You’ll believe a nerd can fly
THIS CRACKING little foundfootage thriller – at just 84 minutes, it really is quite little – doesn’t half tell us a familiar story. The school nerd happens upon some superpowers, but soon finds that they muck up his life something rotten. Didn’t Marvel Comics found an empire on that myth?
The film-makers approach the material in a similar fashion to the creators of the TV show Heroes: nobody dons a leotard, domestic problems frequently intrude. Josh Trank does, however, find new things to do with the formula. There is a substantial amount of grit in its gears. The film is good about the awful narcissism of youth. Cult status looms.
Chronicle follows a group of mildly archetypal high school students. (At times the film comes across like The Inbetweeners with fewer jokes and more explosions.) Dane Dehaan plays Andrew, an anguished outsider whose mother
is dying and whose dad is becoming increasingly violent. His cousin Matt (Alex Russell) is a clever bloke with a tendency to spout half-digested philosophy. Steve (Michael B Jordan) is the chap every girl wants to date and every boy wants to befriend.
One peculiar evening, the pals spot a mysterious hole in the forest. At its base they encounter a throbbing crystal that gifts all three the powers of telekinesis. They begin by manipulating baseballs and playing pranks in the supermarket. Before too long they are flying through the clouds and contemplating domination.
The film has fun showing the characters’ gradual evolution from conjurers to nascent superheroes. It features a fine array of explosions in its spectacular denouement. Chronicle is, however, most impressive for the way it subtly teases out the stresses and complexes that drive Andrew. By the film’s close – hammered by dad, devastated by mum’s illness – his forgivable neuroses threaten the wellbeing of greater Seattle.
The usual concerns about foundfootage cinema do arise. Would that bloke really keep the camera running? Who gathered all this stuff together? The genre is, however, now so well established that one might as well question the theatrical asides in Restoration drama.
A very decent piece of hokum. REGULAR readers of the more grown-up sections of this newspaper may recall Fintan O’toole’s evaluation of God of Carnage (“among the crassest pieces of theatre I have ever seen”) when Yasmina Reza’s play opened at the Gate Theatre last year.
Well at least the stage version had live vomiting. Roman Polanski’s filmed Carnage has nothing so eventful as theatrical puke to recommend it. If last week’s semen tears movie (the atrocious House of Tolerance) failed to inspire “oohs” and “aahs”, then what hope for the humble, easy-to-fake cinematic boke?
Sadly, purge Carnage of the live purge, and there’s not much left to recommend the material. Two couples – snobs Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet and Boho parents John C Reilly and Jodie Foster – meet up to discuss a recent playground tussle between their respective little darlings.there follows much chewy dialogue, the kind actors like to showboat with and makes the rest of us think of William Shatner reciting Lady Gaga lyrics in cod-shakespearean.
Then Carnage drops a bombshell: you can’t say petit bourgeois without petty. Who knew these middle-class types are – wait for it – not as civilised as they first appear? While they bicker and play out class anxieties, the screenplay reminds us there are larger conflicts, such as the one in Darfur. How insightful.
Polanski’s camera makes for wide-angle weasly fun, and Waltz maintains a wicked twinkle in his eye, but no amount of devilment could atone for the facile sentiments. Many punters at a recent London screening turned, confused, toward the projection booth when the film came screeching to a halt two acts in. Carnage has no place to go.
Winslet 2.0 (the Hollywood edition) isn’t any more plausible as an American than Classic Bangers’n’mash Winslet once was. For all the thesp prowess and star wattage on view, there’s no believing that these people could be married in any combination in this or any other dimension.
Where exactly is Mr Polanski living these days?
The pretty petit bourgeouis: Kate Winslet with Christoph Waltz