Tag Archives: Dev Patel

The Road Within (2014, Gren Wells)

The Road Within is a story about finding yourself. Every guy in the movie finds himself. The women don’t find themselves but they help the guys find themselves. How do you find yourself? By rebelling.

Except Road is about people with mental disorders. Lead Robert Sheehan has Tourettes, his romantic interest (Zoë Kravitz) has anorexia and his roommate (Dev Patel) has really bad OCD. Kyra Sedgwick is their chain smoking doctor, Robert Patrick is Sheehan’s dad (who has anger management issues). The movie gets off to a strange start in Sedgwick’s clinic because no one else is anywhere near as sick as Sheehan, Kravitz and Patel. It’s only natural they’d steal Sedgwick’s car and head west through beautiful country as they each confront their demons.

As a director, Wells knows how to compose a pretty shot. Everything in Road is pretty, even when they’re supposed to be in a crappy town. The beauty of the world around us is curative. Unless you’ve got anorexia, in which case the love of a good man just isn’t enough to fix you.

Road is always trite–Wells’s script hits every trite trope she can find–but it isn’t until the last act it actually gets offensive. It works its way through a checklist of resolutions then has a happy-ish ending on a lovely beach boardwalk.

The characters are poorly written but all the actors do well, especially Kravitz and Patrick (who have the worst characters).

It’s not their fault Road’s baloney.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Gren Wells; screenplay by Wells, based on a film written by Florian David Fitz; director of photography, Christopher Baffa; edited by Gordon Antell and Terel Gibson; music by Josh Debney and The Newton Brothers; production designer, Nanci Roberts; produced by Brent Emery, Bradley Gallo, Michael A. Helfant, Guy J. Louthan and Robert Stein; released by Well Go USA Entertainment.

Starring Robert Sheehan (Vincent), Dev Patel (Alex), Zoë Kravitz (Marie), Robert Patrick (Robert) and Kyra Sedgwick (Dr. Rose).


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Chappie (2015, Neill Blomkamp)

South Africa produces the most macadamia nuts in the world, as well as the most electricity. However, according to Chappie, those achievements come with quite a cost. Every single native white South African–again, according to Chappie, is an amoral, dimwitted thug. The only people in the country doing good are foreigners, like Dev Patel, who creates robots for the Johannesburg police department in the film.

He works for a weapons manufacturer, run by very American Sigourney Weaver, and has interoffice squabbles with Hugh Jackman. Jackman, sporting a mullet, lots of religion and a military background, is one of the film’s bad guys. At least he doesn’t have subtitles for when he speaks English, like Brandon Auret; that device is one of director Blomkamp’s annoying eccentricities. As opposed to his incompetent ones, which are legion.

The near future Johannesburg, with its Robocop-quote spouting robot cops, runs on command line Linux and flip phones. It’s dirty, it’s grimy, it doesn’t matter that Weaver’s company has achieved the extraordinary in robots, even before Patel gives one sentience.

With that sentience comes the titular Chappie’s new family–criminals Ninja and Yo-Landi Visser. Ninja and Visser, in real life, are rock stars (performing as Die Antwoord). They have interesting videos. Blomkamp turns Chappie into a bad commercial for them; relying on Ninja for acting is a big mistake. Visser is a little better, but not much.

Chappie’s an atrocious two hours. Blomkamp’s filmmaking masterfully combines dumb ideas, incompetent execution and bad directing.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Neill Blomkamp; written by Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell; director of photography, Trent Opaloch; edited by Julian Clarke and Mark Goldblatt; music by Hans Zimmer; production designer, Jules Cook; produced by Simon Kinberg; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Dev Patel (Deon Wilson), Ninja (Ninja), Yo-Landi Visser (Yolandi), Jose Pablo Cantillo (Yankie), Hugh Jackman (Vincent Moore), Sigourney Weaver (Michelle Bradley), Brandon Auret (Hippo) and Sharlto Copley (Chappie).


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Slumdog Millionaire (2008, Danny Boyle)

With Slumdog Millionaire, Danny Boyle hasn’t just finally made his grand romance (something he’s wanted to do since A Life Less Ordinary–this time without the “acting” stylings of Miss Cameron Diaz), or given cinema its first great mainstream romance in nine years, he’s also made the best adaptation of a Charles Dickens novel (even if it’s a novel Dickens never actually wrote). I haven’t read Slumdog‘s source novel, so I don’t know if the Dickens references originated there or if screenwriter Simon Beaufoy contributed them. For whatever reason (lack of reference to them on the novel’s wikipedia page and author’s website), I’m going to attribute these inclusions to Beaufoy.

The result–a modern day, pop culture Dickensian something or other. Boyle uses the story’s Indian setting to confound the viewer–I wonder how it plays to Indians and those familiar with the culture–because there’s such a disconnect between the main character’s youth and the modern story. But Boyle also uses a fractured narrative to further confuse the viewer. This structure turns Slumdog into a police investigation from the viewer’s perspective–he or she is going in without the necessary information, which is the norm, but the protagonist is the suspect. As the film opened and the structure presented itself, I got worried–extremely fearful, actually–of a Usual Suspects twist at the end.

At some point, that fear went away. Maybe it was the multi-layered narrative and my developing trust in Boyle. As a filmmaker, Boyle manages to earn a huge amount of trust with every project (well, post-Beach) and then, on his next project, cash it all in and start over.

And Slumdog Millionaire starts accruing early on. Once the structure’s clear–adult protagonist Dev Patel being questioned by Irrfan Khan about winning “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” with flashbacks to his youth–Boyle gets extremely playful. All of the flashbacks are about the young version of Patel, played by Ayush Mahesh Khedekar, and his brother Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail (at the furthest back flashback). Here’s where Slumdog whacks the (presumably) Western viewer with a cricket bat. Slumdog‘s presentation of India–from a Western director and a Western studio… I can’t believe anyone signed the filming permits. It’s an unending horror. The respites the viewer gets are usually due to–with the occasional humorous aside–returning to the present. Boyle smartly (big shock) opens with one of the funniest scenes in the film, which takes gross-out humor to the pages of The New Yorker.

The film quickly develops into a fated romance between Patel and, in the present, Freida Pinto. Because Patel is so centrally the lead, there’s a real connection between him and the actors playing his younger selfs (Khedekar and Tanay Chheda–Boyle’s transition from flashback period to flashback period is singular). Slumdog revolves around him. And if it isn’t revolving around him, it’s around his brother–Ismail has the flashiest flashback period, Ashutosh Lobo Gajiwala (I guess he’s pretty flashy too) plays him in the middle and Madhur Mittal as the adult. If it weren’t for Pinto, Mittal would have the hardest role in the film, due to his character’s arc. But Pinto–she’s got to be flawless in every scene. As a kid, she’s played by Rubiana Ali, who earns all the viewer’s regard. Ali does a great job, but she’s a precocious kid. It’s a little easier than showing up for one shot and having to be the end all, be all of a two hour motion picture, which Pinto does. Even harder for Pinto is when she finally becomes a big character–she can’t have a false move, because the viewer has to believe in Patel’s devotion to her… otherwise it doesn’t work. And Pinto makes it work.

As for Boyle, his direction is amazing. It deserves a lot more attention than I could give it here and a lot more recognition. Slumdog‘s music is essential (from A.R. Rahman), perfectly integrated with Boyle’s sensibilities. To sum up Boyle’s direction… during the first flashback–Slumdog‘s use of subtitles is ingenious (I hope they keep it for the DVD), sorry, tangent–I wondered how Boyle looked at the script for the sequence and somehow came up with what I was watching. I couldn’t imagine how his brain processed the script, how he imagined the shots. He’s an exceptional director.

The film’s relationship with the viewer is where I’ll exit (and where the film exits too). Slumdog Millionaire has a first person narrator who isn’t on screen. It’s the film itself.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Danny Boyle; co-directed by Loveleen Tandan; screenplay by Simon Beaufoy, based on a novel by Vikas Swarup; director of photography, Anthony Dod Mantel; edited by Chris Dickens; music by A.R. Rahman; production designer, Mark Digby; produced by Christian Colson; released by Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Starring Dev Patel, Tanay Chheda and Ayush Mahesh Khedekar (Jamal), Freida Pinto, Tanvi Ganesh Lonkar and Rubiana Ali (Latika), Madhur Mittal, Ashutosh Lobo Gajiwala and Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail (Salim), Anil Kapoor (Prem) and Irrfan Khan (Police Inspector).


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