A Melancholic Month for Movies That Miss Their Marks

(Zentropa Entertainments)

(Zentropa Entertainments)

By CLINT HOLLOWAY and KATIE LOCKHART

(Zentropa Entertainments)
(Unified Pictures)

“Melancholia”
By CLINT HOLLOWAY, Staff Writer

The end of the world turns out to be a bit of a bore in “Melancholia.” While Danish auteur, Lars Von Trier, supplies the film with an impressive amount of artistry and inventiveness, he fails to give it any real thematic cohesion or narrative drive.  You may find yourself eagerly anticipating the apocalyptic conclusion, if only out of desire for the film to finally be over.

The film’s first half takes place at a lavish wedding party being thrown for newlyweds Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Michael (Alexander Skarsgård) by Justine’s sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and Claire’s husband John (Keifer Sutherland.) Seemingly overwhelmed by the chaotic event, Justine reacts with impulsive behavior that includes telling off her boss and having sex with a random guest, losing her husband, as well as her job, over the course of the night. The film’s second half skips forward in time, as Justine returns home from a mental hospital and undergoes an intense depression. As this all occurs, a planet known as Melancholia has emerged, on a trajectory to collide with the Earth. While John denies its likelihood with scientific proof, Justine seems to calmly embrace the news and their fate.

Stylistically, the movie is sublime, opening with a prologue-montage of surreal and nightmarish slow-motion shots of Justine surrounded by falling dead birds, radiating electricity from her fingers and finally, what appears to be another planet smashing into Earth, giving us the final outcome before the movie even officially begins. In addition, the situation is treated with refreshing strangeness, never giving the audience a broader view of the impending end-of-the-world scenario other than the way Justine’s family handles the news while seemingly isolated on their palatial estate. But by deciding to declare the end of the film so early, the film becomes tedious, as Melancholia’s ultimate collision with the Earth is constantly delayed before occurring with an anticlimactic thud. Despite winning the Best Actress award at Cannes, Dunst ultimately seems miscast, as her attempts to render Justine’s dark emotional state don’t quite convince.

“Melancholia” comes out in theatres on Nov. 11.

“Janie Jones”
By KATIE LOCKHART, Arts & Culture Co-Editor

No, this is not a film about the Clash, although it does involve a girl named Janie Jones and the life of a band on tour. When a strung out Mary Ann Jones (Elizabeth Shue) brings her thirteen-year-old daughter Janie (Abigail Breslin) to see her rocker dad Ethan Brand (Alessandro Nivola) perform, Janie ends up on tour with a rock band after Mary Ann  leaves her  alone at the venue to go on a drug binge.

Brand, a stereotypical asshole rock star, doesn’t want to take Janie with him on the road but his girlfriend Iris (Brittany Snow) convinces him that he cannot leave her alone. After several uncomfortable weeks on the road going to grimy bar room venues to play small shows, Brand finds out Iris is cheating on him with a bandmate and after an awkward confrontation, the three literally fight it out while drunk on stage. The band starts to fall apart and eventually all the members quit.

With just his crappy guitars and illegitimate daughter, they embark on a trip to make it to South by Southwest (SXSW) and expectedly bond over the realization that his daughter is surprise, a naturally gifted guitarist, singer and songwriter at age thirteen. They begin to play shows together and ultimately end with a very touching performance singing together at SXSW.

This film is not particularly special in anyway. The acting is average except for the occasional heartfelt scene between Brand and Janie and the script is predictable. However, for the director David M. Rosenthal, the film has special meaning. When he was 18 years old he got a girl pregnant but was not a part of his daughter Julie’s life until they were reunited ten years later. This sweet sentiment carries over into the movie as you watch a spoiled stereotypical rocker become a loving dad.

“Janie Jones” is in theatres now.