The Disaster Artist / Happy End / The Florida Project – Movie Review [Zinemaldia 2017]

Took quite some time to finally sit down and write this, but here it is: the last set of mini-reviews from the Zinemaldia festival in San Sebastian. Hope you like them!

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The Florida Project

Upon finishing watching the film, I immediately understood why someone recommended me The Florida Project.

Set in a motel during summer, the movie follows Moonee, a precocious 6-year-old girl who lives happily with her young mother and spends the day with her equally naughty friends, without being aware of the dramatic events surrounding adults suffer from. It’s a feature packed with contrast: from the innocence of children, to the absolute crudeness of adults who are willing to go to any length in order to earn a week worth of rent.

Telling that kind of story requires a witty, intelligent script, and director Sean Baker has made a great achievement in that. All characters evolve beautifully, taking them to some places they wouldn’t even think about during the first act. It was particularly exciting to see how much juice writers were able to get from ordinary situations throughout the runtime, which results in a rich and compelling experience. I guess writing lines for children must have been particularly challenging, but not a single word feels out-of-place.

Mother and daughter are played by two first-time cinema actresses, Bria Vinaite and Brooklynn Prince, respectively. Vinaite delivers a great performance, with lots of subtleties that show her persona may be much more fragile than she intends to look like. This never looks forced, obvious or unnatural, which is quite something. The star of the show is, however, Brooklynn Prince, who portrays her character Moonee perfectly. This is particularly amazing considering the extremely young age of the actress, but it’s true, she really is flawless here.

The two of them are joined by a very interesting cast, with Willem Dafoe playing an essential role. He is awesome and intense as always, and was definitely a very interesting addition to the movie. The rest of the child actors and actresses were also a highlight of the film, as they were so lively, truly exciting to watch.

Without getting into any details, the ending was… weird. At first, I thought it wasn’t very good, to be honest. But it sure sticks with you, and with enough thinking, one realizes it is the perfect closure to the story. That last segment is shot with some peculiar directing, which was pretty dazzling and unexpected!

All in all, this was an extremely enjoyable movie, packed with funny moments. If I had to use a single word to describe it, that would be “fun”, which is quite something taking into account the dramatic backdrop the picture has as a setting. It is definitely a feel-good movie, but not one that will leave you indifferent. It defies audiences into looking for the answer to a question The Florida Project never asks: what does it take to be happy? 8/10

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The Disaster Artist

I did not hit her, it’s not true, it’s bullshit, I did nooooooot. Oh hi, Mark!

If you recognized that line, you have either watched The Room or heard someone who has talk about it. Considered the Citizen Kane of bad movies, Tommy Wiseau’s picture is the ultimate “so bad it’s good” thing. If you haven’t had the pleasure to watch it, go ahead, and do it right now (friends and beer recommended for the complete experience).

James Franco’s latest film, The Disaster Artist, tells the story of how The Room was made back in 2002. It’s the adaptation of the book with the same name written by Greg Sestero, who also starred the film together with Wiseau. It tells the questions, but not the answers, because… Well, no one knows those for now. How old is Wiseau? Where did he get the six million dollars he used to fund the atrocity he shot? Why did he use both a digital and a film camera at the same time every shot?

I’m reading the book now, and I must say I’m amazed how accurate the film achieved to portray the events told by Sestero. What you see seems to be a parody, some kind of caricature of reality, but according to the author, who witnessed every bit back then, everything shown actually (and inexplicably) happened. The film is really accurate. Like unbelievably accurate.

This is, by far, one of the most hilarious movies I’ve ever watched. I’m not all that into comedies, mainly because they usually struggle to get a laugh from me, but I just couldn’t stop laughing for the entire runtime of this one. My goddamn cheeks hurt for a while after the screening!

Two great actors played the protagonist roles in The Disaster Artist. James Franco was stellar as Tommy Wiseau, as he was able to recreate his (European? American?) accent with exhilarating results. He looked very similar thanks to an amusing make-up and prosthetics, and he basically nailed every single bit. Dave Franco played Greg Sestero, with awesome results too. The chemistry among both of them was on point, clearly a highlight of the show.

It was a surprise that this film won the Golden Shell award (the grand prize of the jury, presided by none other than John Malkovich), not because of its quality, but because of its comedic nature, a particularly unsuccessful genre in festivals. So, it really means something! I’ll say it again: if you haven’t already, stop doing whatever you’re doing and go watch The Room right now. The next step? Watch The Disaster Artist. 9/10

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Happy End

This is the hardest review I’ve had to write during the Zinemaldia. I honestly don’t know how to talk about this feature, because of how special it is. In fact, this review was meant to be in the previous entry, but I just couldn’t finish it and I had to give myself some more days. In short, Michael Haneke directed this little gem perfectly, telling the story of a family with very different realities within in an extremely compelling fashion.

Those realities are beautifully written, with believable character evolution for every single one of the people shown on-screen. However, it is true that the script may be a bit too… subtle, lacking a clear theme at times. It tackles delicate themes like social issues, dangers of technology, and more, but all of them with a magistral subtlety and a perfect tone. Never does the script misstep, but it may fail to make a point, to some extent.

Nevertheless, it must be said that even the scenes that almost no screenwriter manages to get to flow correctly are smooth as silk in Happy End. Sexting, for example, always seems forced and plain fake in films, but Haneke, with a dark humorous approach, manages to make those scenes compelling and realistic.

The dark humor shown is starred by a great cast, including Jean-Louis Trintignant and Isabelle Huppert, among a myriad of other actors. They all deliver great performances, including the child actor, thanks to the meticulous direction Haneke boasts, which means you’ll find yourself smiling many times throughout the runtime, even if the events depicted may not be all that funny.

Other than that, I don’t know how to further explain my feelings about the movie without explaining specific storylines, and taking into account how essential it is to discover those the way the director intends, I better not spoil those. So, let’s just say this is a very interesting experience, one of the most stimulating I’ve had during the festival, and that I highly recommend you check it out too. 8/10

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