Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Babel Review

I'm giving this one 4.5 stars, I think. My husband certainly would not agree. I am certain of that even though I can't tell you why. We just don't think alike when it comes to movies.

Anyway, with our DirecTV out tonight, I checked out what movies we've acquired lately that I haven't watched yet and picked out Babel. I really couldn't remember much about previews or what it was about though I knew much of it was set in Africa somewhere and it would be heavy. It is indeed a heavy movie. I cried during several scenes and give credit to Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt for making me believe them as an emotionally troubled couple with much history together. I also picked particularly favorable conditions (though not on purpose). My husband had left the stereo up rather loud, and because the movie started out quietly, I left it at that volume and I think the quality soundtrack and sound effects at a substantial volume really helped with that immersive "experience" effect.

The film involves what seems to be a current favorite plot device in films--several different story lines with some small connection tying them together. In this case our intertwined groups are a teenage girl whose mother died recently and her father who had given a gift of a rifle to a Moroccan man many months previously, a Moroccan (a neighbor of the man who received the rifle gift) and his family whose sons accidentally shoot an American tourist while playing with the rifle, Cate Blanchett who is the injured tourist and her husband on vacation in Morocco trying to get assistance after she is shot, and the Mexican illegal immigrant nanny of Cate and Brad's children who gets into trouble with the border patrol while transporting the children across the boundary.

I found all of the acting completely convincing and effective and something about the director's style just gave the whole film a sense of utter authenticity. There were some draggy moments and times when I found my mind wandering and attempting to solve the riddle in advance of how the lives were all going to fit together or what the ultimate theme was going to be. And when the film first ended I was frustrated by a couple of things. One is that in a significant scene with the teenage girl at the end of the film, she gives a note to a police officer to read after he leaves her that is clearly of great significance to her emotionally. While we do get to see the cop read the note, we don't get a translation or any inkling of what it said. I hate when they do that! The other thing I found frustrating was a vague feeling that the writer and director clearly felt these stories tied together in a more fundamentally themic way than just the relationship with the gun I described above. But I just didn't get it.

Luckily I checked out the DVD extras, was briefly disappointed by the lack of deleted scenes or a translation of the girl's note, clicked on the theatrical trailer to watch it and THERE WAS THE EXPLANATION! Really the explanation was in the title of the film all along, but my not-biblically-focused mind was just unable to focus apparently. I'm frankly not sure why the theme was literally spelled out in the trailer and left much more amorphous in the film itself, and the reason I take half a star away from this film's rating is that I do feel it was a bit too amorphous. I am not afraid to admit that I like movies that help me along and don't make me think too hard. So only 4.5 for this one, not 5.

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