BFI London Film Festival 2017 - UPDATE #5
Directed by Toa Fraser
NEW ZEALAND/94 MINUTES/THRILL
If you want to make a play, why not just make a play? The Party
-- about a celebratory dinner that almost immediately turns acrimonious -- is so insanely stagy that it's hard not to wonder why it's a movie at all. It's wall-to-wall theatrical, over-stylized dialogue in one small location, and the bland black and white cinematography and styleless direction does absolutely nothing to answer the question: why film? Though either way, the characters -- who each have one exaggerated trait, and that's about all there is to them -- are flat. The movie is, at the very least, mercifully short at 71 minutes. If only more movies could be that short (especially the bad ones).
Directed by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead
While The Endless
certainly isn't lacking in ambition, it's never able to hit the heights of Spring
, the last film from Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead. About two brothers who return to the apocalyptic UFO cult they escaped from as kids, one of the film's main issues is Benson and Moorhead's misguided decision to cast themselves in the two main roles. A lot of the reason that their last film worked as well as it did was on the strength of its two leads. Benson and Moorhead are both fine in the film, but neither of them quite have the chops to really sell the movie's more dramatic moments. And since the first two thirds of this film is pretty much a straight drama (it's a lot like Spring in that way), this is an issue. It's certainly entertaining throughout, but it's never quite as involving as it's trying to be. It does, however, get admirably bonkers towards the end, which makes it a hard movie to outright dislike.
The Shape of Water
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
USA/123 MINUTES/HEADLINE GALAS
Guillermo del Toro's long-gestating take on Creature from the Black Lagoon
, The Shape of Water
is about a janitor in a mysterious government facility who finds herself enchanted by a human-like aquatic creature being kept prisoner. The movie certainly isn't lacking in style, recalling latter half of Tim Burton's filmography -- it's so concerned with its ostentatious style and elaborate production design that it forgets about fundamentals like pacing and storytelling and giving us characters worth caring about. This is a passion project for del Toro, which is readily apparent in the worst ways: it's indulgent, over-long, and almost certainly won't mean as much to anyone else as it does to del Toro himself. And while it certainly has its moments and is stunning on a surface level -- it's still a Guillermo del Toro film, after all, not to mention the very memorable score from Alexandre Desplat -- it is, unfortunately, a rare misfire from the man.