Sunday, February 24, 2008

Townes Van Zandt In Bruges

"That Hieronymous Bosch. What a weirdo." [Good Omens]

I went to see this film with my friend, who, bless his heart, just loves to talk during movies. (Of course nothing, nothing, will ever be as bad as the sassy lady who, upon Leonidas' death, informed the whole theater, "That was messed up!") We were sitting in the back next to the door, so we saw everyone who popped in to watch for 2 minutes and then duck out, as if they weren't sure what they were sneaking into. But at one point, even I spoke aloud, about halfway through the film, when the two of us turned to each other and said in unison, "Is that-- Townes Van Zandt?"

A big 'whoa-there' on its own, but I also watched Juno last night, so I think it's worth mentioning that it is refreshing to be surprised by a film's soundtrack. This wacky movie offers, along with Bosch, dwarves, cocaine, Ralph Fiennes, Canadians, dead priests, and gore, "St John the Gambler" in the background of the scene with the dwarf, the cocaine, and the hookers. In a movie set in Bruges centering around 2 Irish hitman, Ralph Fiennes, and Bosch, Townes was one of the last things I expected to hear.

Indeed, for the most part, this film did not go anywhere I thought it would when I sat down. If you've seen the trailers, I think you'll agree that this movie looks like a lighthearted odd-couple romp with guns. It's not. There are moments of humor, some bizarre, some surreal, some conveyed simply through dialogue and delivery (two highlights include Brendan Gleason giving Colin Farrell a speech on the blood of Christ, as well as Jordan Prentice, playing the race-war midget, very seriously informing Colin Farrell, as Colin's character Ray accuses him of not waving to him earlier that day, "I was on ketamine. I wasn't waving to anybody that day. Except maybe a horse," or something like that), but by the end, the movie has turned into a dark morality tale more concerned with purgatory than heaven/hell, where everything and everyone comes together along gothic themes of sacrifice and honor, with a well-timed ending and nobody spared.

So basically, dark dark dark. The ending sequence involves Bosch costuming. The set-up isn't, as the trailer implies, Colin Farrell done gone killed someone and is waiting for the fuss to die down while unhappily touring Bruges with Brendan Gleason. (Though he is doing that, hilariously petulant about it.) It's about a hit gone very bad, and the film explores not just the relationship between Ray and Ken, the two leads, not just the wild & wacky time they have in Bruges, but the way that "gone very bad" must be dealt with, emotionally by Ray and in terms of moral cleaning up by Gleason and Ralph "Los Angeleez" Fiennes (below, getting poked in the head by the tower man.)

The strength of the two leads is a large part of the appeal. Gleason and Farrell (who I had a HUGE crush on right after middle school omg, which was somewhere in the middle of my very long Owen Wilson phase) have a great on-screen chemistry, somewhere between buddies/brothers/father & son. Gleason is, as would be expected, magnificent, and the film requires a great range and depth from him by the time all is said and done. Farrell also does a great job, which I was pleased with, because frankly, when I had a HUGE crush on him it was because he was the cutest thing in 2001, not because I had taken a good look at his acting. His character Ray is completely insulting-- blacks, Americans, Canadians, skinheads, Pakistani 10 year olds, midgets, no one is spared-- boyish, whiny, and, finally stricken by what he has done. Farrell pulls the entirety of the character off with ease and charm. He is also great at those little grace notes that I'm always mentioning, from waving in a silly weird way to Gleason, to letting the hotel-owner pass him on the way into breakfast, as well as subtleties of delivery. The line ". . . if I grew up on a farm, and was retarded Bruges would impress me. But I didn't, so it doesn't," coulda fallen flat, but Farrell pulls it off very well.

I recommend the movie. I was very excited to see it but worried it would be a disappointment, so I was more than pleasantly surprised about the whole thing.

And Colin Farrell is still cute. (Like, there's this part in the movie where he takes his contacts out and is brushing his teeth. . .) But not when he has that hideous long hair (WHAAAT is he thinking?) And no, I didn't see Alexander.

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