Thursday, September 9, 2010

The American

I somehow managed to skip Monday's blog entry, so now I feel as if I owe you. To repay this debt, I'm going to do two posts today: this movie review, and then my normal one, which will address my travels as I begin a nine-day California trip.

Warning: spoilers ahead.

When the studio didn't offer previews for The American until only a few days before its release, many wondered if the film was a dud they were trying to hide. The real answer, as many critics have observed, is that this movie is a European art flick that happens to star George Clooney. That heritage is evident in both the film's strengths and, unfortunately, its many weaknesses.

On the plus side, the movie is beautiful, with every shot worthy of closer inspection. The acting is uniformly strong and understated. The themes are serious and worthy of consideration.

The problem is, the movie is so stereotypically an art film that you can predict almost everything about it.

What does every character do before taking any action? Sit, stare into space, and think. Every reaction shot is twice as long as it could be.

With what character does Clooney fall in love? The prostitute with a heart of gold and a bangin' body who dresses in Eurotrash chic she could never afford.

Who is the main antagonist? The life Clooney has chosen, as personified by the man who pays him.

Right up to the last shot, in which an endangered butterfly slowly flies upward as Clooney dies, his soul similarly ascending from the redemptive power of hooker love, The American embraces every art-house cliche. At this tender ending, most of us in my group were laughing and exclaiming, "No! Really? The butterfly?"

By every traditional metric of film quality, The American is a much better movie than the other flick I caught last weekend, Machete, but, man, I don't care if I never see The American again, while I've already asked Amazon to email me when the DVD of Machete hits the market.


steveburnett said...

I have the book on order, as I suspect the story may work better for me on paper than the film version did.

Mark said...

Steve, let me know if it does.

Todd said...

The highlight of the movie was a woman leading her young children out during know the scene.

I thought the movie was an exercise in technique at the same time omitting any semblance of entertainment. This is arguably Clooney's worst work.

Mark said...

Todd, I have to agree that it was more about style than entertainment, but I do think Clooney did a fine job of vanishing into the role. It's just that the role was nowhere near as interesting as it could have been.

Sarah said...

Yo Dad, I have to see this at some point, but I have to note that you tagged "The American President" instead of "The American" in this. "The American President" is a fucking AWESOME movie.

Also, Aaron Sorkin is coming here for a Q&A. It's free for Duke students. And I can't go. :( :( :( :( :(

Mark said...

Sarah, thanks for the correction, which I've now made to the tag. I agree, of course, that The American President is a great movie.

I'm very sorry about you having to miss Sorkin. That sucks.


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