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Overall Rating

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 6.67%
Average: 40%
Pretty Bad46.67%
Total Crap: 6.67%

2 reviews, 3 user ratings

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Head in the Clouds
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by Erik Childress

"The Title Is What I Want From Charlize Theron"
2 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2004 TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Oh to be wartorn and in love. It’s such a simplified melodramatic device that gets award presenters itching to use the phrase “set against the backdrop of...” Curiously enough, John Duigan’s new wartime romance is split right down the middle, two halves trying to make a whole while failing to incite any passion for either side. Tabloid junkies may find interest that real-life lovers Stuart Townsend and Charlize Theron play the star-crossed duo. One hopes they feel more for one another in real life than we do about their characters.

Head in the Clouds wants us to use the word “sprawling” to describe its epic nature. The kind where one minute its 1939 and five minutes later it’s D-Day. As if telling one story over the span of several years immediately qualifies it for ambitious status. Please, even Red Dawn sprawled several months. But going back to the early 1930s we’ll meet Dublin-born Guy (Townsend), studying in England. One night he receives “lucky dog” status when student socialite Gilda Besse (Theron) chooses his room to hide in. She’s thankful, he’s enamored, they graciously sleep head-to-toe as if forgetting that their genitals are still technically lined up.

Later at a party, they share a night of spontaneous bliss on a pool table while her boyfriend is conducting an orgy upstairs. You know, that old chestnut. And soon, she’s off and running and a letter-writing campaign to stay in touch follows. Like Harry and Sally, they shall meet again as the apocalyptic finale of Dr. Strangelove tells us. She’s found an interest in photography. He occasionally stirs up in an interest in wartime politics.

Living with them in the horrendously matte-painted Paris is Mia (Penelope Cruz), a part-time model, wannabe nurse whom we’re later supposed to be shocked was a former lover of Gilda’s. Oh, the scandal in France of all places where in decadence they serve lesbians as ice cream toppings. Guy and Mia both have an itchin’ to get into the cause. Why? Because it will cause an obvious riff in their relationship with Ms. 1930s Look-Out-For-Number-One. It’s hard to believe they would be so bored with their lifestyle and bedsharing that they’d rather kick the mortal coil, not because people don’t let ideals dictate their existence but that these people never convince anyone of their fervor.

Even when the stakes are raised in the scenes of war, nothing ever seems to be happening. The horror is never conveyed. No one except the Germans ever seem to be in danger. Moments of espionage, including a late reveal out of nowhere, feel more like kids playing hide-and-seek where nobody knows what they are seeking. They just continue talking about their life in Paris, where Gilda has been branded both a “whore” and a “slut” for taking up with a German officer. (Or wearing nothing but a complimented tie at one point like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.) Guess she left her “tramp” days behind in college. Thomas Kretschmann, playing that officer, is quickly creating some world record for the most Nazis portrayed on screen by a single actor with roles in this, U-571, The Pianist and Baby Geniuses 2.

Townsend is as nondescript as an albino in a vanilla bath. At one point he even looks like Jude Law in Enemy at the Gates (go rent that instead.) Cruz is less annoying than usual and is rewarded with a final scene that has all the grace of a Looney Tunes punchline.Theron is back to her pre-Monster weight and is fine despite an unbalanced script that has everyone doing stuff of its own necessity rather than their own. She even has a psychic’s premonition of her lifeline, creating an anticlimactic discussion of fate and free will. Once and for all the film does prove that it’s never wise to let someone else’s principles steer your own path.

I was reminded of Bertolucci’s latest, The Dreamers, many times over during the course. A bit uneven in itself, it was also about a trio of young lovers debating their lot in life over that of a pending revolution on their homefront. It was a film about art as well supremely sexual. I didn’t always buy the film but I did believe in the characters and their beliefs. Head In The Clouds has art and it has sex, but its about its plot rather than its inhabitants and yet everything fights for its place as the official backdrop.

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originally posted: 10/01/04 14:02:03
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Vancouver Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Toronto Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

4/27/06 Phil M. Aficionado Nice production quality but failed to catch my interest and so it dragged 2 stars
9/21/04 Mary MacLean Pretty good, a little long in places an a bit of a cliche 4 stars
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  17-Sep-2004 (R)
  DVD: 25-Jan-2005



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