killing her sister. She was sent to a mental hospital where she eventually planned her escape with other patients (Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens, Jamie Chung). Directed by Zack Snyder, there was no denying that “Sucker Punch” delivered visual acrobatics galore. The action sequences looked dream-like, appropriate because much of the fantastic elements occurred in Baby Doll’s mind, and the girls looked great in their respective outfits. However, it was unfortunate that there was really nothing else to elevate the picture. The acting was atrocious. Blue (Oscar Isaac), one of the main orderlies, for some reason, always felt the need to scream in order to get his point across. I understood that Isaac wanted his character to exhibit a detestable menace, but he should have given more variety to his performance. Sometimes whispering a line in a slithery tone could actually pack a more powerful punch than yelling like a spoiled child. I was astounded that we didn’t learn much about Baby Doll’s friends. They were important because they helped our protagonist to get the four items required if she was to earn her freedom. I wondered what the sisters, Sweat Pea and Rocket, had done to deserve being sent to such a prison. They seemed very close. Maybe for a reason. The girls were supposed to have gone crazy in some way but there was no evidence that they weren’t quite right in the head. If they were sent to the mental hospital for the wrong reasons, the script should have acknowledged that instead of leaving us in the dark. They, too, could have been framed like Baby Doll. Overlooking such a basic detail proved to me how little Snyder thought about the story. “Sucker Punch” tackled three worlds: the mental institution, the brothel, and the war against Nazi zombies. Too much time was spent in the whorehouse, the least interesting of them all, and not enough time in the asylum. Though beautiful to look at due to its post-apocalyptic imagery, I could care less about the battle scenes with the dragons, giant samurais, and Nazi zombies. The reason why Snyder should have given us more scenes of Baby Doll in the asylum was because that was Baby Doll’s grim reality: in five days, she was to be lobotomized. Those who’ve played a role-playing video game in the past five years are aware that the games have mini-movies during key events in the story arc. Those images were as good as the ones found here and some of the stories in those games are quite compelling. If images were all this film had to offer, then why should we bother to watch it?

The Uninvited

The Uninvited (2009)
★★ / ★★★★

“The Uninvited,” directed by Charles Guard and Thomas Guard, is a remake of a Korean film “A Tale of Two Sisters.” I have not seen the latter but I was actually surprised with how this one turned out because the trailers looked unconvincing to say it lightly. This picture is about a girl (Emily Browning) who is recently released from a mental hospital. When she returns home, she finds out that her father (David Strathairn) is in a relationship with the very same nurse (Elizabeth Banks) who took care of her mother when she was still alive. After dreaming about her mother’s angry ghost proclaiming that the nurse murdered her, the main character teams up with her spunky sister (Arielle Kebbel) and the two gather up evidence to get the nurse out of their lives. Since the movie is about a girl who has been recently released from a mental hospital, I decided to view this film from a psychological point of view. Right away, I knew something was a bit off with some of the characters because they exhibited paranoia, delusions and even psychosis with memory relapses. Yes, the premise of the film involved a ghost story/murderer backdrop but I thought that all of it was ultimately justified considering the main character’s state of mind. To me, this is not really a horror film as most people would say. It’s more of a psychological thriller because the way the story unfolded is really from the main character’s perspective. It was able to utilize the whole evil stepmother concept to add to the ever-growing conflict in the house (and stress that comes with it). The stresses then triggers something explainable (to an extent) which happened in the final act. This horror remake is far from perfect but it was interesting enough to keep my attention to figure out what was really happening underneath the supernatural facade. Having said that, I can also understand why a person who sees this film from a purely horror genre perspective may be frustrated with it. I say if one is remotely interested in watching it for whatever reason, then by all means do so. But I must give a warning that “The Uninvited” offers nothing new.