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Saturday, 16 March 2013

THIS WEEK: Mama / The Perks of Being a Wallflower

MAMA - (2013 - UK Certificate 15)


Mama is a poetic ghost story with a slightly haunting quality, featuring a lot of the trademarks with which Del Toro is clearly in love, so we see why he produced it.  Two girls go missing after their father murders their mother, kidnaps them, and attempts to end their life along with his own, only to be stopped by the mysterious titular character.  Five years later the girls are found, having survived, and are brought to live with their uncle and his reluctant rock-chick girlfriend, who the movie ends up being as much about as anything else.  The big question is, what was this mysterious character that appears to have saved the girls, and where is it now?  The story, predictably, deals with the mother/daughter bond in what turns out to be rather a "round the campfire ghost story" manner.

This sounds promising; indeed even the trailer whet the appetite nicely and prepared us for a film that looked set to follow in the footsteps of preceding Del Toro-produced successes.  Unfortunately, whilst it is carried fairly well by some familiar faces, most notably the chameleon-like Jessica Chastain, overall it has a sense about it of having been rushed, which shows not only in her character arc, but in the delivery of certain plot points which don't feel entirely thought through and, at times, a tad passe.  The whole thing lacks the creeping intensity of the first half of, say, Insidious or Sinister, as one might expect, and it also features the effects and lighter sort of scariness we saw with The Woman in Black and Don't Be Afraid of the Dark.  Given its theme and ultimate denouement, what it really needs is more of The Orphanage and The Devil's Backbone.

The negatives and some unmissable, lazy inconsistencies aside, however, this remains a perfectly passable, creepy flick.  A lot of credit should go to a director who extended his short to make this as his first feature, but don't expect to see it sitting alongside any classics in a few years.

2.5 / 5


THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER - (2012 - UK Certificate 12)

Based on his own book, Stephen Chbosky adapts  The Perks of Being a Wallflower and captures rather well a time and place, and a group who aren't just cliches, but genuine people we care about, even with their flaws.  Logan Lerman plays Charlie, the troubled wallflower of the title, entering his first year of high school and facing all the trials that are part of coming of age.  Upon meeting Patrick and Sam, a fantastic Ezra Miller playing completely different to how most last saw him in We Need To Talk About Kevin, and Emma Watson, he becomes part of the out-crowd, discovers the joys and pains of love, the importance of music and sincerity, being yourself, and ultimately confronts the ghosts of his childhood, defying them to shape his future.

There is a question mark over Watson, not because she gives a bad performance, but just because some may feel she was miscast.  There is also the occasional anachronistic element, as well as some oddly under-written roles.  That said, a great deal of the film has a very sincere spirit, and an ambition to tell an honest story that comes to feel very real.  "We are infinite" is a tagline for the movie; whilst the film will perhaps not be infinite as such, it is certainly worthy of your attention.  Whether you are the age of the characters or not, it does a rather smart job of capturing a specific feeling, what it is to find real friendship, and distilling it in to images, like a moving photo book.  In some way we catch glimpses of The Catcher in the Rye, a story told in such a way as to elicit reflection on our own formative years, and maybe find some empathy for adolescents we truly care about.

3.5 / 5


On DVD/Blu Ray
Catch it if you like:  Donnie Darko, Juno, The Man Without a Face

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