Saturday, November 3, 2007

Closing Night - by Jordan Singer

REVIEW -- The Kite Runner

Director Marc Forster’s adaptation of Khaled Hosseini’s international bestseller “The Kite Runner” is a highly effective and faithful rendition of the beloved book. The film is visually pleasing, and though it lacks the voice of the first-person narrator, it speaks through the actors and the beautifully rendered scenes. “The Kite Runner” is an ethical tale of fathers and sons, friendship and betrayal, and guilt and redemption, set against the backdrop of Afghanistan’s turbulent politics, past and present.

Screenplay writer David Benioff (“Gladiator,” “Troy”) seems to go out of his way to stay true to the novels most important plot points. Benioff has condensed the characters and the events, but doesn’t fail to incorporate the important aspects, noticeably in much of the dialogue, which was often lifted directly off the printed page. He finds a natural balance between English and Dari delivery and because the cast were all native speakers of the language, it was more authentic and honest.

Like the book, the film strides a fine line between being sentimental and moving. If some sequences in the film seem a bit conventional, it’s because of their existence in the source material.

The story is separated into three sections. The first, set in 1978 Afghanistan, concerns the two boys in their younger years, Amir (the well-to-do Afghani boy and protagonist) and Hassan (the loyal Hazara friend and servant.) This section follows them throughout their close friendship – from their love of kite flying and American action movies, all the way through to the heartbreaking beating and rape of Hassan. This creates the tension throughout the story, settling into Amir’s mind as his first betrayal to his loyal friend – he is forever guilty.

The second, set in California and cut short compared to the book, portrays him and his father after they fled the country, leading to Amir’s marriage and his father’s eventual death because of cancer. The third section brings the story to a full circle. It takes Amir back to Afghanistan after a call from his father’s best friend, Rhahim Khan, telling him “there is a way to be good again.” On his journey back, Amir learns the truth about the life that he led when he was younger, and the truth about Hassan. Khan gives him his opportunity of redemption. Amir takes this chance, and the last chapter of the film soars through emotional realism, bringing the entire story to a full round.

Loyal readers of the beloved book will enjoy the faithful rendition, the genuinely selected cast, and the lovely rendered scenes. Though, it is true what they say about adaptations of books to film – the book will always be slightly better and in this case, it was no different. What Forster and his team were able to achieve will not disappoint too drastically, for the film was an amazing portrayal of the tale of friendship, and of how, though life may be haunted by guilt, “there is a way to be good again.”

By Victoria Phetmisy
Staff Writer, District


Friday, November 2, 2007

REVIEW -- The Savages

Dementia, an extra-marital affair, a bad childhood, a struggling relationship and death. Hilarious. “The Savages” takes a realistic and awkwardly funny look at dealing with any form of death.

Laura Linney plays Wendy Savage, a neurotic and struggling playwright who spends her days stealing office supplies at her temp job and writing grant proposals so she can write a play about her horrible childhood. She also has a lackluster affair with a married man. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays her brother, Jon Savage, a college professor living in Buffalo, N.Y. with a failing relationship to a Polish woman. The two siblings are brought together when their father, played by Philip Bosco, begins showing signs of dementia.

The film is seriously funny in that it will cause guffawing laughter at points, but also because it finds the truth behind the humor. Writer/director Tamara Jenkins, known for her 1998 film “The Slums of Beverly Hills,” knows when to enlighten and when to bring ambiguity onto the screen. We are never fully told the childhood events of the siblings, but we see the effects. Understanding is gained through the insecurities, betrayals and poignancy of the characters’ actions.

Every actor is at the top of their game in this film. Linney is endearing even when her actions are annoying. Hoffman conveys so much with his eyes, the movie could be seen muted and audiences would still laugh and cry along with him. Bosco is wonderful. He does not give in to the stereotypical way of playing a senile old man. Although it is a family drama and there have been a billion others before, this film makes everything fresh and new.

There is so much “The Savages” gets right, particularly the interactions among estranged family members. The siblings are blunt and devoid of social niceties toward each other. They are also guarded in their personal lives, but curious about the other sibling’s secrets.

There is a wonderful motif of watching the world from a car window. Every character has a moment where they stare at the passing trees while reflecting on their personal situations. As the seasons change and winter approaches, these moments show the gradual decline of life in the trees and in the characters’ lives.

In a particularly exceptional scene, Wendy is angry with Jon for putting their father in a sub-par nursing home, so she tries to get Lenny into a nicer and prettier facility. Jon fires back with the idea that these nicer facilities are only there to mask the truth about death. Death is disturbing and horrible and there is no way around it.

Every character is dealing with death in some way. Wendy is, in a way, already dead. She is unresponsive to her lover and numb from all the Percocet and anti-depressants she takes. Lenny, the father, is mentally dead from the dementia. Jon cuts off his emotions from his failed relationship and from the news about his father. It isn’t until the siblings come together that they start coming alive. They battle each other mentally with their conflicting emotions. The Savages begin to challenge their lives and their emotional deaths.

In its depiction of death, “The Savages” shrewdly manages to be funny, realistic and thought provoking. It finds hope in unlikely places and takes the family drama genre to a new level. This film is pitch perfect.

By Tandy Versyp
Staff Writer, District

Producer's Panel - Friday, Nov. 2

Coffee Talk Friday Morning

Coffee Talk Thursday Morning