Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Garden-variety thrills

Can you think of a less thrilling title for a movie than The Constant Gardener? I just love how it hits you with the motionlessness of "Constant" and then follows that up with the thorough dullness of "Gardener." Come for the stability! Stay for the horticulture! Still, the HBO on Demand summary described this selection as a "thriller," and I remembered hearing good things about it... So the fiance and I psyched ourself up to watch by imagining even less exciting adjective-noun combinations. (Coming to a theatre near you: The Sedentary Yam.)

I know I am two years behind the curve here, but in case you haven't gotten past the title yet, let me tell you: The Constant Gardener is actually, sincerely thrilling. "Thrilling" in the sense that it's suspenseful, with a plot full of conspiracy and intrigue, but also "thrilling" because it's a very well-made film, with great performances (from Ralph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz, et al.), smart writing (by Jeffrey Caine, based on John le Carre's novel), beautiful cinematography (by C├ęsar Charlone), sharp editing (Claire Simpson) and a lovely score (Alberto Iglesias). At first I thought the jerky, handheld-style camerawork would make me motion-sick -- I can never make it through an episode of Homicide: Life on the Street -- but in practice I always felt the direction (by Fernando Meirelles) served the story. (And I think the framing would have looked a bit less eccentric on a real movie screen, so it's my fault for missing my chance to see this in the cinema.) I loved how the movie kept a step ahead of me without making me feel like it was trying to trick me; it lets the audience follow Quayle, Fiennes's character, through his investigation, so the plot's twists turn out to be truly revealing instead of just gimmicky. I laughed, I cried, I bit my nails... and I didn't have to shut off my brain to enjoy it. Another belated movie recommendation from Restricted View! No need to thank me.


Marla said...

I think I would see The Sedentary Yam if for no other reason than that made me laugh for a very, very long time.


Ed said...

I like that, shortly after seeing the snake, you encounter the "Gardener"...

(I must confess, I am one of maybe five people who did not like this movie!)

Mollie said...

The Constant Gardener Snake is far more thrilling a title. It certainly frightens me!

The fiance wasn't as in love with this movie as I was, so he would probably be sympathetic to your view, Ed.