Wednesday, November 21, 2012

film mini-reviews: The Queen of Versailles & We Need to Talk About Kevin

In my continued attempt to catch up on reviews, here are mini-reviews of two films I've seen this fall!

The Queen of Versailles
I expected The Queen of Versailles, a documentary detailing how billionaires Jackie and David Siegel react when they must stop building their dream home, the largest home ever built in the United States, to highlight their excesses. I did not expect this tale of lavishness (and to some extent cluelessness) to make me feel guilty for my own excess. This documentary is extraordinary in two ways: when filming began, the market had not yet collapsed, and the Siegels were living preposterously large. Their demeanors change, just as their lifestyle must, as the film progresses. Yet beneath all of their extravagance is a warning of scale: our financial position is precarious, even at my much, much more minimal level of income. It made me question what living within your means actually means--across all income levels. It's not all serious, however, as Jackie provides quite a few laugh out loud moments, including when she picks up a rental car after her first time flying commercial and asks what her driver's name is. The verdict: The Queen of Versailles is a surprisingly poignant, thought-provoking look at excesses both large and small. It's as captivating as it is as entertaining, and as entertaining as it is disturbing. 4 out of 5 stars

We Need to Talk About Kevin
After loving the novel by Lionel Shriver (my review), I was curious how it could possibly be adapted. The novel is epistolary and covers the time from before Kevin's birth through to the school shooting. Tilda Swinton was nominated for numerous acting awards, and she should have won. Her performance was amazing in its own right, but both her performance and the film as a whole carry more power and weight if you've read the book. We Need to Talk About Kevin is the rare adaptation that is not only as good as the book; it's enhanced by the book. There's little dialogue, and Swinton's acting, both facial and full body carries this film. The initial time shifts are subtle: the viewer has to pick up on changes in demeanor, hair style and location. If you've read the book, there are more visual clues to help you identify key scenes and decipher the chronology. The verdict: We Need to Talk About Kevin is a brilliant adaptation and Tilda Swinton shines and amazes. It's a complicated, crooked, fabulous film, and it requires attention and dedication from its audience. 4.5 out of 5 stars

Both films are now available on dvd. Buy The Queen of Versailles and We Need to Talk About Kevin from Amazon.

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  1. Wasn't We Need to Talk About Kevin intense! I've been wanting to watch the Versailles movie too!

  2. I've not heard of that first movie but I need to see it -- sounds wonderful! We watched the Kevin movie a few weeks ago -- my wife lists the novel among her top five -- but she was less wild about it. She didn't like the changes that were made, if I recall correctly.

  3. I've heard The Queen of Versailles is really really good. And I want to see Kevin as well -- I'm curious how they managed to adapt this book. But I just saw Life of Pi and it was done brilliantly so I think even an "unfilmable" book can be made into a great movie with the right director and actors.


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