Farewell, Lisbeth; Arise, Ben C. Lucas!

Posted: March 8, 2011 in Uncategorized

THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET’S NEST *1/2

 

Oh, how this “Millennium” trilogy started with a bang but ends with a whimper. The third film (after The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire) to follow Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist in their journey to the dark heart of Sweden, it is by far the weakest. Slow, tedious, unexciting, talky, ponderous and weakly shot, it suffers the most fatal flaw of all by confining Lisbeth to a hospital bed for much of the film – and then plonking her down onto a seat in her own courtroom drama. Physically restraining Noomi Rapace’s one-was-thrilling Lisbeth in such a way is a crime, robbing us of the most exciting element of the series – watching Lisbeth go about her work with physical gusto, whether it be fighting off punks, engaging in seriously passionate sex (with both genders) or raping those who have raped her. To be fair, the movie is obviously trying its best to be faithful to the source novel, but in this case, it would have been wiser to change things to make them more cinematic. The bulk of the third novel concerns the depths of corruption amongst a certain Swedish faction going back decades, but this is stuff for the page, not the screen, and we end up with a very long film (147 minutes) that feels even longer. The conclusion, when it finally comes, is hugely anti-climactic – for Stieg Larsson, the author of the novels, did not intend to die, and did not intend this to be a “trilogy” – indeed, his “widowed” life partner holds extensive notes of his for the fourth book, and, supposedly, notes for the fifth as well. So the story doesn’t conclude per se… it just meanders off into some generic credits: a strong metaphor for how bored the series seems to have become with itself.

 

WASTED ON THE YOUNG ****

 

Ben C. Lucas’ thrilling debut feature takes the “nasty kids in high school” formula – a distinctly American one – and gives it not so much an Australian but a truly unique spin, one which (were it not for the Australian accents) might take place anywhere, but perhaps mainly in an almost alternative or heightened universe. His main stylistic conceit is that we see no adults in the film – it is entirely populated by seventeen year olds. Set at “the most expensive school in the area” (the film was shot in Perth but makes no reference to its geographic location), there are no parents, no teachers, no cops, and no kids from any other age groups – it is a hermetically sealed world. This is a tricky conceit, and the attempts to explain it (because these are rich kids, their parents tend to be “overseas”, or completely uninterested in their children’s lives) are stretched to breaking point, but this is not a realistic film but a cinematic ride, and once you accept that, it is exciting, terrifying and thrilling. The excellent unknown cast, drawn mostly from the Perth drama school WAAPA, play out an intense drama that encompasses teenage drug use (a lot), sexuality, crime, bullying, the social hierarchy, social networking, technology, revenge, love and guilt. The plot is fast-flowing and often unpredictable, and thus does not need to be ruined by describing here, but the plot’s only part of the fun: there is deep enjoyment to be had with the technical stylisation of the film. Its shots, editing, use of sound, fractured narrative, saturation and intriguing locations make for a full-frontal sensory assault that amplifies the themes of the story without overpowering it (although at times coming close). Some of the imagery is unforgettable (a title sequence involving boys swimming in a pool is mind-blowing) and the cinematography in general lends the film almost a science-fiction feel – which is very much in line with the story’s emphasis on these teens’ use of all manner of technology. The two leads, Oliver Ackland and Adelaide Clemens, are both incredibly truthful and photogenic; Clemens, who looks strikingly like a younger Michelle Williams, seems pre-ordained for major big-screen stardom. Because of the major integration of current technology to the film’s plot (and even its themes), the film will probably date terribly, and seem quaint within five years; for now, however, it is urgent, of its moment, and screaming to be heard. Highly recommended.

 

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