Archive for December, 2009

14
Dec
09

Humble Pie: Review

Humble Pie It’s not an odd thing for a film to affect me emotionally.  Anyone who knows me knows that it happens all the time.  But there’s something exceptionally affecting for me about Humble Pie.  As I mentioned in my Facebook impression, I so wish I couldn’t relate to the events in this movie.

Humble Pie is a completely fresh and uplifting look at a life considered by many to be ordinary.  Hubbel Palmer wrote and starred in the lead role.  Hubble plays Tracy Orbison – an early 30s supermarket worker living in a somewhat quiet midwest town who happens to be overweight.  The reason why Humble Pie struck such a chord with me is that it deals with being overweight in the accurate way that I and others knew and have known life to be and not in a fictional “Hollywood” sort-of way.  The “Hollywood” way would be to poke fun at his weight in a Nutty Professor or even Shallow Hal kinda way – then justify it with a moral at the close to remind people that it isn’t important ‘that these people don’t look like us – the key is what’s inside!’.  Sadly, little is ever done in these films to convince the viewer that their lives are remarkable.  I love Tracy’s character.  He lives amidst a mother who makes him feel as if he’s the biggest liability she has in life.  Tracy finds comfort in the relationship that he has with his sister, but being that she isn’t overweight (and, in fact, almost no other characters in the film are overweight), it’s very difficult for him to find anyone who can relate to his situation.

Tracy finds hope in life through his job at the supermarket.  And this is the beginning of what makes his spirit kinda awesome.  There’s nothing particularly exciting about his job.  But for eleven years, he works consistently and comes across as a pretty dependable person.  When he finds out that he’s being promoted, his reaction to the glimpse of sunshine in life has to make you smile.  Tracy really begins to find hope when he discovers an actor (William Baldwin) in a local performance of a play and identifies with the way in which he commands the stage.  Tracy discovers that the actor teaches a local acting class and decides to sign up and follow what he feels is his new purpose in life.

If you watch this film and are or have ever been overweight, there will be more than a few moments that I would imagine have drawn a laugh from some crowds, but will draw upon some pretty dark moments.  This film inspires hope for those who persevere.  No, there’s no montage where Tracy gets a workout tape and changes his eating habits and begins to exercise.  And no, there isn’t aren’t any makeover scenes or other significant life changing events happening here.  But the film did leave me with this: that despite how cruel some of his family, his friends, his co-workers and just random people he encountered were to him, his attitude remained even.  There were so many opportunities for him to just flip a table or punch a wall (or a person).  And theatrically, he would have been completely justified.  But through it all, he just plays this overweight, gentle six-foot beautiful spirit who’s trying to make the best of a situation that he doesn’t find particularly limiting.  It’s the behavior of the people around Tracy that makes life uncomfortable.

As mentioned, there were a lot of situations in the film that I truly wish I could not identify with.  I watched with incredibly mixed emotions.  There’s a script that I have been slowly writing that was trying to get to the heart of some of the things that I would imagine that Hubbel experienced and successfully wrote about in Humble Pie.  And there are a bunch of things in my yet-unfinished script that weren’t explored in this film.  But this film deserved more attention and I hope it finds new life on home video.  Having lived through some of the things that are in the film, it was painful but therapeutic to witness them onscreen.  But it’s all worthwhile if you watch this slightly over one hour and a half film.  There’s a poem that Tracy reads that was so moving, I had to listen to it twice.  If you’ve never experienced disappointment, this probably won’t resonate with you.  But for those who live lives that are less than ideal, persevere and endure, holding on until (as my Bishop would say), ‘they feel their help coming’, this poem is a beautiful way to end the film.

Humble Pie isn’t the story of every heavier person’s battle to live in a world where they are constantly reminded of their physical differences.  But this is a great film to watch and get a glimpse of some of the difficulties that life can impress upon you and the pain you can endure when you try to camouflage yourself among the masses, hiding under dark, loose fitting clothes.

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14
Dec
09

Paper Heart: Review

Paper Heart Netflix thinks he knows me.  He’s always making these recommendations based on other films he’s known I’ve seen.  “If you liked Gone With the Wind and you also liked One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest… well, heck, you’re gonna love this one!”  There’s something inherently mechanical and artificial about any system that tries to guess whether or not you’ll like a film.  Well, whatever the reason, somehow Paper Heart landed in my recommendations list.  And I’m starting to think Netflix knows me better than I know myself.

Describing Paper Heart is a difficult task.  The Netflix description had some word in it like “faux” or “mockumentary” that tipped me off to the fact that this wouldn’t be a completely sincere account of what was to come.  It starts Charlyne Yi as herself.  Who the hell is Charlyne Yi?  Well, she plays this musician/comedian who doubts the sincerity of ‘love’ as a true feeling and decides to couple with a crew to shoot footage in search of a deeper definition.  The real draw for most people is the presence of Michael Cera.  Cera is an immediately recognizable actor for anyone who has been paying attention to the young semi-independent movie scene for the past three years.  He’s probably best known for his work in Superbad and Juno and strangely here he plays… well, himself.

The film opens with Yi holding a microphone in Las Vegas and asking passers by about their definition and idea of love.  While this may not have been the intent, the insincere reactions that the passers by give to Yi sets her up to be a sympathetic character.  As you see her attempts to be taken seriously, you’d have to be heartless not to sympathize with.  She’s a 19-year old female of Asian decent, but let’s just say that she doesn’t possess ‘conventional beauty’.  After you spend a few moments with her, you sense that her mannerisms are quite odd – leaning heavily towards geeky or nerdy.  The fact that she identifies herself as either a comedian or a musician is strange considering that she didn’t seem to take the music that seriously and her comedy even less so.  All this said, I really grew to like Charlyne Yi.  Her beauty manifested itself in her freeness of spirit.  For me (as is the case with most people) a beautiful or ugly spirit drastically either enhances or detracts from your physical beauty anyway.  I liked Yi’s personality so much that I’m hoping her role in the movie was close to her real life persona.  It would be nice to think of how the world would be if there were more Charlyne Yi’s in it.

(It’s difficult to review this film without giving details about how it unfolds – so if you’ll trust me, I’ll try to give you a flavor for what hooked me without revealing the heart of the film.  However, if you just want to see this thing, stop here and check it out.)

The film develops with Charlyne subtlety and repeatedly (but not begrudgingly) expressing how she probably won’t ever experience true love.  To say she’s pessimistic about her love life is an understatement.  There’s even a shot of her parents on film trying to uncover the mystery of her love life.  To the viewer, it should be pretty obvious why she isn’t with a beau.  She has a strange and almost ‘performance-actor’-ish kinda personality.  As if she’s just kinda making it up as she’s going along in life.  What makes her likeable in the film is the genuine feeling she gives when she smiles.  Throughout the film, she finds small opportunities to create fun for herself.  She’s not overly concerned with her appearance.  (In fact, she’s not concerned with it in the least.)  She strikes me as a person who would randomly utter the most unpredictable and strange comments.  And it’s with this free-spirited approach that she and fellow filmmaker Nick Jasenovec set out to interview people about their definitions and ideas of love.  The feeling that the mockumentary seems to give us initially is that there really isn’t any script or even a storyboard for how the film will build or conclude.  They’re just kinda making it up.  That is, until Michael Cera steps on the scene.

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