Once again, the AGH BMO 2012 World Film Festival offered up two greats and one so-so.
WE HAVE A POPE (HABEMUS PAPUM)
The first film of today’s bunch was the weakest. We Have a Pope (Habemus Papam) is a dramedy from Italy that succeeds, but doesn’t stand out in any real way. It’s a tried-and-true movie formula, gussied up to look fresher than it really is. One need only look to any movie in which a groom gets cold feet and spends the running time contemplating going forward or running away, to see the worn inspiration for this film.
In We Have a Pope, the time has come to elect a new leader of the Catholic Church. None of the voting cardinals can agree on a candidate and none seem to want the position. Through a plot catalyst, one cardinal (Michel Piccoli) is elected to be the Pope. He then spends an half and a half wandering the streets of Rome, wondering whether to accept the position or resign.
The film is entertaining, in its own way, and even contains scenes of amusement. (While the Piccoli’s cardinal wanders Rome, the rest of the cardinals spend the conclave in such activities as an ad hoc volleyball game.) The problem isn’t that nothing much happens beyond wandering and pontificating – others, like Gerry or Before Sunrise, have made that conceit work; the problem is that the wandering and pontificating that is done isn’t interesting. Even the ending lands with a thud, when it clearly was intended to surprise.
THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL
What did surprise was The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. It looked like an “old person” movie, to put it in the blunt words kids these days are using. Instead, it ended up being a vibrant, riotous comedy that just happened to star legendary British thespians instead of Apatow alumni.
It should have been more obvious from the start. After all, the director, John Madden, also directed the Best Picture Oscar-winner Shakespeare in Love. On top of that, the seven leads are played by Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Maggie Smith, and Billy Nighy, among others. The chemistry they all create is downright magical.
Watching experts do what they do best can be riveting, and the acting in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is rife with scenes of jaw-dropping brilliance in both performance and execution. Best of all, it’s one of the funniest movies of the year – for any age group.
SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED
Capping off the evening was a more modern comedy, Safety Not Guaranteed. Feeling like a hipper version of K-PAX, it follows a reporter (Jake Johnson) and his two interns (Aubrey Plaza and Karan Soni) as they try and locate the author of a bizarre classified ad, seeking a partner for time travel.
When they finally track down Kenneth (Mark Duplass, in a welcome return following Monday’s screening of the brilliant Your Sister’s Sister), he seems like the next Unabomber. As Plaza’s Darius begins spending more time with Kenneth, she starts to see more to him, including a peculiar sanity.
The plot rides on cruise control for a while, but builds to a point which truly leaves the audience unsure of what will happen at the end. By the climax, it seems just as plausible that Kenneth is telling the truth as that he’s crazy. The ultimate reveal is satisfying, while still leaving questions.
Safety Not Guaranteed isn’t been one of the outright best of this festival, but it’s a very fun comedy with an enjoyable cast and its own amusing charm.
Day 7 will have a special showing of The Intouchables.