Sunday, July 29, 2007


RUNTIME: 120 min.

Back in 1996, the Academy bestowed the Best Picture honors to a film I regard as the one of the most pretentious fluffs in cinema history. What seemed as a movie too deep for my younger self is clearly evident now to be a shallow undertaking. The very same pretension, so poetically, almost brings down this latest intentional tear-jerker set in London. And nobody else to blame but Anthony Minghella. He has built himself a reputation of making “chick flicks”, a reputation I don’t completely approve of. Amidst the teary ruckus of The English Patient (1996) and Cold Mountain (2003), he has made a good movie in The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999). But in his first original screenplay since 1991’s rather enjoyable Truly, Madly, Deeply Minghella has done only harm to his reputation.
Gone is the sweeping scope of his previous two romantic epics and in comes a relatively low-key simple drama. Set in the inner city district of King’s Cross in London, Breaking and Entering owes its title to Miro (Rafi Gavron), a teenage immigrant from Bosnia. Miro, who is a traceur, applies his abilities to fantastic effect by burgling architect Will Francis’ (Jude Law) office of its freshly supplied laptops. Will is leading a routine family life and is having an excuse for a romantic relationship with his wife Liv (Robin Wright Penn). Much of the distance that has crept between them owes its existence to the couple’s daughter who is suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and can’t sleep in the night. Will, tired of it all, decides to catch the burglars red handed. One night, when he follows Miro, he finds an unexpected turn in his life in the form of his single mother Amira (Juliet Binoche). He himself breaks and enters into her life, without knowing an iota of what to expect.
Scene for scene there is no fault per se, as with all Minghella movies. In fact, some sequences have enormous power; the emotions are conveyed beautifully, poignantly. But it is the overall product that is burdened with the smell of pretension. First, most of the turns of events lack a plausible reason; they just happen without any deal of spontaneity whatsoever. And that is a death ring for movies of this genre. The moment everything feels contrived, interest wanes rapidly. Will and Liv are supposed to be going through tough times but we never feel it, all we get is to hear the lines that are intended to tell us the same. How does Amira, a seemingly orthodox Bosnian Muslim woman fall in love with Will? The change of heart, the development of feelings is never captured. One moment they are strangers, the next moment they fall in love. Showing only the effects without a proper motivation kills the story. Moments as these make the movie very superficial.
Speaking of superficiality, another major problem plaguing the film is its use of metaphorical dialogues. Everybody is using metaphors; Will says to Liv once-“You seem to be behind a glass” or something to the same effect. Dialogues like these sound good, feel good in sweeping romantic tales, like Minghella’s previous two efforts. But here, in a simple drama, lines as these feel like one of those square pegs wanting to enter a round hole.
And added to it are the extremely unwise decisions on Minghella’s part to include racial discrimination, class differences and above all Vera Farmiga (The Departed, The Manchurian Candidate) as a hooker. Why was her character even in the movie in the first place? When Will’s partner Sandy (Martin Freeman) speaks of class, it stinks with shallowness. Ditto for the relatively subtler undertone of racial discrimination. These very elements would have been garnish had the basic story been structured well. But seldom have movies able to transpire the unpredictable, instinctive nature of human decisions on screen. Whenever it is done, a masterpiece is created (Magnolia) but whenever a movie fails to properly convey the motive of human emotions behind the decisions, it feels illogical. And when we, as audiences, pay the price of the admission ticket, we aren’t exactly forgiving. It is a pity.
The editing too, just like its story jumps to results. Things happen and then we realize they happened. We never anticipate them because there is no logical flow of things.
Not to mention that the movie is without its strengths. In fact, it is the best movie playing at the moment. Minghella is a fine director, and he makes fine movies, movies that are immensely literate and emotionally richer experiences than watching one of those stupid dead teenager movies or a useless horror flick (The Grudge2, movies that I deem fit enough to be reviewed). His movies are always substantial. In fact, of all the good bad directors, whose good bad movies I hate, Minghella’s movies are the best ones. Howsoever I dislike The English Patient I will be the first one to raise my hand up and vouch for it. Minghella, like all good directors is fantastic with actors. Here too, the performances are commendable. Juliet Binoche, as the single immigrant mother is the heart and soul of the movie. One of the great actresses of her generation, she carries some really unforgiving scenes on her own, and by means of her eyes and that beautiful face of hers conveys so much hidden pain. Robin Wright is good, not exactly brilliant. She seems tired. Jude Law, the principal character, the wheels on which the story flows is almost a letdown. His performance is good, better than most of the stuff he has been in lately, but nowhere near to what the part demanded. What seemed as a laid back style early in his career now seems lazy. Of late, everything he does seems to be the same as his previous turn, be it Alfie, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Enemy at the Gates, Cold Mountain or The Holiday. Those sparkling eyes that sent a chill through our spine in Road to Perdition, his best performance to date, are lost somewhere. Law, please find them mate, you’re heck of an actor than the poor excuses for performances that you’re coming up with lately. Ray Winstone (The Departed, Sexy Beast), that wonderful actor delivers his short role with great aplomb. Breaking and Entering, for all its weaknesses which by the way are many, is a good enough motion picture, a movie I would definitely recommend to be watched. But with the expectations, the reservations that an Anthony Minghella film deserves. You are going to be emotionally exploitation and that, I believe is significantly better than exploitations of the other kind.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

About the character of the hooker...I think it was introduced to give Will a chance to come out of his dull and sorrowful(and getting worse) can say a social(?)shelter.who else can be better for this than a hooker? Hookers listen(even they don't give a damn about it!).Though he is loyal enough not to sleep with her.But Will going to Amira's house and instead of informing police sympathizes with her and what worse,starts loving her seems over the top.I didn't find those sequences convincing.