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Recent Movies: Enemy; The Grand Budapest Hotel; The Lunchbox

May 3, 2014

Recent Movies

Enemy

A Toronto history professor (Jake Gyllenhaal) has spotted a man in a locally made movie who looks just like him.  In pursuing his “double”, there are unexpected consequences.

The film’s story (based on the Portuguese novel “The Double” by José Saramago) is mostly fascinating but it leaves gaps and ambiguity that prevent if from meeting its full potential.  Admittedly though, one ambiguous scene near the end is perfect mainly due to the fine performance of Sarah Gadon.

The material is raised to a higher level by the very capable directing of Denis Villeneuve (“Incendies”, “Prisoners”).  He has this magnificent ability to turn scenes that might seem still and quiet into experiences of unending tension.  Villeneuve is well aided by a fine cast highlighted by Gyllenhaal in two performances and Gadon.

Rating (out of four stars):   * * *

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The Grand Budapest Hotel

A story is told in flashback about the titular hotel in the fictional small country of Zubrowka in alpine Europe.  In 1932, the hotel’s concierge (Ralph Fiennes) is wrongly accused of murder of one of the hotel’s wealthy guests.

Directed and co-written by Wes Anderson, this film shares the same unique whimsy which Anderson showed most recently in “Moonrise Kingdom”.  The energy is always snappy especially with camera angles that move forward, backward, up, down, and sideways to display events happening simultaneously.

The story and characterization are enjoyable though not especially strong.  But with an energetic performance from Fiennes plus Anderson’s playful direction, this film comes off as quite charming and entertaining.

Rating:   * * *

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The Lunchbox

In Mumbai, a lunch delivery system has a mix-up and connects two lonely people:  one is a young housewife whose tasty meals are intended for her neglectful husband; the recipient of those meals is a widower accountant who is about to retire.  Content with the mix-up the two exchange handwritten notes between the lunch delivery and the return of the containers.

The first two-thirds of this film are superb.  Director Ritesh Batra makes the most of Mumbai’s lively streets and crowded transit as background to stage the deliveries back and forth.  Here, the visuals tell their own little stories to enhance the main one.

The film also makes subtle judgments on modern loneliness, isolation, overcrowding in cities, and the despair of living as expressed in tragedy that is exposed in a news story.

While poignant and moving, “The Lunchbox” also makes use of comical relief as well:  the young woman speaks through her kitchen window to her eccentric aunt who lives upstairs and is heard but not seen; the man has a very eager apprentice at work whose zeal and attempts at pleasantness can sometimes be annoying but in a funny way.

The latter third of the film takes a slightly different direction from the main characters and the earlier premise.  The outcome is okay but it doesn’t live up to the earlier promise.  Overall though, “The Lunchbox” is a charmer mainly for its warmth and humanity.

Rating:   * * *

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