An “indie” or independent movie is one of the most interesting “genres” of movies. Although it isn’t a genre per se, all indie movies have a definite feel about them and tend to focus more on interesting characters and story due to the restrictive nature of lower budgets – especially when compared to Hollywood produced movies.
Cyrus was a movie I was already looking forward to due to it starring one of my favourite actresses Marisa Tomei, with supporting cast of John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill and Catherine Keener. Directed by the Duplass Brothers, it was my favourite of these “indie” types of movies released this year. The movie focuses on the struggles of post-thirties relationships, especially when a teenage child is involved, but the movie does so with a heavy sense of humour. Both the acting and screenplay are winners in this movie and I would recommend it if you’re looking for a lighthearted but not childish comedy.
The success of this Cyrus lead me to watch The Puffy Chair, the brothers’ directorial debut, and I am very interested in watching Baghead another movie by the brothers.
Other movies released this year which have a definite indie vibe – low-key character-centered, quirky storyline – included Greenberg, The Kids are Alright and possibly even the more conventional rom-com Going the Distance.
Greenberg features American slap-stick comedian Ben Stiller – an actor whose movies aren’t usually a favourite of mine – in a role which is different from many of his more mainstream movies. He features alongside Greta Gerwig – an actress who really impressed me – in a story about depression and awkward relationships in the latest movie by writer/director Noah Baumbach. His previous movies include The Squid and the Whale starring Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney and Margot at the Wedding starring Nicole Kidman. Although Greenberg was not as critically well received at The Squid and the Whale and may not be the better film, I did find it easier to enjoy and am eager to watch it again.
Greta Gerwig may be the one good thing to come out of the so-called mumblecore movement. I recently had a conversation with a friend who said he thought her performance was flat, and then re-worded it as understated. In my mind there is a big difference, however fine the line. Gerwig's Florence, is a hard one to pin down: a people pleaser full of self-doubt, constantly flustered but never angry. If I was in any position to vote for a best actress award this year I'd give it to Greta Gerwig.
Year in Film: Reflections and a Top Ten by Ben Umstead
The Kids are Alright features and all-star cast including actresses Julianne Moore and Annette Bening, the underrated Mark Ruffalo and the up and coming actress Mia Wasikowska who, in the same year starred in the Tim Burton’s summer blockbuster Alice in Wonderland. The story is about family, the relationships between maturing, boundary-pushing teenagers and their parents, the pressures of parental responsibility, the difficult balance between innocence protection and freedom and consequences of adultery. These are the main themes of the movie, but the focus for many is the parental lesbian relationship of the family. It is a movie which explores a lot of topics, delving deep enough to make the audience ask questions, but it doesn’t dwell on them and certainly isn’t preachy. I liked the indie-vibe, the interesting characters and relationships, the clever and humourous dialogue and the acting is high quality, however, it did lose a little steam towards the end.
As mentioned in Ben Umstead’s Year in Film: Reflections and a Top Ten, mumblecore is a style of indie movie which I first heard about this year, when critics were describing the movie Cyrus. Wikipedia describes Mumblecore as;
ultra-low budget production (often employing digital video cameras), focus on personal relationships between twenty-somethings, improvised scripts, and non-professional actors.
However, Cyrus features four very well-known professional actors, the main relationships are between forty-somethings, it seems very well scripted and the production quality is relatively high. So Cyrus probably falls more directly in to the indie category than the mumblecore subset, but the idea left me interested and wanting to find out more about this type of “guerrilla” film-making.
This is an entry in a series documenting my review of movies in 2010.