Things just keep on picking up over here in SIFF-land with four mostly great new movies, including two early standouts of the fest. Still following SIFF procedure, these brief reviews only span about 75 meaning-laden words so short and sweet is the word. In my pursuit to oust my opinion without breaking regulation, look out for mini-review after mini-review as I seek to hit that magic number of 40 films of SIFF’s 40th anniversary. So far, I’m at 16. 40 is looking closer by the day. So, short and sweet reading for you, much more time for movie watching for me. This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
dir. Zeresenay Berhane Mehari star. Meron Getnet, Tizita Hagere (Ethiopia)
Difret, or Ethiopia Kidnap Weddings: SVU, beams a chilling political reality where tradition clashes with human rights, courts with all-male elder tribunals. A young girl, Hirut, is kidnapped by a gaggle of men on horseback, locked up and raped before escaping and killing the captor intent on marrying her. Difret, which loosely translates to “raped”, then sees a politic system condemning this child to death and the human rights lawyer who come to her aid. The performances impress but Mehari’s amateur hand leaves much to be desired in the directing department. Hirut’s story will have you up in arms but the story is disappointingly one-sided. (C)
The Fault in Our Stars
dir. Josh Boone star. Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff, Willem Dafoe, Laura Dern (USA)
Charmed performances can’t overcome the schmaltzy, melodramatic cancer porn that is The Fault in Our Stars. Pegged as a weepy drama, Josh Boone‘s film is ready to serve up tragedy by the ladle-full. Willem Dafoe stops by for a show-stopping scene but it’s Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort who keep us grounded in this otherwise-borrowed Walk To Remember path. It is however decidedly better than its leads’ previous project: Divergent. Stars is not outright bad so much as fundamentally flawed. (C-)
The Skeleton Twins
dir. Craig Robinson star. Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Luke Wilson, Ty Burrell (USA)
Bill Hader just had his coming out party. He may not be gay, but he’s a star. The Skeleton Twins is unabashedly entertaining; a darkly comic, tactfully told dramedy that probes the darkest of places with the funniest of people. Kristen Wiig and Luke Wilson join Hader to round out a cast of unsung heroes taking the spotlight, each firmly on their mark and spontaneously hilarious throughout. For a film that circles suicide, it is the funniest of the year (so far) and the cast’s effortless deadpan will have you in absolute, ROFL stitches. (A-)
In Order of Disappearance (Kraftidioten)
dir. Hans Petter Moland star. Stellan Skarsgård, Kristofer Hivju, Bruno Ganz, Peter Andersson (Norway)
Kraftidioten (or In Order of Disappearance) is a Norwegian black comedy that sees a snowplow man/upstanding citizen take justice into his own hands after his son is wrongfully murdered. Featuring a standout performance from the multilingual Stellan Skarsgård, this wintry take on everyman vengeance mixes doses of bleak internal battles in with blood-stained snow and murderous vegans for a darkly satisfying product, further improved by ponderous cinematography and unexpected giggles. Even though the second act loses the adroit pacing of the first, it all adds up to something sickly sweet. (B+)
Click through for more recap segments and stay tuned for the next collection of four in this whopping ten part series.
Part 1: JIMI: All is By My Side, Zip Zap and the Marble Gang, Hellion, Fight Church
Part 2: Cannibal, The Double, Time Lapse, Another
Part 3: Half of a Yellow Sun, Mirage Men, The Trip to Italy, Starred Up