Talking Movies: A Fortunate Man, Brightburn and Catching Feelings

Spling reviews A Fortunate Man, Brightburn and Catching Feelings as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Listen to podcast.

TRANSCRIPT

“Good morning – welcome to Talking Movies, I’m Spling…

This week, we’re talking about a period piece drama, a sci-fi horror drama and a romance comedy drama.

Starting off with…

A FORTUNATE MAN

In the late 19th century, an ambitious young man from a devout Christian family travels to the Danish capital of Copenhagen to realise his engineering vision.

Director: Bille August

Stars: Esben Smed, Katrine Greis-Rosenthal and Benjamin Kitter

– A Fortunate Man is based on the novel Lucky Per by Danish Nobel Prize–winning author Henrik Pontoppidan, about an ambitious young engineering student with a dream to connect Denmark to the same power grid using windmills, canals and turbines harnessing nature
– leaving generations of clergy in the dust, the prodigal son sets out to fulfil his quest for clean energy, trying to divorce himself from an unhappy childhood
– the backdrop is a revolutionary technological endeavour, yet the real conflict in A Fortunate Man is the battle for his soul, as religion, family ties and social standing become a series of obstacles to overcome
– a period piece, it’s quite exquisitely drawn with an old world feel through authentic wardrobe, breathtaking backdrops and ornate production design
– while relatively unknown, you could imagine Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead as a solid ensemble pull together to support Esben Smed
– elegant, nuanced and well-written, it’s an epic drama that reads like a fable without over-simplifying, constantly self-evaluating and analysing the emotional undercurrent
– A Fortunate Man is a grand, classy and intelligent film, subtle in its storytelling and complex in its ambition
– it’s a niche film, which while quite long is ultimately rewarding and even haunting

An excellent 8 on the splingometer
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Moving on to…

BRIGHTBURN

What if a child from another world crash-landed on Earth, but instead of becoming a hero to mankind, he proved to be something far more sinister?

Director: David Yarovesky

Stars: Elizabeth Banks, David Denman and Jackson A. Dunn

– Superman has always been the near-invincible, all-powerful, alien superhero and force for good
– Brightburn twists the story of Superman to ask “what if he was evil?”
– a curious question, possibly provoked by some choice scenes in Justice League, the film has been treated as a sci-fi horror drama rather than a high-flying action fantasy
– focusing on his childhood, the name and symbols have changed but the story remains familiar
– it was always going to be a challenge to connect the audience with a creepy teenage powerhouse, and without a steady co-lead to invest in, the experience is somewhat detached
– it’s entertaining thanks to its bizarre premise and technical competence, however Brightburn doesn’t go deep enough, failing to add the necessary layers to heighten the suspense and complexity, falling back on horror and serial killer clichés
– it’s a dark, twisted and curious experiment, which while misguided and superficial, remains reasonably entertaining in spite of being overly ambitious and lacking in nuance

A flat 5 on the splingometer!
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And finally…

CATCHING FEELINGS

An young academic and his beautiful wife’s lives get turned upside down when a celebrated and hedonistic older writer moves into their Johannesburg home.

Writer-Director: Kagiso Lediga

Stars: Kagiso Lediga, Pearl Thusi and Andrew Buckland

– Kagiso Lediga delivers his best film yet, after appearing in a number of promising yet problematic local films
– focusing on the city of Johannesburg, its subculture and people, he delivers a romance comedy drama in a similar fashion to Woody Allen’s preoccupation with New York
– fast, colloquial and offhandedly witty, Catching Feelings finds its groove in the dialogue
– leaning on characters, situations and wisecracks, the plotting is secondary, trying to capture the essence of Johannesburg through the eyes of a paranoid academic and aspiring writer
– from racial to sexual politics, the comedy weaves in and out of comedic bits as it comes to rest on the uncertainty and fear of accommodating his literary idol
– while savvy, sexy and suave, the scenes change but the characters hover, making the process a little stagnant
– it’s mostly sleek, yet some of the stroke choices seem haphazard, trying to give the film a dynamic and spacious feeling, yet becoming distracting in terms of conveying the subtextual messages
– while a step up, leaning on its charming ensemble, it’s uncertainty rises to the surface, remaining entertaining, showing glimpses of its true potential yet struggling to find substance beyond its Woody Allen ambitions

A satisfactory 6 on the splingometer
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So just to wrap up…

A FORTUNATE MAN… pristine production design, elegant visuals, solid performances and a classic narrative underpin this grand and nuanced drama… An excellent 8!

BRIGHTBURN… while promising, this ambitious re-imagining is undermined by its detached storytelling and superficial treatment… A flat 5!

CATCHING FEELINGS… a charming cast and sharp-witted interplay mostly redeem this unsteady Woody Allen style romantic comedy… A satisfactory 6!

For more movie reviews, interviews and previous Talking Movies podcasts visit splingmovies.com.

And remember, Don’t WING it, SPL!NG it!”

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