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The Films of Lasse Hallström

Shall We Go to My Place or Your Place or Each Go Home Alone?

A Guy and a Gal

ABBA: The Movie


Två killar och en tjej

My Life as a Dog

The Children of Noisy Village

Once Around

What's Eating Gilbert Grape (July 1/06)

Based on the novel by Peter Hedges, What's Eating Gilbert Grape is a slow-moving yet thoroughly compelling film revolving around the exploits of the Grape family. At the center is Gilbert Grape (Johnny Depp), a well-meaning sort who desperately wants something more for his life - though he's clearly trapped by his responsibilities to his brood, which includes his mentally-handicapped brother (Leonardo DiCaprio) and grossly overweight mother (Darlene Cates). Director Lasse Hallstrom - working from Hedges' screenplay - infuses What's Eating Gilbert Grape with a distinctly laid-back kind of feel, emphasizing the characters and their foibles over overtly-obvious plot developments. As such, the film's opening hour is far less involving and engaging than one might've liked - a vibe that's exacerbated by the inclusion of several needless subplots (ie Gilbert's illicit relationship with a married housewife). But there's no denying that - as Hedges begins to strip away some of the egregiously superfluous elements within his script - the film gradually takes on a distinctly poignant turn, to the extent that these characters finally become figures worth caring about and rooting for. Depp's sincere, subtle performance is certainly a big reason for the movie's success, something that's just as true of the uniformly superb supporting cast (DiCaprio and Cates are especially effective). As a character study and as a look at small town life, What's Eating Gilbert Grape surely excels - though there's no doubt that the film could've used just a little more judicious editing.

out of

Something to Talk About

The Cider House Rules


The Shipping News

An Unfinished Life


The Hoax (November 23/07)

Based on a true story, The Hoax follows a struggling writer (Richard Gere's Clifford Irving) as he convinces his publishers that he's been commissioned by Howard Hughes to write his official autobiography - though, of course, Clifford has actually never met the reclusive billionaire. Director Lasse Hallstrom - working from William Wheeler's screenplay - has infused The Hoax with a breezy, light-hearted sensibility that proves impossible to resist, and there's little doubt that Gere's surprisingly loose performance plays a substantial role in cementing this vibe. The actor ably steps into the shoes of a character that's simultaneously charming and sleazy, while there's certainly no denying the effectiveness of the uniformly strong supporting cast (Alfred Molina, as Clifford's long-suffering friend, is an obvious standout). It's only when Wheeler starts to place the emphasis on the personal problems of the various characters - ie Clifford's crumbling relationship with his wife - that the film starts to lose its momentum, with the egregiously predictable (and melodramatic) third act only exacerbating this feeling. Yet it's ultimately clear that The Hoax generally marks a refreshing change of pace from Hallstrom's almost oppressively sentimental modus operandi as of late.

out of

Hachi: A Dog's Tale (March 10/10)

Inspired by true events, Hachi: A Dog's Tale details the unusually strong bond that forms between a college professor (Richard Gere's Parker Wilson) and a dog named Hachi after the former finds the latter abandoned at a nearby train station. Director Lasse Hallstrom has infused Hachi: A Dog's Tale with a relaxed sensibility that effectively reflects Stephen P. Lindsey's low-key screenplay, with the palpable chemistry between Parker and Hachi effectively sustaining the viewer's interest during the film's decidedly uneventful opening hour (ie Gere is at his charismatic best here, and that dog is almost absurdly adorable). The pleasant, easy-going atmosphere is perpetuated by the colorful array of supporting characters, as Hallstrom does a nice job of establishing the various townspeople that become an increasingly pivotal part of Hachi's story (including Jason Alexander's Carl and Erick Avari's Jess). And while the pervasively laid-back vibe might be too much for some folks to handle, the viewer's patience is certainly rewarded once the tremendously moving third act rolls around - as the story's expectedly tragic turn is exploited to maximum emotional effect by Hallstrom. It's consequently not a stretch to label Hachi: A Dog's Tale the most gut-wrenching tearjerker to come around in quite some time, and there's little doubt that the film will undoubtedly leave dog lovers reeling long after the end credits have rolled.

out of

Dear John (February 2/10)

Based on the book by Nicholas Sparks, Dear John follows military man John Tyree (Channing Tatum) as he finds himself falling for a free-spirited college student (Amanda Seyfried's Savannah Curtis) while on leave - with their unabashedly idealized romance hitting a seemingly insurmountable road block after John extends his tour in the aftermath of 9/11. There's little doubt that Dear John fares best in its opening hour, as the tentative relationship between John and Savannah is ultimately handled a lot better and far more maturely than one might've expected - as director Lasse Hallstrom employs an impressively artful sensibility that separates the film from its typically superficial and glossy teenage-romance brethren (ie Adam Shankman's cloying adaptation of Sparks' A Walk to Remember). And although the filmmaker's reliance on languid pacing results in a watchable yet thoroughly uneven atmosphere, the palpable chemistry between the central characters proves affecting enough to carry the proceedings through its less-than-enthralling stretches. It's subsequently not surprising to note that Dear John demonstrably suffers as John and Savannah are forced to spend much of the movie's midsection apart, with the uniformly stellar performances ultimately sustaining the viewer's interest during this comparatively lackluster portion of the proceedings. Seyfried's expectedly luminous work is matched by a surprisingly layered performance from her otherwise unremarkable co-star, yet there's little doubt that it's Richard Jenkins - cast as John's emotionally distant father - who inevitably walks away with the title of MVP (ie he's just that good). The final result is a feel-good romance that's actually more satisfying than its literary predecessor, as the film's relatively upbeat conclusion feels like a more appropriate match for the syrupy storyline than the curiously depressing finale within Sparks' novel.

out of

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Click here for review.

The Hypnotist

Safe Haven (August 24/13)

Lasse Hallstrom's second adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks book, after 2010's Dear John, Safe Haven follows Julianne Hough's Katie as she escapes from her abusive husband (David Lyons' Tierney) to a small coastal community - where she inevitably falls for a hunky local (Josh Duhamel's Alex) with a tragic backstory of his own. There's certainly nothing innovative or novel about the well-worn setup, and yet, in its early stages, Safe Haven does hold a fair amount of promise - with Hallstrom's expectedly picturesque visuals complemented by likable, charismatic work from both Hough and Duhamel. But the filmmaker, working from a script by Dana Stevens and Gage Lansky, employs an excessively deliberate pace that grows more and more problematic as time (slowly) progresses, with the narrative, which has been padded out to an obscene degree, devoted primarily to needless elements that couldn't possibly be less interesting. (It's telling that Katie and Alex don't share their first kiss until around the one-hour mark.) The viewer can't, as a result, help but wish that Hallstrom would just get on with it already, with the movie's less-than-enthralling atmosphere compounded by an emphasis on time-wasting subplots (eg Tierney's continuing efforts at tracking down Hough's abused figure). It subsequently goes without saying that the feel-good finale is unable to pack the emotional punch that Hallstrom is obviously striving for, with the inclusion of an absolutely ludicrous last-minute twist, which was in the book, admittedly, confirming Safe Haven's place as a thoroughly misbegotten piece of work.

out of

The Hundred-Foot Journey (July 22/14)

Based on a novel by Richard C. Morais, The Hundred-Foot Journey details the conflict that ensues within a small French village after a family of immigrants opens an Indian restaurant across the street from a well-regarded (and very snooty) Michelin-starred eatery. It's an appealing premise that is, at the outset, employed to typically slick (yet watchable) effect by Lasse Hallstrom, with the filmmaker employing a brisk pace that's heightened by eye-catching visuals and a roster of affable performances. (In terms of the latter, Manish Dayal delivers an impressively charismatic turn as the movie's protagonist.) The inclusion of a few questionable elements notwithstanding - eg this hardly seems like the sort of story that requires a moustache-twirling villain - The Hundred-Foot Journey ultimately boasts a first half that's just about as engaging and breezy as anything within Hallstrom's erratic filmography. And yet there does reach a point at which the movie begins to palpably spin its wheels, as scripter Steven Knight attempts to pad out the narrative by emphasizing a series of subplots that simply aren't all that compelling (ie the "journey" indicated by the title pales in comparison to the aforementioned family's restaurant-related exploits). It's rather disappointing to note, then, that The Hundred-Foot Journey grows more and more uninvolving as it progresses, with the final half hour, which is wholly unable to pack the emotional punch that Hallstrom is striving for, suffering from an almost incongruous feel that wreaks havoc on the movie's increasingly tenuous momentum (ie it feels as though two separate films have been artlessly crammed together). It's a shame, really, as The Hundred-Foot Journey certainly possesses a number of positive attributes, with the film's good intentions ultimately unable to compensate for an overlong running time and needlessly prolonged narrative.

out of