Spring break is over, but its memories will last forever. Or at least that’s what half a dozen Facebook album names and airport location check-ins tell me. But I can’t say I disagree. This break I travelled from Napa Valley to Minnesota, to Western Europe, and even back to my hometown of Chicago. Chicago in a future dystopia, that is. While some people may have been counting shots or blackouts (no judgment) this break, I was counting movies, and I’m proud to say that in 9 days I watched 9. Of course within movie viewing experiences, there is a hierarchy and as much as I love Netflix, truthfully nothing short of cold hard cash excites more than seeing movies in theaters–the trailers, the popcorn, the people, the glitz, the glamour. Here are some thoughts on a few of the movies that hit theaters this break:
It truly pains me to speak ill of Jason Bateman. I have stuck with him through Horrible Bosses, The Changeup, and even Identity Theft. “He’s just trying to find himself in a post-Arrested Development world,” I would explain to myself and some inanimate objects. But Bad Words is one of the worst movies I’ve seen recently [Ed--Hey, I kind of liked it...] and I am no longer able to convince myself that he’s simply in it for the paycheck as Jason not only starred in, but directed this film. The plot centers around a 40 year old man who insists on competing in children’s spelling bees much to the bewilderment and chagrin of parents and the bee’s coordinators, as a result of a loophole in the rules allowing anyone to compete who has not graduated the 8th grade. The problems with this movie start with the racism (Bateman’s character continually refers to a 10-year old Indian child as “slumdog”), continues with the sexism, and culminates in a very thin and abrupt plot. The movie seemed to start too late in Bateman’s journey to properly introduce his character to the audience and ended far too early to justify any of his extremely inappropriate behavior. The saving grace of the film is Rohan Chand who is adorable and the only likable personality on screen. I won’t lie and say I didn’t laugh at all, but when I did it was usually strained and against my better judgment. Something like when you see a small child slip on ice. For an hour and a half.
My sister and mother insist that this was a popular book, but I have no memory of them or anyone else I know reading it. This lack of expectation or any conception of the coming plot was the perfect way to go into this movie, and I was genuinely entertained. Set in a dystopian Chicago where society is divided into factions based on defining personality trait, Divergent follows the Hunger Games trend of teaching children about murder and the evils of human nature under the guise of being an age-appropriate young adult novel. Shailene Woodley led the cast and is already getting hailed as the new Jennifer Lawrence both in coming fame and quirky likability. But if Jennifer Lawrence’s quirky move is asking for french fries on red carpets, Shailene’s is bringing her own herbs to interviews.
Sure, she’s a fairly stiff actress, and I’m not sure why people are so willing to forget that she started on Secret Life of the American Teenager, but she does seem like an interesting person and she was good for this role. Fans of Downton Abbey will recognize Theo James from his infamous appearance as the lover of one of the British women on the show (I don’t know, I don’t watch it). Humans born on earth in the last 100 years will recognize Kate Winslet from life.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
As much as I enjoyed Divergent, The Grand Budapest Hotel was by far the best movie I saw in theaters this break. Fans of Wes Anderson will love his signature style and stunning cinematography, but even non-fans will enjoy the film’s persistent dry humor. Anderson usuals like Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, and Edward Norton are back, but this time only for brief cameos, leaving room for Ralph Fiennes and the young Tony Revolori. The plot is elaborate and relies on Anderson’s characteristic voiceover narration to keep the audience straight on what’s going on, but The Grand Budapest Hotel in essence tells the story of the title hotel and its employees after its concierge is framed for murder. Overall the movie is both serious, suspenseful and laugh-out-loud funny.
If you can only see one movie in theaters because for some reason you only have 24 hours left to live, make it The Grand Budapest Hotel. And if you only have 24 hours left to live, what’s the point of seeing Divergent? You’ll never know what happens in the sequel.