Spling reviews Matilda the Musical, White Noise and Vlugtig as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Listen to podcast.
Good morning – welcome to Talking Movies, I’m Spling…
This week, we’re talking about a musical comedy drama, an absurdist comedy-drama and a psychological drama thriller.
Starting off with a film now on Netflix…
Matilda is the story of a remarkable girl who, armed with a sharp mind and a vivid imagination, takes a stand to change her story, with miraculous results.
Director: Matthew Warchus
Stars: Alisha Weir, Emma Thompson and Lashana Lynch
The latest version of Roald Dahl’s beloved tale is an adaptation of the Tony and Olivier award-winning musical. A colourful and imaginative rendition, the story hinges on the adversarial and iconic roles of Matilda and Miss Trunchbull. Weir is a remarkable young talent whose performance requires dexterity across a range of disciplines. The production pivots on this role, which while fulfilled is somewhat disconnected. Thompson is almost unrecognisable, adopting various facial and body prosthetics to enhance her larger-than-life performance as the cantankerous Miss Trunchbull. Set in the UK, there’s a greater sense of authenticity to this lively production than Danny DeVito’s version, augmenting Tim Minchin’s musical numbers with some energetic choreography. While everyone seems to be pulling their weight from cast to crew, this musical doesn’t have the same charm as the stage play it’s based on. There is a professional air to proceedings, making for a rather detached, glib and forced adaptation that seems to be more concerned with visual splendour and stick-it-to-the-man attitude than crafting relatable characters. As fun and upbeat as it is, there’s a superficiality that undermines all the energy and trinkets.
It did just enough to land…
A satisfactory 6 on the splingometer!
Moving on to a film now on Netflix…
A modern American family attempts to deal with everyday conflicts while grappling with the universal mysteries of love, death, and the possibility of happiness in an uncertain world.
Writer-Director: Noah Baumbach
Stars: Adam Driver, Greta Gerwig and Don Cheadle
Once regarded as impossible to adapt, Don DeLillo’s White Noise is now more accessible, dealing with artifice, capitalism and “packaged death”. Going to some dark places, White Noise is never discordant enough to derail but will leave many viewers scratching their heads with this faithful adaptation. Adam Driver’s physical transformation and strange accessibility make him the golden thread, offering a sense of continuity even when things go from absurd to surreal. White Noise starts like a cinematic blend of Seinfeld, Arrested Development, Donnie Darko and The Wonder Years in the key of Jesse Eisenberg. While Eisenberg is nowhere to be seen, his smart, witty, self-deprecating and cerebral whimsy abounds as high-level discussions are counterbalanced by wry humour and ordinary crises. Entrenched in the 80s, the dark temperament and throwback soundtrack is reminiscent of Donnie Darko, while the warmth and nostalgia echoes the candour and gentle turmoil of The Wonder Years. White Noise starts strong, crafting its own fun, retro and quirky world much like Juno, only to skid into the gloom, shadows and hallucinatory vibrations of Inherent Vice. While it has the heart and entertainment value of National Lampoon’s Vacation, the overarching and lofty themes remain out-of-reach, nullifying layered efforts with a quizzical and dangerous final detour. White Noise largely captures the spirit of the source material but ultimately alienates its characters and in doing so, the audience.
A satisfactory 6 on the splingometer!
And finally a film now on Showmax…
Things take an unexpected turn when an up-and-coming actor is invited to join the cast of a world-renowned theatre director’s Red Riding Hood reinvention.
Director: Marinus Gubitz
Stars: Arno Greeff, Jane de Wet and Ernst Van Wyk
Vlugtig or Briefly is based on a short film of the same name, which explores an eventful actor’s workshop staged at a cabin in the woods. The feature takes more time to introduce the budding actor whose pantomime acting gig makes way for a much meatier role. Retaining the focus on a trio comprised of director, actor and actress, this psychological thriller toys with the art of performance as an eccentric megalomaniac fosters a boot camp atmosphere. Rehearsing scenes, coaching his actors and taking an experimental approach to summoning soulful performances, boundaries are broken and lives are changed forever. Greeff and Van Wyk reprise their roles from the short film with de Wet’s haunting beauty adding another dimension to the drama. While the film still encompasses the major turning points of the short film, Vlugtig doesn’t feel too stretched, able to anchor the lead character and compose value-adding bookends. Reveling in the situational tension, Vlugtig thrives when its teetering on the edge of role reversal. The film’s haunting tone, isolated cabin in the woods setting and unpredictable atmosphere creates the perfect conditions for a psychological thriller. Leaning on solid performances, a sense of character history and teasing out a precarious situation, this intimate, thoughtful and even contemplative drama is prickly enough to keep you guessing as an inhibited young actor is put through a trial by fire.
It did enough to warrant…
A solid 7 on the splingometer!
So just to wrap up…
MATILDA THE MUSICAL… a colourful, fun, lively yet rather detached and superficial adaptation of the beloved musical… A satisfactory 6!
WHITE NOISE… lofty themes colour this uneven yet amusing, spirited, well-acted and sometimes surreal comedy-drama adaptation… A satisfactory 6!
VLUGTIG… an intimate cast compels this brooding, haunting, provocative and thought-provoking psychological drama thriller… A solid 7!
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