The Reel Deal


Quick Takes on Three Films

Film Insight by Tyler Malone

November 2011


Reel Rating: 2 out of 5

For the filmmaker behind Gattaca and The Truman Show–movies that view real human problems through the lens of science fiction and fantasy with interesting and enjoyable surprises–this film feels misguided every step of the way. Well, I suppose the premise isn’t a bad jumping off point. In the not-too-distant future, time is money, quite literally rather than figuratively. Instead of paying for things with dollars and cents, people pay for things with the minutes left in their life. Everyone looks the same as they looked at 25, and they have as much time after 25 as they can “afford.” Some people can be immortal, others die just a year after turning 25. So that’s the jumping off point, but the problem with a jumping off point is that you need to know where to jump, or else sometimes you end up jumping face first into a metaphorical drained swimming pool, dead on impact.

Though this movie could have certainly been much worse, hence the 2 stars it does manage to weasel out of me, it also had the potential to go places. I mean the concept is topical–after all, even in this problematic final product, there seems an obvious Occupy Wall Street parallel. If In Time had been executed properly it would have, in fact, been just in time to become a part of the national debate. So topical, it could have been called Occupy New Greenwich. But, unfortunately, the movie is poorly written, shoddily directed, with uninspired acting, and sub-par special effects. Also, and perhaps most importantly, there are plotholes that you could drive a Brinks secure transport truck through. It is a miracle that In Time is as watchable as it is. I can even confess to being mildly entertained, while simultaneously being utterly disappointed. But by the time the credits role, even if you weren’t looking at your wrist throughout the whole movie to check the time (or to mimic the characters’ constant wrist-watching), you end up just thinking you could have done something much better with the time you spent in that theater seat. If time is money, I just got robbed.


Reel Rating: 3 out of 5

The Rum Diary disappoints in a different way than In Time. It is a much better film, but in some ways more disappointing, because it invites parallels to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and quite clearly can’t measure up. Perhaps the best way to put it is: if The Rum Diary were a cocktail, it wouldn’t be a rum and coke, it’d be a rum and diet coke. It reeks of artificial sweetener. This is the most watered-down Hunter S. Thompson could be, and still be at all recognizable as Hunter S. Thompson. There are two reasons for the Thompson Lite that is The Rum Diary. The first is that any adaptation of this story would be a somewhat tamed version of Thompson just due to the fact that the novel The Rum Diary is one that describes some of his pre-Gonzo days. So, in that way, it is acceptable that the Thompson on display here isn’t the wacky one of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. It is wrong to expect the same brilliant madness from Depp because it is a different character.

The problem comes with the second reason why the movie shows a tamed Thompson, which is that this story, already of a more palatable Thompson in novel-form, has added to it, by way of a timid script and even more timid direction, all the ingredients for a typical Hollywood film-by-number. One example of this is that in the novel the love interest (which is much more of a sex interest in the text) gets the pedestal on which she has been placed pulled out from under her–the tenderness of the relationship on film is contrived, and clearly so (one needn’t have read the book to feel the discomfiture of this Hollywood contrivance). Depp plays Kemp (aka Thompson) brilliantly, of course, and you see in his performance that this is a labour of love. But beyond Depp’s performance (and Giovanni Ribisi’s), there isn’t much here. Compare this to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which I love for its fusion of Thompson/Depp/Gilliam mad brilliance, and which, if it has any fault, has too much there, rather than not enough. Admittedly, parts of this film are well done, and commendable, and if you are a Thompson fan, there’s plenty here to keep you entertained, but the soul of the man is missing.


Reel Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Who knew the world was ready for a sub-genre called “Cancer Comedy”? As someone who enjoys taboo topics, and pushing the envelope on taste, I’m not against the recent surge in attempts to find comedy in what would be traditionally considered to be strange places. Comedy can be found everywhere, and should be. The only way to get through the monotony and meaninglessness of life is to laugh, as often and as loudly as you damn well please.

50/50 stands so far as the best of the bunch of these new “Cancer Comedies, having both more humor and more pathos than the likes of Funny People and The Big C. While 50/50 is far from a perfect movie–it contains some weak scenes, and meanders quite a bit–it has a lot going for it. It makes you laugh, it makes you cry, and never feels like it’s trying too hard to get either reaction out of you–it’s just a natural extension of the subject matter. A young 20-something guy finding out he has a cancer that gives him 50/50 chances on life is an absurd situation–one obviously sad, but also inherently funny (if not in the situation itself, then certain in the day-to-day dilemmas it forces one to face).

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a likable leading man, with a surprising comedic range, and the film also features Seth Rogan in his best and funniest role in years. The movie is able to shift between all kinds of comedy styles without wearing any of them out. It even pulls off a Patrick Swayze joke that could have left many saying “too soon,” had it not worked so well. There are definitely plenty of laugh out loud moments, but they don’t negate the intense emotion that forms the film’s foundation–if anything those moments get the viewer more to the heart of that emotional core.

In Time is a film written and directed by Andrew Niccol. It stars Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried and Cillian Murphy. In a future where people stop aging at 25, but are engineered to live only one more year, having the means to buy your way out of the situation is a shot at immortal youth. Here, Will Salas finds himself accused of murder and on the run with a hostage – a connection that becomes an important part of the way against the system.

The Rum Diary is a film written and directed by Bruce Robinson, based on a novel by Hunter S. Thompson. It stars Johnny Depp, Giovani Ribisi and Aaron Eckhart. American journalist Paul Kemp takes on a freelance job in Puerto Rico for a local newspaper during the 1950s and struggles to find a balance between island culture and the expatriates who live there.

50/50 is a film directed by Jonathan Levine and written by Will Reiser. It stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogan and Anna Kendrick. Inspired by a true story, a comedy centered on a 27-year-old guy who learns of his cancer diagnosis, and his subsequent struggle to beat the disease.


Official Site: In Time

IMDb: In Time

Official Site: The Rum Diary

IMDb: The Rum Diary

Official Site: 50/50

IMDb: 50/50

Written by Tyler Malone

Photography Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Design by Jillian Mercado


Press Photo from In Time, Photography Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

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