Friday, October 14, 2005

Everything is Illuminated

Not a very premium movie!

Elijah Wood in his 'Frodo' face and Eugene Lutz

Everything is Illuminated is the directorial debut of actor Liev Schreiber whom you may remember as the minor weirdo Cotton Weary in the Scream movies and more recently, as the eponymous character in The Manchurian Candidate. He also wrote the screenplay for this movie which is based on a book of the same name, a book many felt would prove extremely difficult to translate into a movie.

That feeling turned out to be correct, partly at least. Everything has all the ingredients of a good film but ends up being unfocused and unfulfilling. It tells the story of a journey made by Jonathan Safran Foer, a young Jewish American (with huge glasses), to Ukraine to discover the whereabouts of a woman who saved his grandfather from the Nazis during WWII. All he has to help him is an age-old photograph of his grandfather with the woman and the name of a Ukrainian village.

Foer is played by Elijah ‘Frodo’ Wood in a performance of stupefying rigidity! His youthful face, marred by the aforementioned glasses, almost registers no expression throughout the movie and gives away no motives as to his actions. His character is also an obsessive collector who picks up various oddities in clean plastic bags and pins them up in a wall in his room. No light is thrown on why he does that and in fact, this behavior evoked laughter most of the time, while it was certainly meant to be poignant.

Frodo, and pretty much everyone and everything in the movie, is upstaged by the wonderfully weird English spoken by Eugene Hutz as Alex (A conversation between Alex and Yoda would certainly have linguists across the world running to the hills!) Alex, who admits his English “is not very premium”, serves as Foer’s Ukrainian translator and tour guide, as they are driven across the countryside by Alex’s supposedly blind grandfather who is thankfully assisted by his “Officious Seeing Eye Bitch”!

The first three quarters or so of the movie is dominated by this clash of cultures as the Foer character tries to come to grips with his fear of dogs, his vegetarianism in a meat-loving country (“He doesn’t eat meat? What is wrong with him?” one character asks in disbelief), the grandfather’s hilariously vicious anti-Semtism and most importantly, Alex’s vocabulary! Which is kinda sad because when the story finally moves along in the last act it leads to some pretty startling revelations and powerful moments.

The prevalent feeling as I walked out of the theater was one of frustration as I realized how much more could have been done with this movie if the director had trusted his story enough to let it take center-stage, instead of the comedic elements, which though brilliant for a while, grow tiresome and repetitive. Almost every joke is recycled once or twice and there are also inexplicable displays of emotion by the characters which are never fully explained. Maybe it turned out this way because it was a first-timer’s effort. Or maybe it really was a difficult book!


Blogger sumant said...

saw flight plan today da.I loved the movie!Did you watch it?,btw why are all reviewers degrading it,Even though there were loopholes,it was a good plot.

10:29 AM  
Blogger Santosh Sankar said...

I haven't seen it but my friend said that the plot was too far-fetched and required a lot of things to go just right for it too work. Plus the fact that no one had seen the little girl.

11:01 AM  

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