My week in film: Amour, Bachelorette and The Myth of the American Sleepover

The Myth of the American Sleepover (2010) was a revelation; like Dazed and Confused (1993) and American Graffiti (1973)before it, the plot concerns the longings and wanderings of suburban teens over the course of one night, employing a hazy, nostalgic aesthetic.

Deliberately avoiding references to a particular decade, the characters are nevertheless unencumbered by the constant communication provided by mobile phones, suggesting that we are in 1990’s territory. This lack of instant messaging also bolsters the films key theme: that adolescence is a confusing and sometimes lonely time, represented by characters that are cast adrift from new friends or in search of an old connection. To seek out his forgotten crush, college student Scott (Brett Jacobsen) surprises twins Ady and Anna (Nikita and Jade Ramsey) by driving out to visit them at their freshers sleepover; sophomore Maggie (Claire Sloma) leaves a note, rather then a text message for ‘pool boy’ Steven (Douglas Diedrich). Communication, or lack thereof is at the heart of the film with dialogue as naturalistic as the performances, which are striking for the way they present a combination of youthful invincibility and crippling insecurity. A debut as good as this has left me excited to see what Mitchell does next.

Bachelorette (Leslye Headland, 2012) was a film I admittedly wasn’t overly keen to see based on the trailer, which presents a Bridesmaids (2011)type comedy shot with crass humour and warring females. The film is a whole lot better than the trailer would have you think. Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher and Lizzy Caplan play old friends Regan, Katie and Gena, enlisted to be bridesmaids at the wedding of Becky (Rebel Wilson) whom they used to ridicule back in high school. All three initially behave deplorably, being in turns, selfish, bitter and inconsiderate and seemingly only enthusiastic about getting trashed at the ‘Bachelorette’ party. Through their various travails and screwball antics however, more rounded characters emerge, ones whose insecurities and regrets come to induce a more sympathetic view of their dynamic. Fisher is hilarious and sad as Katie whilst Kirsten Dunst’s memorable and convincing portrayal had this viewer almost in tears with the words “Fuck EVERYONE!” The only dud note is perhaps Caplan’s story arc, which sees her reconciliation with old flame Clyde (Adam Scott) and perhaps allows too many of the wedding film clichés to creep in. Whether the film will get a UK theatrical release remains to be seen but if you ever get a chance, Bachelorette is recommended viewing.

On current release, the much praised and Palme d’Or winning Amour by Michael Haneke proved (with great relief) to live up to the hype. Concerning the deteriorating health of one half of octogenarian couple Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) and George (Jean –Louis Trintignant) when the former suffers a series of strokes, the film is as uncompromising as could be expected from the director of Funny Games (1997, 2007). Mostly set in their Parisian apartment, Haneke tightly controls the framing and sound, creating a calm and quiet space for his incredible lead actors to inhabit, utterly convincing as a couple with a lifetimes’ history. Despite the seeming banality of the subject – almost everyone experiences the ailments and restrictions of ageing – Haneke brings freshness to the subject, noting the horror of incapacity and lack of control. It could even be argued that the characteristic mean streak in his past films is present here in the simple observation of this intensely private couple; George is pushed away by Anne at times and he likewise tries to keep their daughter (Issabelle Huppert) at a distance from her mother’s suffering – nevertheless the films audience remains spectator to inevitable decline. In the final scenes the true weight of George’s devastation takes hold but the total lack of sentimentality is remarkable.

An unusually quiet week for film, this one – perhaps due to the cinematic saturation of the last. Coming up – The Master, Silver Linings Playbook and more at home viewing.

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