Sunday, December 06, 2015

Movie Review - Clouds of Sils Maria

Clouds of Sils Maria (2015)
Starring Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart, and Chloë Grace Moretz
Directed by Olivier Assayas

There is an enormous level of pretentiousness that runs rampant through Clouds of Sils Maria.  That's not necessarily a death knell for director-screenwriter Olivier Assayas' film, but it does create some issues in terms of the audience connecting with the characters who perhaps may have interesting stories to tell, but are oftentimes burdened with dialog-driven scenes that reek of pompousness.

Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche) is a famous movie star who started her career by starring in a play by (fictional) Swiss playwright Wilhelm Melchior.  The play -- Maloja Snake -- revolves around the tempestuous relationship between the fiftysomething Helena who begins to fall for Sigrid, a young girl who is working for her.  Eventually, the verbal and emotional battle between the two women leads the older Helena to suicide when her feelings are not reciprocated.  When traveling to Switzerland to accept an award for the now-reclusive playwright, Maria learns that Melchior has died.  She also speaks with a young director who wishes to revive Maloja Snake on the London stage with Maria playing the older Helena now and up-and-coming actress Jo-Ann Ellis (Chloë Grace Moretz) as the younger Sigrid.  Reluctantly, Maria agrees to the revival and in order to prepare for the role, she goes to Melchior's Swiss house where she and her personal assistant Valentine (Kristen Stewart) spend a lot of time talking about how age affects women among other things.

Ultimately, the problem with Clouds of Sils Maria is that it feels flat, failing to really create meaningful, interesting arcs for both its characters and its story.  The film thinks it's deep -- and maybe it really is -- but it meanders so mind-numbingly slowly that any metaphorical or psychological importance is lost as the viewer loses interest.  Juliette Binoche is fine and Kristen Stewart (who received rave reviews and the French equivalent of the Oscar for this role) is playing her most natural role yet, but the latter just doesn't have a whole lot to sink her teeth into and the former is mired in depressing malaise for 120 minutes that the audience simply doesn't want to have anything to do with her despite the fact that she's onscreen for every moment of the film.  While nicely shot, the boredom Clouds of Sils Maria inspires in the viewer just can't be overcome.

The RyMickey Rating:  D+

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