Friday, January 11, 2008

An ATONEMENT Assessment and Award Season Annoyances

The Golden Globes ceremony was reduced to a press conference and the fate of the Academy Awards (the Oscars ya know?) is up in the air all because of the damn long-ass writer's strike. 

Why does this have to happen in a time overflowing with actual quality product to appraise? I mean in most other mediocre years we could blow this off, but this time out there are a bunch of deserving films and crowds of actors just waiting around to be recognized then ridiculed (that's where the writers come in) by their peers or whoever. 

As for how good movies have been lately, I don't recall reading the phrase - cue that voice-over announcer guy: " one of the best movies of the year" in as many reviews in previous years as much as I have for 2007. 

Like I said in an earlier post I'm holding out on making the Filmbabble Blog Top Ten Of 2007 list at least until I see THERE WILL BE BLOOD (which opens on the 18th) though it will be another month before PERSEPOLIS comes to my area so I know that I'll still feel like I'm jumping the gun. Anyway for the moment I have more movies to catch up on including:

ATONEMENT (Dir. Joe Wright, 2007)

In this production of the acclaimed bestselling novel by Ian McEwan set mostly in the 1930's, we are taken from snooty British sitting rooms to the bloody battlefields of war torn France, and then back to occupied London and the journey is gripping every frame of the way. 

But it is the power of the written word that fuels this film and fills the head of Briony Tallis (a coy Saoirse Ronan) a 13 year old member of a wealthy English family. From an overhead window in her family's mansion she sees her older but not wiser sister Cecelia (Keira Knightly) with Robbie - the son of the housekeeper. 

Possible Spoilers! - What happens next is seen from 2 different perspectives - Briony's and that of the would be lovers. Later that evening after a tense dinner and the turmoil caused by missing twin brothers again Briony sees, or mis-sees if that's a word, something that changes her life forever. 

The unfolding and refolding of events here is so juicy that even if you've read the book you'll want to discover yourself so I'll discontinue my ambiguously tortured plot recap. As the lovers in this romance novel by way of Masterpiece Theater foray McAvoy has the earnest can-do spirit that Robbie had in spades in the book while Knightly seems an empty but still elegant vessel for whatever stressful emotion comes her way. Briony is played by 3 different actresses over 60 years - the before mentioned Ronan at age 13, at age 18 - Romola Garai, and (credited as Older Briony) Vanessa Redgrave - all with the right dash of pathos. 

The fractured narrative, of which is so popular in modern film these days (Tarentino et al), is actually nicely faithful to the novel's construction. Having just finished the McEwan novel right before going to the cinema I had the text fresh in my brain while viewing. 

I was at first annoyed how scores of inner dialogue often had to be condensed down to one spoken line, but when it sank in I was amazed how much was true to the tone and intent of the 349 page tome. 

ATONEMENT is a surefire Award season favorite - if that season ever really gets going that is and yes, ahem, it's one of the best movies of the year.

More later...

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