Death at a Funeral
This Frank Oz–directed masterpiece proves that all the best parties seem to involve dead bodies and ensemble casts. Picture a mature, 21st-century vaudeville with a 90-minute plot, midgets, naked dudes hallucinating from rooftops, and all.
2 Days in Paris
This little piece of narcissism was directed by, written by, and starred in by Julie Delpy, evoking neuroses that Woody Allen seems to have left behind. While its less romantic and somewhat meaner characters might be disappointing to fans of Delpy’s previous conversation pieces, Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, seeing her in the wider context of her family and old friends results in an exciting characterization.
Screenwriter Diablo Cody made her debut with this unusual comedy. There are flaws, certainly. The dialogue, especially in the beginning, is almost kitschy in the way it tries to mimic the jokes of antisocial high schoolers. And it doesn’t deal with the complexities and repercussions of teenage pregnancy in any satisfying way, no matter what your views on fetuses. But Ellen Page and Michael Cera, it turns out, can act like no other, and the soundtrack is enough to tilt your opinion from the get-go.
Watching this film, I didn’t realize I was screaming until I heard sounds that could only have come from my gaping mouth. The film follows a woman who has moved into the former orphanage where she lived as a child, which she chooses to reopen as a home for ill children. Later, she decides to stay even after an exorcist declares it haunted, and her husband and HIV-positive adopted son move out at a social worker’s prompting. The shots are beautiful but claustrophobic, just as they should be.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
I was skeptical of this film about a stroke victim who can only communicate by blinking one eye; there could surely be only minimal sound throughout the movie. But director Julian Schnabel manages to marry voiceovers, the speech of secondary characters, and overlying music to form a cohesive whole. Atmospheric, stylistic, and moody, this film brings color out of hopelessness.