2014 was indeed a year full of memorable silver screen performances – those that were vigorously inspired from their actual counterparts and were spectacular in fleshing out their fictitious characters. The actors’ extraordinary presence gives life to a vanilla script, which is the crucial base of any cinematic undertaking. The common denominator among these three films is the celebrated screenplay but at least one will be disproved in this brief film review. Read at your own risk and feel free to share your thoughts.
Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum are a triple threat in director Bennett Miller’s harrowing psychological drama that chronicles the unsettling relationship of an American wrestling team until its brutal end. Tatum is unflinching as the self-inflicting Olympian Mark Schultz who detached himself from the shadow of his renowned brother, Dave (Ruffalo), only to find himself ensnared in the claws of the infamous John du Pont (Carell). Director Miller diffuses a seething atmosphere that brews the gripping tension, particularly on the unpredictable du Pont. Trading his comedic facade to a prosthetic nose and whispery voice, Carell is unrecognizable as the “ornithologist, philatelist and philanthropist” who adheres himself as an eagle; but in truth, he morphs into a vulture that gorges on anxiety and fear that ripples to the audience’s goose bumps. A rare, authentic drama, FOXCATCHER will be best remembered in how its likable leads conjured their most serious and best performances to date, all in the hands of a credible bio-pic director.
Pounding of talent in every cinematic aspect, WHIPLASH is a wholly showcase of artistry from director Damien Chazelle, whose sophomore film sizzles with the electrifying performances of Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons and the potent sensation of jazz that transcends more than to the eardrums. Bruising yet brilliant, WHIPLASH is full of passion between the manipulative and naïve kind (in the personas of maestro Terence Fletcher and music freshman Andrew Neiman) and pain of its relevance that will engross the audience. Teller fosters his burgeoning filmography as an aspiring young drummer pulsating of aspiration and compelled even in drastic situations. He shares the spotlight with Simmons whose sharp gestures and blistering words are mere figments of the intimidating force he fearsomely has become. More than the animated antagonist, Simmons is a riveting villain — a black hole suffocating all the attention to him — who strikes venom on his students’ vulnerabilities and betrays them of any flicker of trust he lured them. In its brutal moments, WHIPLASH is almost merciless as Fletcher fumes and erupts over a physically and emotionally battered Andrew. But as the film’s David, Andrew is determined to keep his passion on beating and finally earns the approval of the Goliath in a black suit. Reinvigorating of hope and ambition, WHIPLASH, in its unlikely way, becomes a story of triumph not just for Andrew but for the viewers who see the character in them. What director Chazelle created as inspired by his life turns into an inspiring modern masterpiece that definitely deserves a standing ovation.
THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING
It has the precise production elements, galvanized by the memorable performances of Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, but the loose thread on its themes and the superficial treatment of its source material dispel the potential of THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING on becoming a more self-sufficient adaptation. There’s no denying of the love that stood between acclaimed physicist Stephen Hawking and ex-wife Jane Wilde but the onscreen journey of their relationship felt like an obligatory and theoretical portrayal of Wilde’s memoir, rather than the inherent evolution of their feelings that would have made the romantic aspect more endearing. Unfastened from each other’s orbit, Redmayne and Jones are transformative of their craft; Redmayne physically committing himself in Hawking’s withering state that was both fascinating and agonizing to watch while Jones carrying the weightier emotional barrel as Jane struggles in her growing family, frustration and feelings for her lover. Together, the leads are bounded by simple pronouncements of loving and letting go (which is quite understandable) but the chronology of events after their marriage seemed like a disparate reenactment of the Hawkings’ plot-moving moments that one can simply skim on the film’s source material. The film is blatant on its universal motif of love and hope but Director James Marsh only fished on the skin-deep surface of Hawking’s extraordinary life. Without the emotional core that it flimsily established, The Theory of Everything tumbles on its detached storytelling and shallow direction that could have been greater, if it only embraced everything — the heart, mind and soul — of its subject matter.