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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Monday, February 06, 2012

Movie Review - Restless

Restless (2011)
Starring Henry Hopper and Mia Wasikowska
Directed by Gus Van Sant

Perhaps if I had watched Restless on another day, I would've found the quirky and twee flick irritating and obnoxious.  However, luckily for the Gus Van Sant film, I was apparently in a mood for oddness, because I was won over by the sweet and touching (though doomed from the outset) romance, and while it's a film that has some flaws, Restless is a pleasant tale of youthful romance.

Enoch (Henry Hopper) is a teenage high school drop-out who spends his days crashing funerals.  Ever since his parents died in a car crash, Enoch's been living in a world replete with death (including his "imaginary" best friend, Hiroshi [Ryo Kase], a Japanese kamikaze pilot who died in World War II).  While out on his daily funeral visits, Enoch meets Annabel (Mia Wasikowska) who doesn't find Enoch's obsession with mortality bizarre at all.  In fact, she's a bit of an oddball sweet free spirit as well...who also happens to have inoperable brain cancer and a three-month window to live.

What certainly makes Restless succeed are the great performances of the two leads.  In one of his first roles, Henry Hopper (son of the late Dennis Hopper) seems pitch perfect.  Yes, his character is morbid, and yes, he's essentially stone-faced throughout much of the movie, but I totally understood the odd character of Enoch thanks to Hopper.  I understood why he went to funerals; I believed the ridiculousness of him speaking with dead Japanese fighter pilots; and I felt when he fell in love with Annabel.  Something clicked there that was impressive.

And as for Mia Wasikowska, it's by far the best role I've seen her in yet.  While I liked her in Jane Eyre where she was forced to play an emotionless statue, in Restless she is as goshdarn cute as could be.  There's a slight Woody Allen-Diane Keaton Annie Hall vibe coming from her (and not just because of the hats she wears throughout) that I totally dig.  You connect with her Annabel right away because she creates a character that seems real and lovable despite her idiosyncrasies, and, because of that connection, the film becomes all the more difficult to watch as her illness progresses.

As the two begin to fall in love, they find themselves overcoming their own demons thanks to the help of one another and considering the rather morose undertones of the whole flick, I found myself smiling quite a bit thanks to the tone set by the director and screenwriter.  Admittedly, as I mentioned in my first sentence, you need to be willing to go along for the ride on this one and give in to the weirdness or else you'll find this a tedious mess to sit through.  I succumbed to the cuteness and found the whole thing rather surprisingly enjoyable.  Granted, it isn't without its faults -- I think the last third unfortunately ends the movie on a rather sour note and doesn't wrap things up with its characters in a believable manner [a pretty big fault, actually] -- but, for the most part, Restless works.

The RyMickey Rating:  B-

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