Posts Tagged ‘Monsieur Lazhar’

THE GOOD LIE: 2 ½ STARS. “more successful at raising a smiles than awareness.”

The-Good-Lie-618x400“The Good Lie,” a new drama starring Reese Witherspoon in full-on Sandra “The Blind Side” Bullock mode, shines a light on an important story but does so in a familiar way.

The story begins during Sudan’s civil war, a brutal conflict that forced thousands of people—most of them little more than children—to walk thousands of miles to flee the violence. Almost all ended up in refugee camps, some for years. “The Good Lie” is aboutleft four “lost” boys and girls who were given a chance at a life in America. Mamere (Arnold Oceng), Jeremiah (Ger Duany), Paul (Emmanuel Jal) and Mamere’s sister Abital (Kuoth Wiel) are the recipients of humanitarian aid and relocated to the US, but due to a bureaucratic rule Abital is separated from the men.

In charge of finding work for the new comers is Carrie (Witherspoon), a case worker who, at first, is looking to get their file off her desk but soon becomes involved in their lives and their need to be reunited as a family.

Academy Award-nominated “Monsieur Lazhar” director Philippe Falardeau is straightforward in his telling of this story, mixing the human interest story with large dollops of humor and humanity, but echoes of other movies, like “The Blind Side” and “Dangerous Minds” reverberate throughout.

Falardeau focuses on the story of the refugees but the inclusion of Carrie, Witherspoon’s well-meaning case worker, shifts attention away from the crux of the story, as if the Sudanese somehow has more gravitas if told through a North American lens.

It is, however, a well-intentioned, feel good movie, nicely performed by Witherspoon and the Sudanese cast—Duany and Oceng are stand-outs—that is more successful at raising a smiles than awareness.

Dolan might be difficult, but it’s hard to deny his talent By Richard Crouse Metro Canada September 20, 2012

3d14e805ce20d05affff82eaffffe41eXavier Dolan comes by his l’enfant terrible reputation honestly. In the course of a brief interview during the Toronto International Film Festival he mocked one of my questions, refused a snap with an intern (“All photos must be approved.”) and paused the interview midway, claiming the room was too hot to concentrate on the questions.

It becomes easy to overlook the affectations, however, when regarding his talent, which is undeniable. Last week the Best Canadian Film jury at TIFF gave him top honors, praising his movie Laurence Anyway, a three-hour epic about true love and gender, for its “breathless cinematic energy and its entirely new love story. [We] felt honoured to watch such unfettered genius at play.”

High praise indeed, but the honour also puts him in some heady company. The last two Quebec films to take home the prize—Incendies and Monsieur Lazhar—also earned Oscar nominations for best foreign language film.

He’s no stranger to the international stage. His first film as director and screenwriter, J’ai tué ma mère, won three awards at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, but this win may accelerate his plans, as he told a journalist recently, “to tackle the American beast.”

The idea for Laurence Anyways came from real life and despite the sensational aspects of the story, was always intended to be a romance.

“When I first heard the story a woman told me about her boyfriend and her having dinner and her boyfriend saying, ‘I’m a woman. I want to become a woman,’ it seemed clear to me that this would be a ten year story about people finding each other and losing each other, and love and it would center on love and nothing else.”

To make sure the audience is along for the ride Dolan takes his time setting up the characters.

“In a very technical way the first fifteen minutes are invested in establishing this story and these characters, their rituals, their weaknesses, their craziness, so that for the rest of the film we actually have the feeling that we know these characters.  If we don’t know them we can’t possibly care what happens to them.”

When I tell Dolan I think Laurence Anyways is a challenging film that audiences will talk about for a long time afterward he smiles and says,  “I hope that is the destiny of this film. I hope it happens that way.”