Directed by Celine Sciamma
This wasn't too high up on my list of films to catch up on before the year was out, but it landed in my general vicinity, so I figured it couldn't hurt. I didn't expect how much "Tomboy" actually did hurt, in ways both predictable and still shattering. The story is your typical new-kid-in-a-new-place sort of story, with the major exception being that Mikael is not a boy, but a girl named Laure. And the thing is that there's nothing truly dishonest about the way she represents herself. She has no ulterior motive other than to settle in with this group without the prejudices asserted by gender basis, and the honest nature of her deceit is what makes this such a wonderful little tale.
The film elicits this tragic gut-feeling, not just through these sweet moments between Laure and the girl she starts a relationship with, Lisa, but through the inevitability of its collapse. This isn't a brilliant ruse that Laure. It's so easy for it to fall apart, and it doesn't do this in a contained moment with the group of friends. The film draws out Laure's humiliation so as to never speak ill of her or her friends. Director Celine Sciamma passes no judgment, and in fact shows only deep affection for her characters, and it's infectious, like the sporadic pop tune that plays during one of the film's sweeter moments. But it's the innocent performances from the cast, especially the pitch-perfect Zoe Heran working years ahead of her age, that cement this film so strongly in my heart. Show this one to your kids. It's that sweet.
Directed by Gore Verbinski
When I first came across this film, my reaction was one of apprehension. This was also around the time I still thought "True Grit" was the best film of last year. How quickly that delusion fell out of my heart. After a solid nine months since then, this film got a much more delighted reaction from me this second time around. It's not just fun, but insanely creative, with an emphasis on the insane part. Yeah, it's very predictable, but you don't expect it to be anything otherwise. And it doesn't grow irritation on subsequent viewings. On the contrary, it builds upon the groundwork it laid in previous viewings, making it all the funnier, crazier, more exciting, and even meaningful. It also gets points for being Clint Eastwood's greatest achievement since "Unforgiven".
Directed by Paul Feig
And then there's the film that is so likely to be dragged back to earth in the encore presentation. "Bridesmaids" has that misfortune this time, though not a huge one. This is still one of the funniest comedies this year, and it still has one of the most deliciously fastidious female performances of this year from Kristen Wiig. Melissa McCarthy is fine, but far from the brilliance people imagine her to be. Wiig is the complex heart and mind behind the vehicle, and what brings it down isn't her, but director Paul Feig. You wouldn't think a film like this would need a better director, but it certainly does. After the third meaningless musical cue of the film, I found myself skipping to the best parts of the film, namely the ones featuring Chris O'Dowd and Jon Hamm. It's still really sweet, but OH MY GOD, does it need a massive trim job!