Talking Movies: Good Life, Every Breath You Take and Fitzcarraldo

Spling reviews Good Life, Every Breath You Take and Fitzcarraldo 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 romance comedy drama, a psychological mystery thriller and an adventure drama.

Starting off with a film now on Netflix…

GOOD LIFE

A brokenhearted oral hygienist flees Cape Town to locate a family home in Greece.

Writer-Director: Bonnie Rodini

Stars: Erica Wessels, Sven Ruygrok and Marco Mintaka

– Following in the tradition of My Life in Ruins, Shirley Valentine and The Durrells, comes Good Life, a romance comedy drama about a woman’s Greek misadventure.
– This is a gentle, sweet and ambling movie, which is somewhat reminiscent of Doc Marten for story, setting and character focus.
– Based on a pilot, the likeable Erica Wessels reprises her role now in a different phase of her life but still able to capture the essence of Olive.
– Shot entirely in South Africa, production design and location scouting helps set the scene for a modest film created during the Covid-19 pandemic.
– While an admirable effort to emulate Greece with an anchoring soundtrack and some choice aerial photography, it’s never quite as idyllic as the cliché version expressed in Mamma Mia.
– Rodini’s casting elevates the oddball community that make up this light and bubbly small town affair but it’s thinly scripted and a bit too straightforward.
– Harnessing a TV quality, the slow pacing and holiday setting make it amusing, yet it’s too literal to conjure up much more substance than its themes around family, community and curses.
– Spinning off a number of supporting acts, Good Life is sweet and even charming thanks to its game cast but is too unfocused in terms of story and character to offer much more than breezy and light entertainment.
– A series would have given the characters the luxury of time for further exploration, greater development and more emotional investment.
– Given its limitations, modest budget, shooting and travel restrictions, there’s still much to admire even if the overall feeling is a little vanilla.

A flat 5 on the splingometer!
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Moving on to a movie now on Showmax…

EVERY BREATH YOU TAKE

A psychiatrist whose client commits suicide finds his family life disrupted.

Director: Vaughn Stein

Stars: Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan and Sam Claflin

– Having been stuck in development for years, this potent psychological mystery thriller’s end result is mostly disappointing based on its promising start.
– The stellar ensemble bring a moodiness to the thriller, each more than talented enough to carry a film given the right motivation.
– While they raise expectations and the film’s profile, Affleck and Monaghan are under-utilised, mostly there to represent their film history.
– Claflin starts as an inspired casting call but gets progressively more and more over-the-top like Jack Nicholson in The Shining as the thriller spirals out of control.
– Every Breath You Take has atmosphere and an eerie undertone but struggles to activate its entourage of plodding characters against its intriguing mystery.
– The film’s clinical Scandinavian edge doesn’t offer much texture and while it looks and sounds the part, there’s just not enough grit or substance to get a foothold.
– The real travesty is that so much talent is squandered on such a bland, predictable and wayward mystery thriller.
– It’s easy enough to endure the first half but becomes frustrating when you realise it’s in top gear and unintentionally amusing when the wheels start to come off.

A flat 5 on the splingometer!
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And finally a blast from the past on YouTube…

FITZCARRALDO

The story of Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald, an extremely determined man who intends to build an opera house in the middle of a jungle.

Director: Werner Herzog

Stars: Klaus Kinski, Claudia Cardinale and José Lewgoy

– Fitzcarraldo is an epic adventure drama from the mind of Werner Herzog, a film Jack Nicholson considered but which landed in the lap of Jason Robards and Mick Jagger.
– After health concerns derailed the ambitious production at the halfway mark, Herzog cast Klaus Kinski after thinking about taking on the lead role himself.
– What follows is a problematic masterpiece, a grand operatic quest about a romantic lunatic that reflects the director’s equally insane ambitions for this film.
– Instead of using visual effects, Herzog opted to make Fitzcarraldo as real as possible, a decision that ultimately elevates and detracts from the 1982 epic.
– Legendary for its behind-the-scenes stories and critically-acclaimed for its daring feats, Herzog’s also criticised for Fitzcarraldo’s colonialist fever dream and decisions that risked lives unnecessarily in the pursuit of art.
– Its contemporary would be The Lost City of Z, a poetic adventure that blends fiction and reality to the point that incredulous suspense haunts long after the credits roll.
– Compelled by a similar docudrama edge, it’s Kinski’s maddening performance and Herzog’s Apocalypse Now that give this authentic and at times awe-inspiring film it’s raw intensity.
– Unfortunately, the re-recording and lip sync are out at times taking away from the immediacy of this bold undertaking but like many of Herzog’s films, its audacious spirit more than makes up for its shortcomings.
– A time capsule and cautionary tale, it’s easy to love and hate, a film that represents the best and worst of filmmaking with a self-reflective tale, which Herzog still regards as one of his greatest triumphs.

A solid 7 on the splingometer!
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So just to wrap up…

GOOD LIFE… a modest, straightforward and breezy holiday romance comedy drama with a game cast and charming collective of oddballs… A flat 5!

EVERY BREATH YOU TAKE… a stellar cast are under-utilised in this intriguing, moody, yet plodding and predictable psychological mystery thriller… A flat 5!

FITZCARRALDO… a maniacal star and ambitious director summon operatic gusto in this awe-inspiring, epic and wandering docudrama misadventure… A solid 7!

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

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

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