The Girl on the Train (2009)
★★★ / ★★★★
“La fille du RER” or “The Girl on the Train” was inspired by true events involving a girl who claimed that she was attacked on the train by antisemites. In truth, she just made the whole thing up. But the movie wasn’t just about her. It was also a critique on the credibility of the media and how people readily accept certain stories that support their own prejudices. Directed by André Téchiné, the film started off pretty slowly because it took its time establishing the main character (Émilie Dequenne) and the circumstances that eventually lead her to lie. She was frustrated with where her life was heading, she felt that her mother (Catherine Deneuve) was always on her case about her future, and she had a feeling that something wasn’t quite right with her boyfriend (Nicolas Duvauchelle). So when certain events unfolded that eventually led her boyfriend to the hospital, she couldn’t handle the stress and she reached her breaking point. I thought Téchiné made the correct decision to put a story behind the girl who lied to get sympathy. With such a controversial issue, it’s definitely easier to point a finger on someone and come up with reasons why what she did was wrong. I thought it was nice that even though what the woman did was definitely wrong because it diminishes and mocks real crimes, I didn’t hate her for what she did. In fact, I felt sorry for her because she felt like she couldn’t talk to anyone. That loneliness made her crave for any kind of attention. I loved the performances especially from Deneuve. As always, she found the right balance between elegance and strength. Admittedly, sometimes she stole certain scenes from the lead character because she was that great in hiding certain thoughts and emotions. I was interested in her history and her connection to a Jewish lawyer (Michel Blanc). “La fille du RER” had a certain grittiness to it that I liked. But what held it back was its lack of perfect timing. I felt like the movie spent too much of its time trying to explain what led the character to do what she did instead of focusing on the consequences of her actions. With that lack of balance, I felt like the second half of the picture was a little bit stronger because that was when the character started to wake up from her apathy. In the beginning, she didn’t care much about politics. She saw hate crimes being covered on the news but she didn’t really understand the gravity of the situation. She lived a passive existence and I think it says a lot about us as consumers. The picture may be a little rough around the edges but I’m recommending this movie because it was able to offer real insight about our relationship with the media these days.
The Invention of Lying (2009)
★★ / ★★★★
Written and directed by Ricky Gervais and Matthew Robinson, “The Invention of Lying” took place in a world where no one could lie. Everybody told the truth no matter how painful it was and people learned to adapt to the sharp comments thrown at them. They were so stuck in the truth that life essentially became boring. Even “movies” were simply a man telling the audiences historical events. That is, until something in a screenwriter’s (Gervais) brain allowed him to lie after being fired from his job, told by a date (Jennifer Garner) that he was not good enough for her, and been kicked out of his apartment. It’s unfortunate that the second half of this movie did not quite hold up against the first half because I thought the first forty-five minutes was hilarious. Some people may not get it because the comments that the characters made to one another were mean, but the dry humor was exactly what I liked about it. The honest things that people told each other, one way of another, have occured in my head (and some I’ve successfully/shamelessly vocalized). The pacing quickly faltered when Gervais and Robinson injected some religious anectode about “a man in the sky.” It just did not work for me because they got stuck on that joke and the film became severly limited. It was the antithesis of the first half–the first few minutes felt like anything was possible, especially with cameos from Tina Fey, Jonah Hill and Philip Seymour Hoffman. However, the movie did have its moments of brilliance such as the sensitive scene when Gervais told Hill that it was not a good idea to kill himself and the scenes involving Garner’s obsession with being someone who was financially successful and “genetically superior.” Even though her character was ridiculously shallow at first glance, I think it was the truth: a lot of people (including myself) have this idea our partner should be at an equal or better footing than us. Granted, after seeing this film, my position about what I want in a partner did not change but I thought it was nice that the movie pointed a finger to its audiences and tried to make fun of us. “The Invention of Lying” could have been so much better if the second half did not slow down its momentum but I still say it’s worth watching because it made me laugh and it was clever. I love the not-to-subtle product placements and it made me wonder how the C.E.O.s of products featured managed to agree to have thier products in the movie since the comments about the products were not exactly flattering.
Wall Street (1987)
★★★ / ★★★★
Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) believes in working hard and achieving little rewards which eventually add up to a big accomplishment. That is, until he one day decides that he wants to move up the economic ladder by teaming up with a corporate raider named Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas). Gekko assigns Fox to obtain illegal information via spying, lying, and basically throwing out his ethics out the window in order to be successful. But Fox eventually realizes Gekko’s true colors when Gekko decided to mess with Fox’s father’s business (Martin Sheen), without taking into consideration what would happen to the workers ad everything they’ve worked hard for. I enjoyed watching this film in many levels. For one, it had a plethora of brilliant one-liners and references to literature. Second, the acting is spot-on; Douglas as the greedy corporate raider was a bad person, but he had a certain charm that made me believe at times that his methods were justified. That characteristic was brilliantly painted during his speech in front of the stockholders. I also liked the fact that the lesson was “greed is bad” (the antithesis of the picture’s tagline) but it did not feel too heavy-handed. While it did show the glamorous side of achieving quick and easy ways to make money, it showed just enough serious consequences that would inevitably happen to those who choose to steal instead of patiently creating something for themselves. Lastly, I have to admit that I didn’t think the financial world was interesting, but by the end of the film, I understood it a bit better and, oddly enough, found it to be interesting. I also found it to be exciting with everyone wanting to sell and buy, and others in fear that they may lose a whole lot of money in the process. I guess the issues such as the fragile nature of loyalty, not realizing that one is standing on thin ice, and worries about not amounting to anything made the picture that much more interesting to me. Not to mention that there were a lot of notable supporting actors here such as Hal Holbrook, Daryl Hannah and James Spader. I definitely had to admire the film’s intelligence, but most importantly, its earnestness to entertain in both subtle and overt ways.