V for Vendetta
Review by Matt Justus
This adaptation of Alan Moore’s graphic novel is set twenty years in the future, in a dystopian London ruled by a fascist government that has eliminated people’s civil liberties and does not hesitate to murder its citizens for speaking out against the state. Enter V (Hugo Weaving), an enigmatic superhero bent on exposing the government as corrupt and reestablishing democracy. To aid him in his quest, V enlists the help of everywoman Evey (Natalie Portman). The movie is very slick and fluidly filmed – instead of “bullet time” we get something like “knife time,” which boils down to slow motion shots of a bunch of people having their throats cut. Also, it’s been said before, but Weaving does a fantastic job with the character of V and does somehow manage to emote through his unmoving mask.
However, there is one major problem with the film that really hurts its overall effect, especially when compared to the original graphic novel. V is essentially a terrorist, and yet he is presented as being completely in the right – the ambiguity over whether or not he is right in doing what he does (or even sane, for that matter) is gone but for one mention. The filmmakers’ viewpoints are clearly expressed through the people’s unanimous willingness to revolt as soon as V prompts them to do so (making you wonder why they couldn’t just do it themselves), and through V’s inexplicable ability to commit enormous acts of terrorism and cause no collateral damage of any kind.
Rating: **1/2 – Worth the time and money to see it, and I’ll probably even buy it when it comes out on DVD, but the oversimplification makes it a disappointment when compared with the source material.
Review by Matt Justus
As a wedding present, self-loathing writer Miles (Paul Giamatti) brings his former college roommate and best friend, shallow voice actor Jack (Thomas Haden Church), on a trip to Northern California’s wine country to give him a taste of culture. Unbeknownst to Miles, Jack sees the vacation as the chance to sleep with another woman before his nuptials, and maybe to get Miles a girl in the process. Unfortunately, Miles’ preoccupation with his ex-wife of two years puts a damper on his ability to begin a relationship with longtime waitress Maya (Virginia Madsen).
The best thing about the film is its honesty. It handles everything right – the big themes involving Miles’ self-esteem and his intimacy issues are exquisitely explored, especially the idea that there is no grand epiphany in real life after which our problems just disappear, but instead a see-saw battle that we hope to be on the right side of at any given moment. The little details are also perfectly managed, and the dialogue is brilliant. My favorite bit comes as Miles mourns that he’s too inconsequential even to kill himself, since none of the great writers committed suicide before getting published. Jack helpfully points out that the guy who wrote A Confederacy of Dunces did it, and look how famous he got.
Rating: **** – The first four-star rating I (or any other reviewer, as long as I’ve been editor) have given out here in the Record, and richly deserved. Paul Giamatti deserves an Oscar, and soon.