Sunday 19 July 2009

Monday Night Film Club - Sunlight is the best disinfectant

Or so they say, at any rate. At this point I would like to make a joke about how bad a disinfectant sunlight in fact is, however I'd just be ripping off Jon Stewart on the Daily Show, so I'll leave him to it:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Cheney Predacted
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJoke of the Day

What does that have to do with the cinema? Well, a couple of Mondays ago found us at the Cameo for Sunshine Cleaning (unsurprisingly from the same people who brought us Little Miss Sunshine, hopefully the two will form a Cameo double bill soon, since I haven't seen the earlier film).

The film tells the story of sisters Rose and Norah (Amy Adams and Emily Blunt). Rose, disappointed with how her life has turned out since high school, is a single mum and involved with a married man. Obviously, then, she decides to set up a company that cleans up at crime scenes, the eponymous Sunshine Cleaning, since this is apparently an absolute racket.

What follows is a nice balance of fine comedy and heartfelt emotion. Performances are outstanding throughout: from Rose's father (played by Alan Arkin), along with his doomed business ventures, and her son Jason (played by Jason Spevack) to the proprietor of a cleaning equipment store (Clifton Collins) and the man who is having an affair with her (Steve Zahn).

One or two elements of the plot are, perhaps, a little obvious, but it also wisely chooses not to tie everything up too prettily in the end. Despite the fact only two of us made it, it none the less provided a rare moment of complete agreement in the verdict - well worth seeing.

Last week's film, Rudo and Cursi, was at the other end of the spectrum, with almost everyone liking it far more than me. It wasn't that it was dreadful per se, more that I didn't care about any of the characters, and I always struggle to like such films.

It tells of two brothers, nicknamed Rudo and Cursi, who live far from anywhere particular in Mexico and work on a banana plantation. Until, that is, Batuta shows up. He's a football talent scout and recognises their potential. Unfortunately, he only has space for one and makes them engage in a penalty shootout to decide. Rudo begs Cursi to shoot one way, it transpires they've got their sides muddled up.

Cursi is whisked off to the big city and fame and fortune follows, soon his brother joins him too. For much of the film, therefore, it seems like a bit of fantasy on the part of the writers who, one imagines, very likely dreamed they themselves would one day be picked out for soccer stardom. Of course, it doesn't all last, not least due to Rudo's gambling problem and Cursi's trouble with his rather fickle girlfriend.

Doubtless it will appeal to some, but I find the whole 'life is football' vibe rather annoying. Perhaps not surprising, given I generally couldn't care less about the sport. However, in stark contrast to The Damned United, the film seems to be much more about football than about interesting people, though maybe it's just that the people aren't that interesting.

It isn't without it's moments - Cursi's hideously bad singing career is especially fine, so too his mental breakdown in the hotel. But there aren't enough of them.

Given it's the first fruit of a production company founded by the likes of Alfonso Cuaron and Guillermo del Toro, much better might have been expected. Indeed, the film is directed by Cuaron's brother Carlos. He doesn't seem to have his sibling's magic touch - instead of the stunning visuals that made Cuaron's Harry Potter a highlight of the series, we get rather unsteady handheld camera work. Doubtless this was intentional, but I find it annoying. So too the sloppiness of the white subtitles being invisible in several brighter scenes.

But, such things would be forgivable if I cared about the characters. However, at the end (spoiler alert), when Rudo is trying to throw a match in order to get out of his gambling debts, he again instructs his brother to shoot one way. You'd think that after their opening debacle they'd have the sense to eliminate the earlier mistake. But oh no. Given how unbelievably stupid Rudo is, it is therefore somewhat baffling when the people to whom he is indebted do not actually kill him but only injure him and end his career.

Still, better is ahead, with a space theme in the coming weeks, including a documentary about Apollo and then Moon.

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