Leap Year (2010)
★★ / ★★★★
A woman (Amy Adams) in a relationship with a cardiologist (Adam Scott) for four years thought that he was finally going to propose to her to get married. But since that wasn’t the case, she decided to fly to Ireland on a whim to surprise her husband-to-be and propose to him on a Leap Day–which she was lead to believe to be an old Irish tradition. But things didn’t go quite as smoothly as she had planned because even though she didn’t get along with a charming man (Matthew Goode) who agreed to take her Dublin, she started falling for him (and vice-versa) because he was everything her boyfriend was not: simple, didn’t let her get away with being a brat and someone who had her back when it mattered most. Directed by Anand Tucker, “Leap Year” was pretty much the same kind of romantic comedy released every month (more like every week) but I ended up somewhat liking it because I love Adams and Goode in just about every movie they star in. They both had this strange chemistry even though all they did was bicker and ended up in the most unfortunate situations. In a way, they were perfect for each other because she was too controlled and she had a list on what she wanted in life, while he was a person who was fine with wherever the wind took him. It also helped that he was a bit brooding but that darkness I felt wasn’t really explored. My main problem with this film was its script. I thought the dialogue lacked another dimension–it was too simple and there were times when I felt like I was watching an episode of a television show than a movie. While it did have some cute touches such as Scott playing a cardiologist but he had no idea what was in his girlfriend’s heart, those weren’t strong enough to make this a superior romantic comedy. It didn’t have gravity so I wasn’t at all emotionally invested. The middle portion was a bit too much and it dragged on in what felt like an eternity. I wish the movie explored the Irish tradition a lot more instead of just showing Adams in the most embarrassing situations. By the tenth time things didn’t go her way because of the black cat that crossed her path, I pretty much got the picture and I wanted it to move on. Without its leading stars, I could easily have hated “Leap Year” because it didn’t strive to be something more. It was safe, sometimes sweet and often clichéd. I couldn’t help but think Adams and Goode were too good for the roles they’ve chosen to play.
Whale Rider (2002)
★★★ / ★★★★
Based on the novel by Witi Ihimaera, “Whale Rider” was about a little girl named Paikea (Keisha Castle-Hughes) who possessed the ability to communicate, through prayers, with whales. Unfortunately, her grandfather (Rawiri Paratene) was so caught up in traditions regarding the leader of the Whangara people being a boy that he was blind to his granddaughter’s gift. In a way, he connected Paikea and the death of her male twin with their tribe’s increasing lack of passion for their culture. Desperate to find a leader, the grandfather gathered the local boys but no one could match Paikea’s natural abilities and passion for what she was meant to do. Even though I’ve seen the angle of older generation clashing with a younger generation with respect to traditions, I thought the film was still refreshing because I knew nothing about the Maori tribe and the Whangara people. So I saw the picture through a fresh set of eyes and I was curious with how they were so in touch with nature. Castle-Hughes blew me away because she was so good at exuding strength but at the same time remaining vulnerable. Her acting culminated in the scene where she had to present a speech in front of an audience dedicated to her grandfather but he didn’t bother to show up. The way she composed herself and delivered her lines, despite the tears, showed so much strength that I couldn’t imagine an American actress so young as she was pulling it off quite as swimmingly. I also enjoyed the scenes when the community tried to help the whales when the animals swam to the shore to meet their demise. That sense of unity made me feel warm and I wanted to join them because I was so inspired. As for the supporting actors, I loved the grandmother played by Vicky Haughton because she was not afraid to say what she wanted to say to her stubborn husband when everyone else were forced to swallow their words. But at the same time, she was warm to others, especially her granddaughter. I just wished that Paikea’s father (Cliff Curtis) was in it a bit more because the movie didn’t spend enough time establishing his role in his daughter’s life. “Whale Rider” was a magical film full of fascinating culture. It’s a nice reminder that there’s this whole world out there that is so immaterial and far values working together more than competition. I expected a movie for kids because of the synposes I read but I got to see something much more rewarding.