I took a break from movies on Thursday to catch up on the latest season of New Girl and The Bachelor like a girl just has to do sometimes. I also knew I would have more time to watch movies this weekend because today is my first full day off from work since Dec. 29 … not that I was keeping track or anything.
I couldn’t wait to watch two movies today so I took some time last night to see Youth at my home away from home, the Edina Cinema, and then watched Muriel’s Wedding based on the recommendation from contributor and critic Karen Krizanovich in 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
Youth is a visually stunning film about a retired orchestra director and composer Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) on holiday in Switzerland with other artists, his longtime friend and movie director Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel), and daughter Lena Ballinger (Rachel Weisz.)
A mustachioed Paul Dano rounds out the main cast of characters as young actor Jimmy Tree and his performance was an effective way to bring to light what the other artists have struggled with their whole careers. Jimmy believes the dichotomy between artists’ passion and being defined by what they do just for work (in his case playing a robot in a Hollywood blockbuster) creates a bond between him and Fred.
Fred is retired because his wife is sick and can no longer sing the Simple Songs he composed and tries to ignore the fact that his art is still in demand. Ultimately, he must decide whether to go back to the stage after Queen Elizabeth II invites him to perform a concert.
The decision presents the same struggle and more for Fred as Jimmy has after taking a role he doesn’t believe in and then consistently being recognized as the robot Mr. Q even with long hair, the aforementioned mustache and a rotating collection of sunglasses.
Youth works in its presentation of character dynamics and human emotion between people and artists from all walks of life, including friends and family, but fell apart for me at times when it focused too much on the individual characters’ projects for work compared to their personal goals and struggles.
The friendship between Fred and Mick is one of the most important relationships in the film that shows their true characters even more in their moments together, ultimately making the expanse of the scenes when Mick is working on a movie with a young cast and crew unnecessary.
Regardless of that the music, for the most part, and the visuals presented at the backdrop of the happiness and sadness each character is going through bring the whole film together.
As is the case with Youth, Muriel’s Wedding is a film with a strong musical presence (except it’s all Abba, all the time) and focus on the characters’ relationships.
The film is recognized in 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die for what seems to be a rom-com turned drama-com as Muriel (Toni Collette) takes an unconventional path to find out her true self masked by the desire to meet a man and get married. She lives with her family in Porpoise Spit, Australia and spends her days dreaming of someplace else and the most elaborate wedding dress.
She is shunned by her group of friends for being too weird, essentially, and her father consistently says she is nothing.
Muriel doesn’t take the best path to reinvent herself, going on vacation on her parents’ dime when she’s supposed to be working, but she makes things right in the end and realizes what’s important.
There is still enough comedy in the film along the way and it presents and an over-the-top flashback to the styles of the 1990s. The heart of Muriel’s Wedding is the dynamic between Muriel and her best friend Rhonda (Rachel Griffiths) and restoring relationships with her family.
Muriel’s Wedding didn’t present the total pick-me-up that I needed after Youth, but I can see why it’s a cult classic and the two films make for a good double feature.
“Everything looks beautiful when you’re young and pretty.”
— They Might Be Giants