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April 15, 2013 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2013-04-15

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8A - Monday, April 15, 2013

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Underdog story warms
hearts in'Sapphires

"Drive 2"
'Pines' lacks power

Gosling dominates
in overly ambitious
tale of morality
Daily B-Side Editor
For the first two minutes of
Derek Cianfrance's ("Blue Val-
entine") "The Place Beyond
the Pines,"
Luke Glanton B
(Ryan Gos-
ling, "Drive") The Place
remains face-
less. All we getB
is an unidenti- the Pines
fied hero mov- At State
ing forward.
We don't know Focus
who he is, what
he's about to do
or why he's about to do it. For the
first and only time in the film, the
consequences are irrelevant.
We move with Glanton, and
there's a certain thrill in the
motion being meaningless.
As he pulls on a torn Metallica
shirt, exhales a puff of cigarette
smoke and dons his black motor-
cycle helmet, his face finally
becomes visible. He stares at the
Globe of Death, his eyes shifting
between nonchalance and the
calm that comes with routine.
Death is beckoning, but there are
no responsibilities, and again,
the consequences are irrelevant.
The rest of the film is a differ-
ent story. Drawn out, overdra-
matic, yet unquestionably epic,
an obvious theme ties together
the 140-minute affair: penal-
ties. Glanton, upon learning that
he's the father of an illegitimate
son with ex-lover Romina (Eva
Mendes, "Girl in Progress"),
quits his job as a motorcycle
stuntman and resorts to robbing
banks with new-found partner

Robin (Ben Mendelsohn, "Ani-
mal Kingdom").
But with criminality comes
the dampening embrace of the
law. A haphazard bank robbery is
followed by a searing five-minute
chase, and as the film introduces
us to rookie officer Avery Cross
(Bradley Cooper, "Silver Linings
Playbook"), it begins its steady
descent into mediocrity.
As is visible in the excessive
number of close-ups, faces take
on a haunted look and seem gen-
uinely affected by the impacts of
what's unfolding around them,
but Cianfrance squanders any
moral weight he's able to develop
by never really resolving his cli-
max. It's as if someone throws
a lit match at a canister full of
flammable gas only for it to fizzle
out before ever making contact.
In short, nothing really hap-
To some degree, this can be
expected from Cianfrance, who's
known for leaving audiences in a
state of uncertainty, which isn't
always a bad thing. His previous
film, "Blue Valentine," was a poi-
gnant, sad commentary on life's
cruel way of stifling romance -
specifically~so because it chose
to leave many of the questions it
raised unanswered.
In "Pines," Cianfrance tries
hard to tie together the multiple
themes guiding his sprawling,
multi-generational narrative,
but because it's so damn big,
any attempt to wring meaning
out of the story feels half-assed
and unsatisfying. Of the many
vaguely broached topics of dis-
cussion, perhaps the most vex-
ing is the clumsy approach taken
when addressing the underly-
ing impacts of fatherhood. What
should be the ultimate repre-
sentation of the ripples of our
actions drifting into the future
is just left hanging in the air, like

an unnecessary formality. It's as
if someone actually thought that
having one of the characters say,
"I guess he'll grow up without a
father now" would be enough to
tackle the whole daddy-problems
As the film jumps forward 15
years and reintroduces us to the
sons of our two protagonists,
the reverberations never really
become apparent. Sure, both
the kids are fucked up, but we're
expected to assume the reasons
why, and by making us do so, the
script marginalizes the complex-
ity of what led us there.
Surprisingly, none of the per-
formances ever come close to
veering in the same direction
(unless, of course, you count any
of the female leads, who were
written off, sidelined and for-
gotten halfway through). Coo-
per does his best to channel the
erratic explosiveness that got him
so much praise for "Silver Linings
Playbook," but it's obvious that
this film belongs to Gosling.
His role will be compared to
his work in "Drive," and in many
contexts, the comparison is valid.
The crucial difference that's so
apparent in this movie is the dra-
matic shift in character he's able
to bring to the forefront when he
ing on him. Gosling measures a
cornered sense of excitement in
his demeanor whenever he's close
to his son - an excitement eerily
mirrored in the moments before
he realizes he won't pull off his
last bank robbery.
tainty, a diffidence that comes
hand-in-hand with responsibil-
ity, that makes "The Place Beyond
The Pines" a flawed but com-
pelling movie. We're still mov-
ing with it, but toward the end,
there's no thrill in the motion
being meaningless.

Daily Arts Writer
It's surprising that with this
particular combination of plot and
characters, "The Sapphires" isn't
an animated
Disney movie. B+
It belongs to the
world of mov- The
ies that's given Sapphires
us "Mulan" and
"Cinderella" - At the
the world where Michigan
unrealistic Weinstein
things can hap-
pen, but it doesn't matter, because
we're desperate for the characters
to win and shove a metaphorical
middle finger in the faces of their
haters. Plot holes and cheesy dia-
logues can go suck it; "The Sap-
phires" is a real-life fairytale with
which we can'thelp but fall inlove.
That "real-life" aspect - the
fact that this movie is based on a
true story - is a large part of what
makes the film so endearing. Writ-
son and Tony Briggs, the film is
based on the story of an Australian
Aboriginal four-girl group formed
by Briggs's mother in 1968. The
outfit consists of sisters Gail and
Julie (Deborah Mailman and Jes-
sica Mauboy of "Bran Nue Dae")
and their cousins Cynthia and Kay
(newcomers Miranda Tapsell and
Shari Sebbens).
Victims of racial prejudice in
their hometown, the girls are
determined to overcome the color
of their skin and showcase their
musical talents to the world. Dur-
ing a singing contest at a local bar,
the girls meet a drunk, Irish talent
scout named Dave Lovelace (Chris
O'Dowd, "Bridesmaids"). Julie
convinces Dave to train the group
for a job singing for the U.S. troops
in Vietnam. Once they get the gig,
Dave agrees to be their manager

and th
the tro
their s
it's ma
of race
tail. T
this st
risk w
sing li
sic un

re girls shoot to fame among point in making their onscreen
Dops almost overnight.While personas headstrong and loveable.
uccess comesswift and easy, Blair must've scrounged the vast
arred by underlying tensions expanse of Australia to handpick
and war. these four musical gems. They
his debut feature, director embody "The Sapphires" in every
e Blair displays a remarkable way, and their soulful voices enter-
of the themes and emotions tain the audiences even when
sake an ideal movie cock- the plot falls flat and predictable.
hey're also the reason why They're helped a lot by O'Dowd,
ory plays out like a Disney who gives one of the most surpris-
ale - its protagonists are ingly refreshing performances
essed by race and gender, of the year as the group's clumsy,
e determined to overcome messed-up and hilarious manager.
shortcomings; they take a Who knew Kristen Wiig's adork-
ith a job in a war zone; they able love interest from "Brides-
ike angels; they find their maids" had a little bit of James
Charmings in the most Brown in him?
ly places and return home as "The Sapphires" benefits from
s. "The Sapphires" is a clas- Blair and Briggs's combined expe-
derdog story that we've seen rience with musical theater. They
eds of time, but it stands out know when to throw the jokes,
se it's made well. which songs to dispatch and when
to employ war and prejudice as
tearjerkers. Having adapted the
Ultim ately, script from Briggs's play of the
same name, the writers capitalize
t's a Disney on their knowledge of the audi-
ence's response to this story by
fairytale. further emphasizing the hilarity
and sensitivity of certain scenes.
Though not a cinematic marvel,
"The Sapphires" hits all the right
d like every underdog story, notes at all the right times. Let's
udience has an emotional face it - no matter how predict-
in the characters' success. able it may be, a well made under-
is front, Mailman, Mauboy, dog story like this one just never
11 and Sebbens don't disap- failsto tug on our heartstrings.



"Which one is Cinderella?"


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