Monday, January 20, 2014

Philomena review

I would make a joke about the name Philomena, but I don't have the most run-of-the-mill name either so.... I'll just keep my mouth shut.
Philomena is about this old lady named Philomena Lee (played by Judi Dench). When Philomena was a mere teenager, she has sex with a boy and becomes pregnant. This is bad, although most people can deal with it some way or another. The problem with Philomena is that she lives in a nunnery-type place and gets her child taken away from her by the nuns to be adopted to an American family. This understandably hurts Philomena very much. You'd think at that point you'd try your hardest to get your baby back or at least try and go see him, right? Well Philomena has been brainwashed into thinking what she did was an unforgivable sin. So, she never tries to find her child at all. She thinks that she's paying for what she's done everyday. After 50 years of this, she finally tells her daughter. At a dinner party, the daughter confronts recently laid-off journalist Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) about her mother's story. Sixsmith is reluctant, but he does take up the story and helps Philomena find her long lost son. On hearing about this movie, I really wasn't interested in it at all. It sounded like an emotionally manipulative and sappy piece of Oscar bait that I just wouldn't be able to stand. Well, it went and got nominated for four Oscars (including Best Picture). While I do think we often put too much attention and weight on the Academy Awards, I still like to be up to date with them. Plus, a movie has to be pretty damn good to be nominated for four major Oscars right? RIGHT? Maybe. Philomena is a pretty decent film. I didn't hate it, and I really liked certain aspects of it. Yet, in no way is it deserving of Best Picture, or really any of the Oscars it was nominated for. It was better then I expected but worse then many critics made it seem. Philomena has a very interesting and incredible story. That's not because of the writers or director though. That is just because this actually happened. The film is just showcasing the story. I feel like the story could have been showcased in a better and less manipulative way. The story is just sort of thrown up there for you to see. It uses big swells of music and the acting of Judi Dench as a crutch for the sometimes weak direction and script that didn't have a lot to say. What the music and acting doesn't hide is how very cheesy this movie feels at times. The aforementioned swells of music paired alongside especially emotional moments feels incredibly cheesy and worst of all it feels like the director is shoving emotions in you face. It's like he's practically shouting at you "Feel sad!" "Feel happy! This is heartwarming so you should feel happy!". While a little little bit of that when used the right way (like The Shawshank Redemption) can work wonders, a large heaping amount of it used the wrong way can make something like Philomena feel all wrong. Now don't get me wrong, this movie isn't all bad. Philomena's screenplay can be weak at times, but at other times it's quite funny and filled with wonderful British wit. Also, the acting is pretty great. Dame Judi Dench is terrific here as Philomena. She displays equal parts naive innocence and a determined demeanor that works great here. Her acting nomination is the only one I think is even halfway deserved. After seeing her play M in the James Bond flicks the past few years, it's nice to see her show what other ability she has. Steve Coogan, while not fantastic, does a solid job playing the sarcastic and skeptical journalist. Coogan has proved he can be funnier and better, but he understands this is Dench's film. He let's her take the helm while simultaneously providing support and funny lines along the way. This movie is a nice story filled with emotion that the whole family can enjoy. Yet, it's not all that great. And it could've been done a lot better in my opinion. Philomena has different parts that are great, but as a whole I felt it faltered a bit. It's not bad, but it sure as hell isn't Best Picture worthy. I give Philomena 3.4 out of 5 stars. Remember you can follow me on Twitter @WhitsMovies and like me on Facebook at Happy Viewing!        

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