Films I Neglected To Review: The Day The Mime Pretended To CryBy Peter Sobczynski
Posted 03/28/20 00:16:50
Please enjoy short reviews of "Banana Split," "Resistance" and "Vivarium."
The best thing about "Banana Split" is the byplay between the two leads--Marks and Liberato have both proven to be strong and charismatic actresses in their previous performances and they demonstrate themselves to be just as compelling as they spark off of each other in their scenes together. The problem with the film is that while their relationship is believable and there are a few funny moments here and there--many of them involving the adorably profane conversations between April and her mother (Jessica Hecht) and her super-precocious younger sister (Addison Riecke)--it just never quite clicks in the way that you think that it should. The big problem with the film is that Nick is, quite frankly, a first-rate dullard whose only interesting characteristic is his irony-free admiration for the work of Carly Rae Jepsen. Needless to say, he not worthy of the likes of either April or Clara and to see the degree of importance that he still has over their lives is both patently unbelievable and slightly disturbing--you get the sense that in the real world, the two would come to their senses and simply kick his ass to the curb and hang out without worrying about what might happen if the news got back to him. Because of this, I cannot quite recommend "Banana Split," which is a shame because it does have its good points and a winning team in its two lead actresses--hopefully someone will come away from this film with the inspiration to team them up again soon, preferably in the service of a better script.
This is all interesting in theory, I suppose, and Marceau's real-life heroics cannot be denied but, as presented by writer-director Jonathan Jakubowicz, none of it really comes together into a satisfying whole for any number of reasons. For starters, the film is really uneven from a structural standpoint--the first half is a mostly light and comparatively whimsical work that will at times remind some viewers of "Life is Beautiful" before lurching into a more straightforward suspense thriller narrative in the second. It also at times seems to succumb to a desire to shoehorn elements that were indeed part of the historical record but which do not necessarily drive the story along--while the presence of the infamous Klaus Barbie (Matthias Schweighoffer) eventually pays off after a few otherwise extraneous scenes, the use of no less a figure than General George S. Patton (Ed Harris) to serve as a framing device just feels forced even though it is true that Marceau really did serve as a liaison officer for him for a time. A bigger and more unfortunate problem with the film is that the central performance by Eisenberg is pretty much awkward throughout--thanks to his shaky French accent and shakier mime skills, he is never believable for a moment as Marceau and he ends up making the whole project more predictable and cliched than it might have in the hands of a more convincing performer. "Resistance" contains plenty of material for a potentially engrossing film--imagine one focusing on the relationship between Marceau and Patton--but never quite manages to become one itself.
In case the above description makes it sound too subtle, "Vivarium" is a fairly blatant allegory for the fear that many people have felt at a certain point that all the things that we have been programmed to strive for in our lives--a steady job, a family and a home in the suburbs--are to be feared rather than embraced. The problem is that while screenwriter Garret Shanley and director Lorcan Finnegan have assembled enough material to make for a powerful and provocative half-hour short (I can see it easily fitting in as an episode of "Black Mirror" or "The Twilight Zone"), they have tried to stretch it out to a running time three times that length and while I suppose that a certain amount of repetitiveness fits in with the concept, it eventually becomes kind of tedious after a while in ways that not even the twists in the final scenes can quite make up for in the end. Additionally, neither of the two central characters are particularly likable as they succumb to their well-manicured prison--Poots at least finds a certain sympathetic tone that helps to counter-balance Gemma's emerging awfulness but both Eisenberg and his character come off as smug jerks throughout who are more than deserving of the perverse fate that Yonder has in store. "Vivarium" is ambitious and it does have ideas that it tries to grapple with but it never presents them in a manner that is nearly as original or ironic as it thinks it has--the great Talking Heads song "Once in a Lifetime" pretty much says everything that this movie is trying to put forth in a much more interesting and entertaining manner and it got the job done in under five minutes to boot.
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