Tuesday, May 27, 2008

"hell hath no fury...

"...like a Chuck Bass scorned."

Okay, so Gossip Girl's Chuck Bass (your favorite television character, and mine) has nothing to do with this post really. I saw Son of Rambow this weekend, and Ed Westwick, who plays the inimitable Chuck Bass, has a minor role in it as the older brother of one of the main characters. Before discussing Garth Jennings' small film, I would like to put forth a small sidebar discussion: creepy or English? One of the many ongoing debates in my life (gay or twins? gay or European? &c.) is "creepy or English?" Ed Westwick is a perfect example of someone who, when you look at his face, your immediate reaction is to be creeped out. But then, when you realize he's English, his face makes much more sense, and he's not as creepy anymore. As Manhattanite Chuck Bass, he's dripping in creep. But as a Brit, he's just douchey. Same thing happened to Jude Law in I Heart Huckabees, though his American accent did (well, as his British one does, I guess) skew gay in that movie.

Now, on to Son of Rambow. I was quite looking forward to this movie, which I'd had the impression of being a sweet little movie about two boys making friends, coming of age, learning a life lesson, blah blah blah. While that is, in the end, what the movie is about, there are a few more complications to that, some of which were welcome, and some which confused me unnecessarily.

As is par for the course in friendship / coming of age stories, there had to be a moment when the boys, Will and Lee, would turn against each other, only to find that they need each other after all. It happened at the appropriate intersection of plot points, but could have been written more smoothly. When (SPOILER!!!) Will pushes Lee out of the movie, and out of his life, it seems very impulsive, and far meaner than we ever would have expected Will would be. (END SPOILER)

The added wrinkle of Will's upbringing in a super-conservative religious sect lent a great amount of depth to the little boy's character, and was the impetus for quite a bit of action throughout the movie. It is because of how well Will's religious and family life is handled that I'm willing to forgive some of the irrational decisions he makes later on. When he gets in with the annoying French kid's posse, for example, it reflects the limited world he's come from, and how anything flashy can really impress him.

The film's tagline, "Make believe, not war" is a great indicator of how the movie idealizes the power of imagination and creativity in children's lives. There are some wonderful scenes of fantastic imagery, and I would expect no less from the director of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. This was Jennings' first time as a writer, though, which explains some of the problems with the way the story proceeded, but all in all, it was definitely a much more enjoyable moviewatching experience than Indiana Jones, which I'd just seen the previous day.

The final sequence of the film definitely ranks pretty high up on the heartwarming scale, but if, after you see Son of Rambow, you are still looking for a film about children who love movies, with a heartstring-tugging ending, then please for the love of god rent Cinema Paradiso, which was on my mind after Rambow.


Bryan said...

I realize this isn't a question with an clear answer necessarily, but I guess that's why I'm asking:

Which kid was a better actor, do you think? I keep going back and forth. And I know I shouldn't care to hold one in higher esteem than the other, I think just saying they're both good is just the easy way out.

Kat said...

That's a really good question, Bryan, and one I hadn't really thought of. I mean, which role is easier for a little kid to play? Naiive and innocent or lonely troublemaker? In my opinion, Will Poulter, who played Lee Carter, was a better actor. There was more range and depth in his sadness, really. I mean, Will (played by Bill Milner) is understandably upset about his cloistered surroundings, and he misses his father, but it's not as clear why his outlet is anger. Lee is keenly aware of his parents' abandonment, and innocent enough to have fooled himself into viewing his brother in a different light than the truth. However, when the boys are in their simpler scenes - as Son of Rambow and the General, or when they're becoming blood brothers - they are so earnest and sweet, and both very good actors.

Bryan said...

I don't think Will's anger is so strange. He hasn't been allowed to deal with the loss of his father and when he finally finds a way to do it, it gets (repeatedly) taken away from him. By the environment that made it impossible in the first place and then by Lee Carter. I don't think his anger had to be instilled by some systematic neglect like Lee's. It's a different kind. It certainly doesn't last as long as Lee's, but maybe it's more forceful.

But I know if they were adults, I'd pick Will Poulter, so I don't get why the scale should be any different because they're kids. At a certain point, I kind of wanted one of them to be bad so that everybody could have a side-by-side comparison and stop being so automatically amazed by child actors. Obviously, that didn't happen.