Jan 4, 2013

Cloud Atlas

If a reviewer falls asleep and then wakes up and can’t take it anymore and leaves half way through the movie, can they still write about it? Hells, yeah!  
This is what happened to me while attempting to wrap my head around Cloud Atlas, possibly the most expensive, unnecessary B-movie ever made. No matter in what era of humanity we were supposed to be, no matter what egregious make up the characters were wearing, every single word they uttered was gibberish. It was like listening to kids when they pretend to speak a language.
“A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”, is right. William Shakespeare, film reviewer. 

My recollections are as disjointed as the movie, hence I will render them here as such:

What does it matter if the characters are in San Francisco in the seventies, or Seoul in the future or Flinstoneland in some weird age, if we have no idea of who they are nor do we care? We never spend enough time in each of their storylines to give a rat’s ass about them, past or present.

I loathe stories of interconnection, be it through continents or ages. If a yurt falls in Mongolia and a gaucho sneezes in Patagonia, I could care less.

This is the worst piece of casting in the history, not of movies, but of mankind. Every single actor, except perhaps for Jim Broadbent and Ben Whishaw, is spectacularly wrong for the parts. This may be because all the parts are wrong for all actors, unless they were played by Martin Short, or Mel Brooks. Then this movie might have been a hoot. It did, at times, remind me of Spaceballs and not in a good way. It's Spaceballs with money. 

Let’s start with Tom Hanks. Always a trooper, he shows up with his customary bonhomie, despite wearing calamitous wigs and preposterous make up. He is, as always, working hard to be likable. But Tom Hanks is not the man for a period piece, let alone many periods. He is not the man for costumes or disguises. Giving him protheses of any kind will only make him look ridiculous. He is Everyman USA and he should stay this way. At least he tries to have fun. Everybody else seems to be walking on burning coals.
Halle Berry may be gorgeous, but she is as interesting as a plastic bag. When they give her a yellow wig and a reverse nose job and claim she is a Jew, we are on Mystery Science Theater 3000 territory. In fact, I propose that a full episode of that splendid series be devoted to this film. It’s the only way to endure it.
I could watch Susan Sarandon pad away in her pajamas all day long, but this wonderful actress is a thoroughly modern dame. She is no good as a cavewoman witch in the pastfuture. She seems to be crying out for a martini.
And don’t get me started about Hugh Grant, who should never, ever, for any reason, leave Notting Hill. He fares worst of all, at some point looking like Gene Simmons from Kiss. 

By insisting on having the same actors play myriad characters and plastering them with varying degrees of bad make up, the directors (the Wachovski siblings and Tom Twyker) actually undermine the thesis of their unwieldy contraption, which is that humans reincarnate or live through the centuries or some such crap. So when they try to turn sweet Jim Sturgess into a Korean man, a Japanese actress into a blond, blue eyed cave dweller, or Hugo Weaving into a busty woman, even though in their bleeding hearts they think that we are all humans and we are all equal, they actually undermine this by making all the characters into grotesque freaks. All they are doing is taking away from their humanity and spiraling into kitsch. Kitsch is the opposite of culture. Just sayin'.

Nice production design, for sure. It is everything that the make up is not. 

When I said to my movie companions that this is the kind of movie that could impress a 13 year-old with zits and a metaphysical bent, they told me that even such a creature would be bored out of their wits. As always, the cardinal sin in movies is boredom. One could withstand such an assault on common sense if it were nimble and had a sense of humor. It's supposed to be some big philosophical new agey mumbo jumbo, which translates into a cheesy, obvious, inane, bloated film, too full of itself to have a funny bone. 

My friend Orlando Leal has a term for creative enterprises that everybody knows are doomed from inception, but people nevertheless drink the kool-aid and soldier on, uselessly trying to whip them into a coherent shape. He calls the sad result an inventicide: a suicidal invention. Cloud Atlas is this. 

1 comment:

  1. I just watched this movie and loved it to bits! I think the fact that you didn't hang in there til the end accounts for why you never warmed up to it. Strangely enough everything you hated about it is what i loved, the interwoven stories, the makeup, the casting! It must be a great movie to be so polarising, don't you think?