A Very Long Engagement at Hoyts, Broadway

I enjoyed A Very Long Engagement much more than Amélie. I particularly liked the interplay between the uncle and the postman – in fact, I enjoyed pretty much everything that involved the uncle and aunt. I have no idea how true a representation it gave of life in the trenches, but it certainly felt very realistic. I found I had to work very hard to remember who was which among the six condemned soldiers. On the other hand, it is probably to the credit of the film that, for the most part, I did manage to do so. Normally I am very bad at keeping track of characters – particularly if they all look somewhat alike. The introduction of each character gave me a “hook” to remember him by (e.g. the different method by which each one was injured), although it was sometimes challenging when they were referred to by different names at different times.

For me, the scenes involving Tina didn’t fit very well with the rest of the film. She seemed far too ruthlessly efficient to exist in the same universe as the other characters.

I was a bit in two minds about the ending. [Warning: spoiler to follow] The implication seemed to be that he was never going to fully recover, and she would effectively have to become his mother, but that she was content with this. It was certainly more interesting than a conventional “happy ending”, but I wasn’t sure I was entirely comfortable with it. Then again, this was probably the point of it.

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

I have always been a bit underwhelmed by Looking for Alibrandi, Marchetta’s first book. I quite enjoyed it, but it didn’t give me the real insight into what it is like to be an Italian/Australian that I had been hoping for. Also, I found much of the plot pretty conventional.

Saving Francesca is a whole different matter. The fact that the central character is Italian is not foregrounded so much – it’s not the main point of the book. I thought the the two plot strands – mother suffering from depression, and main character gradually forming a new peer group – wove together well. I found the main character very engaging, particularly the way that her self image was so bound up in the perceptions of her former friends, and she only gradually realises that she has changed – and that they have always been shallow. The subsidiary characters were presented more superficially, so I didn’t really feel that I “knew” them as well as Francesca, but then that makes sense for a first person narrative. However, I liked them, and I liked the way they gradually changed as Francesca’s perceptions did. The only one who left me unmoved was Will, who I basically found completely uninteresting. This is probably because he is a relatively conventional romantic lead, whereas most of the other characters are slightly quirky.

Finding Neverland at Hoyts, Broadway

I don’t know a great deal about the life of J. M. Barrie, but I do know enough to be fairly confident that Finding Neverland is quite heavily fictionalised. Nevertheless, I did enjoy it – I suspect a good deal more that if it had been faithful to the facts. Although it didn’t actually ignore the problems with his marriage and the impact of his brother’s death, it didn’t really ask you to think too deeply about his relationships with other people. He came across in the film as perhaps somewhat awkward, but not much more than that. As I said, I don’t really know much about his life, but I gather it is generally felt that the death of his brother was very damaging to his emotional growth.

The Barrie of the film, however, was a totally engaging character, for all his occasional naivetes. I loved Johnny Depp’s performance, and also that of the boy who played Peter. At times it was a bit overly sentimental, but not excessively so.

The only thing that I was a bit bothered by was the suggestion that imagination needs to equate to belief. I got the sense of a subtext was that unless you can actually believe the things you make up, then your imagination is somehow inadequate. But surely something can be wonderful and magical and life-enriching even if you know that it is not actually true. You don’t have to actually believe in something to completely lose yourself in it … do you?

The Incredibles at Hoyts, Eastgardens

Monsters Inc is still my favourite Pixar production, but The Incredibles probably comes in second. The characters were fun (it was especially nice hearing Wallace Shawn re-use his Vizzine voice from The Princess Bride), and the plot was enjoyable. There was one thing I did wonder about, though. Both Violet and Dash had names that reflected their powers (shrinking violet/invisibility; dash/speed). I assume this means that Jack Jack also had some connection with the baby’s power: maybe I’m being thick, but I just can’t work out what the link is.

One for the Money and Two for the Dough by Janet Evanovich

I had never read any Janet Evanovich before, and I found these two books a lot of fun. Not knowing anything about her background, I first thought that the detailed descriptions of what Stephanie is wearing at all times, and what she eats, were a link to Raymond Chandler (right from the first paragraph of Chandler’s The Big Sleep, you are given a detailed description of Philip Marlowe’s clothes). However, I later discovered that her background is in romantic fiction, so it’s possible that writing these descriptions is now completely second nature to her. It’s interesting that two such completely different genres can have this kind of overlap.

As detective stories, the plots weren’t anything special (but then, neither are Chandler’s), but I enjoyed the comedy and the slightly surreal nature of the minor characters. Though I hope Stephanie does become slightly more competent as the series progresses – obviously, she’ll never be as good as Morelli or Ranger (doesn’t have their training or background) but it would be nice if just occasionally they could mess up and need her to rescue them.