His Dark Materials
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This is the first review in about two weeks that I actually begin writing on my laptop on Gmail. Let's see how long this lasts, considering the fact that the laptop shut down on its own a few times as I was trying to boot it up, so I don't expect this to hold up that much. This laptop, when I first got it, was shutting down on its own less than a week after I started using it and that was, like, almost five years ago. I think this has lasted me as long as it did as a result of the fact that I've started using my smartphone for shit that I usually left for the laptop, so I haven't used it as much as other laptops I had in the past. I just like writing reviews on the laptop, given the fact that I have an actual, large keyboard to type in, instead of a condensed version on my phone. And I don't even write the reviews in landscape mode on my phone. I like to see what I'm writing on Samsung Notes, hence why I write holding my phone like you would hold it normally. Neither here nor there, I suppose. Let's keep going with this review, see how far I can go. This movie is certainly an...interesting watch to say the least. And I say interesting legitimately, this movie is certainly ambitious and uncompromising in its approach to its story, which plays out in reverse chronological order and looks at three different nights, across the years, in the life of one man. First night takes place when he's in his 50s, I'm assuming, when he exacts revenge against a former co-worker for sleeping with his wife. He murders his wife and her current lover. All of these murders occur on the same night. Second night takes place in his 20s, as a cop, when he finds out that the Vice Captain (the man he kills in his 50s) is fucking his wife. He runs away with this French woman he originally arrested on this same night. He plots to run away with this woman, after they spend the night together, but he gets framed for accepting bribes and is held in the station before the woman, inevitably, ends up leaving, dejected. And the third is as a teenager, when he comes across his mother, who abandoned him as a young child to pursue a criminal lifestyle. So the film looks at three pivotal moments in this man's life and how the events of those nights have led him to where he, inevitably, ends up. But getting to that point, which really only becomes clear in the last segment of the film, might be a bit laborious for some of you that might not necessarily have the patience to stick with this film. Because, I'll be honest, until that last act, one fails to see the point of what we're watching. How does it all fit together? And, in a way, it does, because you could make the argument that Dong-ling experiencing his mother's death, she was shot on the way to the courtroom or something, is what set him down this path to his eventual death at the end of the first segment in the film. His abandonment issues boiling over past its natural breaking point into an outburst of violence that ends in his death. I've always liked movies that play in reverse chronological order for this very reason. I think there's a certain inevitability that is more present when the film is presented this way than it would be if it had been told in chronological order. Like, for example, at the end of Irreversible, Monica Bellucci's character finds out she's pregnant and that makes what transpires all the more tragic and affecting. The film ends at that specific character's happiest moments, not knowing how the rest of the day is gonna transpire. And that inevitability, since you've already seen what will happen to her, is really effective. I'm not saying that this reaches Irreversible levels of effectiveness, but I like that and I wish more films would implement it. I don't mean more films in reverse chronological order, but I mean stories where you can clearly tell where the character is headed through his/her actions and there's nobody anybody can do to stop it. Everybody BUT the character knows where he/she will end up. I had that feeling with Carrie last year. I know how it was gonna end and, yet, somehow, that made the movie even better. This movie has some of that, but considering this is a more artful in its presentation, then they don't necessarily get the most out of this. I will say that this move is well made and, as a whole, I would call it good, but there is also a part of me that feels like this movie takes itself way too seriously. The way the film makes it seem, Dong-ling's only literal happy moment is with his mother, as a toddler, pushing him on a swing. Everything else is about betrayals, depression, abandonment, murders, suicides, etc. Fucking hell, lighten up a little bit. I'm not saying that you completely change the entire tone of the film. I get what they were going for, Dong-ling's been doomed to this end since his mother abandoned him, but show us some light, some beauty in his life. And I guess that's what they do with the lone scene elder Dong-ling has with his daughter. But even then, the whole scene has this depressing overtone since the daughter is gonna move away with her boyfriend. So, his abandonment issues continue to show themselves, even in the scenes that are meant to be nice. It is what it is, but for a bit of dynamism and to show us that Dong-ling, in his last moments, is more than just a person consumed by vengeance and hatred. The movie doesn't do that. It is what it is, but I felt that tonally, the movie is insistently depressing. It's still a pretty good movie. It's well-made, has excellent cinematography and has a really strong cast. So, clearly, the movie is good. But it's a good movie that should have probably been better with a more involving narrative that looked at both the good and bad and not just focused so heavily on the latter. Still, this is a solid movie that's gonna be a bit of an acquired taste for most of you.
So, assisted suicide, we are gonna need to talk about you today. This is a very touchy subject, particularly in a country that's so much controlled by the religious right as the United States is. Now, of course, this film looks at events, now, over 20 years ago and I haven't kept up with the laws and I do not know how many states have passed laws in favor of physician assisted suicide in cases where there's no other form of action to be taken to help the person improve, if not their chances of survival, if it's a terminal illness, then their quality of life. I've always been of the opinion that, in cases such as where there's a terminal illness where the person is in constant pain and slowly, over a period of time, withers away while their family suffers, and the person in question is rational, competent and of sound mind, then how can ANYONE oppose that person's decision to end their life with a little bit of dignity where they, essentially, just go into a deep sleep that they never wake up from. How is that better than the alternative of a person, on life support, having the plug pulled on them by their family and them, basically, starving to death. Which of these sounds like the more humane solution??? Did you know that Patricia Clarkson, from Everybody Loves Raymond, is against assisted suicide. For religious reasons, because of course she is. I think some advocacy groups engage in willful misinformation and they claim that, wrongfully I might add, that this means that disabled people should be eliminated. And nobody has ever actually said that, because it would be against the person's will. The arguments are that the person who is suffering should make the decision as to whether or not end their life and I'm all for it. People can't live their own lives and now they're trying to live everyone else's. Of course, I'm also for setting up a complex series of hoops so not just anybody can apply for this. We're gonna need as many opinions as we can get, medical records, extensive medical examinations, psychiatric evaluations to determine whether the person is actually suffering and in legitimate pain that they cannot recover from or if they're just lonely, depressed and/or isolated. If they're in the latter group, help set them up with groups that can help with what afflicts them. Now that my spiel is out of the way, in terms of this movie, I'll be honest, of course I knew of Dr. Jack Kevorkian. Who, around my age, doesn't know about this guy? I knew about him back before I was an adult and, back then, the perception I had of this guy was what I saw on TV, which was that he was a serial killer. I didn't have an opinion of him in the slightest, but that was just the way the media sensationalized the case. It was a little bit later in life that I did some research on Mr. Kevorkian and came to the realization of what it is that he was doing and his reasoning for it. This movie tells that story as Dr. Kevorkian goes around his business of, um, well assisting in his patients' deaths while also trying to circumvent the law and the super religious DA that attempts to stop him every chance he gets. In a lot of ways, this is kind of a heartbreaking movie to watch at times, because you do get to see some footage of the real interviews that Kevorkian filmed (most shot by his sister) with Al Pacino inserted through CG. It's really tragic to hear these stories of people who are in immense pain and the fact that they feel like the only way they can reach the peace they've been looking for is by dying. What I think the movie does well, outside of Al Pacino's FANTASTIC performance, is the fact that Dr. Kevorkian's message may have been the right one, it's just that he may not have been the right messenger for. He engages in a lot of grandstanding with authorities and that might give the impression that he is longing for the attention instead of trying to start a real national debate about a touchy subject. But I do think they balance that with the fact that, as nutty as Jack may be at times, he is also an incredibly intelligent and rational man. It's just that his honesty and no-filter approach on things might have turned more people against him than he would have wanted. The fact is that Dr. Kevorkian's methods weren't perfect and that's been reported on many times after his release and death in 2011. He never actually met his first patient, he just talked with her husband while the film presents it as they had an extensive interview on camera where Janet, the woman in question, tells her about the suffering she is in. There's people that might have been depressed and assisted suicide might not have been the best course of action. There's another woman that was misdiagnosed with MS. Things like that are things that the movie conveniently ignores. But, the thing is, I feel like the truth might have helped push more the theme of the fact that the message is the right one, it's just that Jack, despite his honest intentions, just wasn't the right messenger. The film is really compelling to watch and, despite its length, it never once dragged. I mean it's a movie that I wish I could go into more detail about, but if I did, I would be here forever. I just think that this is one of those films, and topics, that will inspire spirited debate and I don't wanna keep going. As far as a film is concerned, this is a really damn good movie and Al Pacino gives, in my opinion, one of his best latter-day performances. For that alone, I can recommend it, even if you're wholeheartedly against the concept of assisted suicide but can still appreciate a quality film.
I'll be honest, I haven't seen this movie. I just wanted to check that, since the site seems to have a more updated look, if I was able to post the long reviews that I typically do, which I haven't been able to for three months now. I reviewed a film that isn't available on here and posted it here. So it turns out I can. But what I CAN'T do is clear the score from this movie. Hence, until the moment that I DO see it or I find a way to clear this score (which I did easily before), the score is gonna stay up. Disregard the score, because I have NOT SEEN THE MOVIE. This was just a test gone horribly wrong. Plus, I fully expect this to be a fucking great movie, since the first two didn't disappoint.
If you want to read the review I wrote for this, go to letterboxd.com/HankIsDead514. I can no longer post long reviews on here and I'm not writing two separate reviews for the same movie.