Mood Indigo (2/5):
My favorite film of all-time is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a heady, circular love story from the impenetrable mind of Charlie Kaufman. Kaufman’s inventive, powerful script was impressively brought to life by effervescent director Michel Gondry, a Frenchman with a passion for stop motion and handcrafted visuals. It was the perfect marriage between content and splendor. Unfortunately, Gondry has yet to find another finely written vehicle that efficiently uses his artful eye. All of his projects since Eternal Sunshine are exercises in indulgence, where story concedes to eccentricities. In the case of Mood Indigo, Gondry’s newest love story, visual stimulation mutes a heartfelt ode. Based off the novel “Froth on the Daydream”, Mood Indigo is the blossoming love between a rich man, Colin (Romain Duris), and a luminous woman named Chloe (Audrey Tautou). After meeting at a party, Colin and Chloe hastily move towards marriage, throwing themselves into a blissful relationship. But bliss turns into pain after a water-lily becomes lodged into Chloe’s lungs, suffocating the couple both financially and romantically.
Fractured without falling apart, Colin and Chloe march into a bleak future. But the story of their unrelenting love sours into an over stylized piece of filmmaking with little brevity on hand. As an on-screen couple, Duris and Tautou are extremely charming. They give the film an undeniable warmth, but Gondry’s disjointed direction and inflammatory need for whimsy swallow up the performers and their efforts. No one can doubt Gondry’s knack for on-screen wonder, but it feels as if Gondry’s love for ocular stimulation was more important than crafting a whole story. Subplots are recklessly abandoned, a tone is never entirely established, and stop motion is annoyingly overused. Admittedly, there are some fantastic moments where Gondry marries genuine emotion to his whimsical effects, Chloe and Colin’s walk down the aisle is quite stirring, but Mood Indigo doesn’t inspire the viewer any more than it wears them down with pointless visual flourishes. As I left the theater, I knew I saw a love story, but it wasn’t between Colin and Chloe; it was between Gondry and his indulgences.
Guardians of the Galaxy (4.25/5)
Outside of The Avengers, Captain America 2, and Iron Man, the Marvel cinematic universe is a bore. Concerned with a master plan of saturating the market with seismic power and snark, Marvel has stripped its colorful cavalcade of gods, hulks, and archers (Jeremy Renner deserves more) down to generic heroes that battle cookie cutter villains, albeit with some fantastic quips peppered in. Playing it safe is exactly what netted Marvel the cache it currently possesses, so Guardians of the Galaxy is the biggest creative risk they’ve taken as a studio. Featuring a cast of unproven actors, outside of Bradley Cooper voicing a gun-toting raccoon and Vin Diesel voicing a muscle-bound tree, and a wicked sense of humor, Guardians of the Galaxy is a darker, edgier affair. The Guardians, led by the hilariously arrogant Peter Quill (Chris Pratt in a star making turn), are a motley group of galactic rebels coerced into saving the galaxy from a power-hungry space tyrant. Featuring Gamora (Zoe Saldana), a green assassin, a blue brute named Drax (Dave Batista), and the previously mentioned talking tree and raccoon, named Groot and Rocket respectively, the Guardians are a colorful bunch that defy convention. They are reluctant heroes, and they’re often more concerned with their personal success than the survival of innocent lives.
It’s a refreshing take on the sacrificial hero, but director James Gunn, along with co-writer Nicole Perlman, also tap into something more human. Considering our rogue squad mostly consists of aliens and animals traveling throughout an expansive universe, Guardians of the Galaxy is surprisingly sweet and human. Through excellent performances and deft direction, Guardians of the Galaxy, for all its intergalactic adventures, stays emotionally grounded. From Peter Quill to Rocket, there is a level of pain each character desperately runs away from. Sure, the action is fantastic, and the film is irreverently funny, but the wounds of our characters are as deep as the universe is never-ending. Rocket, a CGI raccoon mind you, has an especially emotional scene where he discusses the nature and singularity of his existence. The scene perfectly encapsulates the situation these unexpected heroes find themselves in: they’re all lonely in an ever-expanding universe, using their misdeeds as a form of misdirection. By the end of the film, we get the idea that these self-ascribed guardians need each other more than the galaxy needs them. As far as blockbuster films go, we could use more heroes like the Guardians.