Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Public Enemas

I got carded at the box office. I could hardly believe it. It's the first time I've been asked for an ID in a theatre since the times when it was just barely legal for me to get into an R-rated film on opening night. Somehow I managed to sneak in this time, forced to think about how excited I would have been to see a new gangster movie when I was 10 or so. Good luck, I say, to all the youth buying tickets to Up and stealthily sneaking down the hall into Public Enemies. My sympathies are with you.

Public Enemies itself was a disappointment. It is a big movie, barely able to contain itself. What makes it strain at its seams is that it doesn't seem all that sure what it wants to be. There are several different visual styles at work. An almost Dogme-like minimalism and purity contrasts with grand polished studio images. I couldn't make out any discernible pattern, but maybe that's my failing, not the film's. I want to give it the benefit of the doubt for now. (I need to stress here that some of the best shots in the film are among the best images I've seen all year anywhere. When the movie's good, it's great). The music and sound design wavered from silence to silly to stupid, operating somewhere in between inspired and insipid. Some of the transitions seemed lazily inept instead of carefully constructed. And I always hate being talked down to. "What's she doing up there?" "She's still listening to the radio."

The acting is solid, but I need to hate on Christian Bale a little now. I don't understand what's happened to him or how or when or why. I think that he needs to step down and take on a small role. He's become somehow less than human in my mind as he plays over-the-top and larger-than-life characters. I couldn't help but think that his Purvis was another George W. Bush act. It's probably a holdover from The Dark Knight, but all of Bale's mannerisms now remind me of W. I only want to know if it's conscious on his part or not. Or is it all in my head?

It might seem like I didn't like Public Enemies. That's not true. I did like it, but I wanted to love it so much more. I can only express frustration at the moment. At least I'm already thinking about seeing it again.

No comments: