Sunday, February 21, 2010

"Shutter Island" Review (no spoilers)

Long story short? "Shutter Island" was a filler track on a great album.

I bet you want the long story now...(sigh)...okay.

When I first saw the trailer for "Shutter Island," I thought about my two cousins, Brittany and Ashley. They're darlings, and they both struggle within the spacious labyrinth called Autism. They are my heart, and for their sake I wanted a movie that addressed mental illness directly to be good.

Now there are two genres of movies that belong in the "Shutter Island" family tree. The first is movies about people who are "off" but have some purpose that you'll figure out soon enough. Like a "Saw" on one extreme, and "Eternal Sunshine for the Spotless Mind" on the other.

In fact, if you watch "Eternal Sunshine" right now, you don't really have to see "Shutter Island" at all. Unless you like long hallways and dim lights (Scorcese believes you do, a lot)

The second genre includes movies about mental illnesses, and contain narratives that reveal to us how little we know about the human brain. You've seen "Cool Hand Luke" and "Of Mice & Men." For a laugh you saw "What About Bob?" (I could mention "Fight Club" here but it became a cult classic before we could extract the meaning). Two words define this genre, and after today I'm sure they'll never be bested in my lifetime: RAIN. MAN.

We needed "Shutter Island" to be good. That's why we picked the best director and the best American actor money could buy (sorry, Mr. Depp, Dicaprio absolutely outacted you here). The normal range of emotions for Dicaprio was present: the furrowed brow, the held in tension that makes you think for a second his head may explode. All present and accounted for. But there's something extra in Dicaprio's repertoire that we haven't seen before. It's confusion. He wears it on his face every second in this movie, and pulls it off beautifully. He truly looks like something else is going on in his mind.

I guess that's what bugs me here about Marty Scorcese. Ok, you've got the BEST, and in a faaaaaaar worse movie ("Aviator") you let him tell the story with his face (to the point that when "Aviator" ended you still don't know what happened). "Shutter Island," without spoiling anything for you, is the exact opposite. The moment you begin to wonder what THAT look on LD's face is, Marty tells you. Boy does he tell you. With flying leaves, papers, ashes (everything really) that would put "House of Flying Daggers" to shame. It's very arthouse.

That's right, I just said Martin Scorcese made a Arthouse movie. Are you angry yet? Well, you haven't seen "Shutter Island."

There's actually a point in this movie where Marty can just pull out, say "I blew it," and give us the message on mental illness. The problem is, by the time he does that, it is waaaaaaaay too late. People have disintegrated. Too much has happened. The smell of "trying too hard" is already in my jacket. The dry cleaner can't even get that out. The ending of this movie is either phenomenal or abysmal. I promise you will not feel ANYWHERE in between. There's a better movie that reminds me of "Shutter Island": it's called "Harakiri" (1962). That's the movie you want to see.

A word about Ben Kingsley. His awesomeness should come as no suprise, even if you've seen him play THIS character 20 times (you can almost guess the lines coming out of his mouth). There's something he does with his bow tie however, that is either annoying to look at, or its awesome. I'll let you decide.

I've been harsh, but here's the deal. I recommend this movie for two reasons. First, it's a film about mental illness, and we simply don't know enough. Any data is worth the Edward Daniels-size headache you are bound to have after watching this. Second, anytime you can watch one of the greatest actors of our generation, do it. Even if this reminds you just a tiny bit of Aviator. Don't worry, it's better than that.


OpenID Meredith said...

Thanks for posting this. I've been avoiding the movie as a whole (sorry but I ignore DiCaprio unless I know it will be good), but I think you should check out Side by Side, an intensely personal story of mental illness (in this case, depression) and a closer look at how to interact with it:

February 21, 2010 1:23 AM  
Blogger clarknyss said...

I think Leo was miscast

February 21, 2010 11:22 PM  

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