VIFF 2014 Review: Beautiful Youth



Regardless of how news outlets spin current world events, by now everyone is more or less aware that the global economy is in trouble and that some countries are doing far better than others. Europe has been experiencing particularly difficult times and those difficulties have appeared here and there in film, in some instances more bluntly than others. Spaniard Jaime Rosales’ Beautiful Youth is the most recent, microscopic look at the hardships faced by a young couple in Spain.

Ingrid García Jonsson and Carlos Rodríguez star as Natalia and Carlos, a young couple in love. She’s dropped out of school and spends her days at home, hanging out with friends and occasionally shop lifting make-up while Carlos works odd jobs and conspires with his friend to open his own business. In an effort to generate quick cash, the pair agree to appear in a porn, a venture that turns out to be only the first in a long line of schemes to generate income. Making money to take care of themselves becomes both a thing of the past and a thing of immediate urgency when the young couple is faced with a new challenge: parenthood.

Beautiful Youth could easily have become a cynical movie about the difficulties of being young amid a recession but instead, it’s a testament to human resilience. Watching Natalia and Carlos grow and mature over the course of a few short years is a beautiful reminder of how the events of our lives shape the people we become, even if the changes aren’t immediately apparent. Both Rodríguez and Jonsson give great performances but the film focuses mostly on Jonsson and the challenges she faces and the actress shines in the role.

Rosales takes a verite approach to Beautiful Youth which gives the movie an added layer of reality. On a few occasions, Rosales uses technology in an interesting and new way to mark the passage of time and showing the changing relationship between Natalia and Carlos and though I appreciate the approach here, I hope it doesn’t become a regular thing in features.

Beautiful Youth neither glorifies nor frowns on the actions of Natalia and Carlos, it simply presents an unabashed look at coming of age under difficult circumstances and it does so with a glint, however small, of hope.

Beautiful Youth plays VIFF again on October 2nd. Check out the VIFF program for tickets and additional screening information.

Review: The Company Men

Director: John Wells (“E.R.”)
Writer: John Wells
Producers: Claire Rudnick Polstein, Paula Weinstein, John Wells
Starring: Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones, Craig T. Nelson, Chris Cooper, Maria Bello, Kevin Costner, Rosemarie DeWitt
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 104 min.

There really isn’t any way of describing how terrible this film is without getting into specific spoiler territory so I’ll try to brush over some of the overall problems with the movie without getting too detailed. Suffice it to say that this film is trying so darn hard to be relevant and informative that it instantly becomes irrelevant, a product of its own past and something that has already aged terribly. Up in the Air, this is not. It’s full of corny, overwrought clichés that are so heavy handed that I couldn’t help but bust into laughter as I verbally recalled the story to my girlfriend two hours after leaving the theater.

The story is essentially about a bunch of corporate execs that lose their job due to downsizing and are having a hard time coping with their 12 weeks of full pay and benefits at a $120,000+ a year. They have a hard time finding employment in this downtrodden economy (yeah, the $60,000/year job just isn’t good enough) and several of them end up either sitting around all day feeling sorry for themselves, learning the value of an “honest” day’s work or just giving up entirely. Or in Chris Cooper’s case, getting drunk and throwing rocks at the office building while screaming obscenities in the middle of the night. It’s pretty dramatic stuff – it’s just like Jenny in Forrest Gump.
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Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story Trailer

Only a filmmaker like Michael Moore can premiere the trailer for his new film on CNN and get away with it. Seriously, CNN?

That’s the way it has unfolded and earlier today when CNN added the trailer to Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story to their video archives. A documentary about the global financial crisis and the U.S. economy with a focus on the time of transition between President Obama and Bush, this looks like another exercise in Moore’s personal style of documentary filmmaking. Some may not agree or like him for his stance and how he goes about making his point but the film is guaranteed to spark conversation.

Capitalism: A Love Story premieres at TIFF in a few weeks time and opens in limited release on September 23rd.

A Plea to Kevin Costner

Kevin CostnerOh Kevin. What happened to you Kevin? You made some great films, then some not so great ones and then you seemed to fall right off the radar. And then there was Mr. Brooks. Not exactly spectacular stuff but it seemed like you were on your way back but alas, it materialized into nothing and sadly your track record doesn’t seem to be getting any better.

Tell me, why. Why you would agree to star in a movie which is such a sadly obvious attempt to say something poignant about the current state of the economy? In The Company Men you’re going to play a drywall installer who gives his recently laid off from Wall Street brother-in-law a job. I’m assuming that somewhere in there you’re also going to teach him a lesson about how money isn’t everything and that it’s the little things that matter. I know working alongside Ben Affleck is exciting but I have a feeling you signed on to work with Tommy Lee Jones whose role is to play the moral catalyst in the entire thing, likely stepping up to his greedy partners. Or maybe you’re just doing for it for the money. I can respect that; I know that producing a follow up to Dances with Wolves is expensive but maybe you should have waited for Mr. Brooks 2: A Daughter’s Revenge to start production.

Will I watch? Maybe not. I thought I’d give you another chance with Swing Vote but I couldn’t even get up the energy to rent the bloody thing never mind take myself to the theatre to see it. At this rate, your HSX stock must be in the $.50 range. I don’t want to lose faith in you but when you keep making films that sound this bad, it can’t be helped. But who knows. Maybe I’ll be surprised. If anyone can surprise me Kevin it’s you.

At least I still have my extended version of Waterworld to keep me going for a little longer but give this girl a break. You’re killing me and at some point, you’re going to have to give me a lifeline.