Saturday, March 12, 2005

Movies opening this week

Born Into Brothels (documentary, dir. Ross Kauffman and Zana Briski)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I was a little uneasy about this film when I first started watching it, because it seemed like they were exploiting the children in a sort of self-righteous way, but ultimately I think both the intentions and the effect are good. It's impossible to avoid all exploitation simply because this is a film that people are paying to see, but overall Kauffman and Briski do their best to bring some real good into the lives of the children and not just make a movie. I'm glad this won the Oscar, since it's a well-made film on top of covering an important topic. Opened limited Dec. 8; in Las Vegas this week

Bride & Prejudice (Aishwarya Rai, Martin Henderson, Daniel Gillies, dir. Gurinder Chadha)
There seem to be two schools of thought on Gurinder Chadha: Those who think her films are entertaining, uplifting stories about the blending of cultures, and those who find both her view of multi-culturalism and her filmmaking style simplistic and even condescneding. For my part, I suppose I fall somewhere in the middle. I thoroughly enjoyed Bend it Like Beckham, and while I didn't enjoy Bride & Prejudice as much, it wasn't because I didn't think she represented multi-culturalism properly. Stylistically, the film is an experiment, combining Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice, the template for all modern romantic comedies, with the gaudy, over-the-top style of Bollywood musicals. The two don't always blend smoothly, and Bride often suffers when its actors have to break into song and hurt the film's momentum. But I admire Chadha for trying to combine her diverse influences; just because she can't do it as effortlessly as Quentin Tarantino doesn't mean she should give up trying.

As for her representations of culture, they are indeed rosy-colored and often oversimplified. But the fact is that there are so few films (especially mainstream ones) tackling these issues that Chadha becomes the default spokesperson for multi-culturalism in film, and that's not fair to her. Why should she have to encompass all viewpoints on the subject just because she's the one who's able to get films made? She's clearly telling stories from her own point of view, which is optimistic and romantic and squarely upper-middle-class, and it's perfectly valid for her to do so. Yes, it'd be nice if other filmmakers were able to make widely accepted films that attacked these subjects with more nuance and realism, but there's no need to punish Chadha for the lack of support for such films. Opened limited Feb. 11; in Las Vegas this week

Robots (Voices of Ewan McGregor, Robin Williams, Greg Kinnear, dir. Chris Wedge and Carlos Saldanha)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
You know, I think I might have given Robin Williams too much of a pass in the review; he's definitely not restrained enough. Still, his tired antics don't ruin the film, which is a perfectly harmless movie for kids that will keep adults mildly entertained. Wide release

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