Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Dearly Departed

(Warning: This is a Scorsese film, chockful of violence and flowing with foul language.)

Martin Scorsese is trying for another Oscar bid with The Departed, and many of the critics are raving. Not me, and here’s why.

The Bad: Don’t expect a lot of coherence. Several scenes seem randomly placed, and you will only hurt your head trying to figure out what they are doing there. (What’s the deal with the opera scene, and Jack Nicholson tossing cocaine around? Is it because every movie about the Italian mob requires an opera scene, and Marty didn’t want the Irish to feel left out?)

There are many set ups with no payoffs (as you watch, do not become invested in the envelope that DiCaprio leaves with the psychologist, telling her to open it if something happens to him and that it is very, very important. It isn’t, and the envelope is never mentioned again.)

This is a movie that needs no deus ex machina, yet somehow manages to squeeze several in during the last fifteen minutes. Taped conversations never hinted at before, a lawyer that missed mention, an act of trust that makes no sense, a cop choosing to make an arrest in the stupidest way imaginable… Again, don’t think about it – it will only make things worse.

Jack Nicholson’s performance is too far over the top. And we are talking about a movie where everything is intentionally over the top; you have to go a long way over before it becomes annoying. Yet Jack reaches that height.

The Good: I’d hate to be the guy trying to decide which actor should be up for the Oscar. Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, and Alec Baldwin each deserve a statuette. Leonardo DiCaprio is a revelation in this movie; and Matt Damon maintains his status as one of my favorite smart action stars. And all five work off of each other -- each making the other guy look good (which is another reason that Jack’s performance was so disappointing.)

There are scenes that are explosively compelling; as well as scenes that are quietly beautiful. Martin Sheen inviting DiCaprio to sit and eat, “We’ll talk in the kitchen.” Beautiful.

The Ugly: So, there’s some good stuff, and some not good stuff. What’s the tipping point for me?

Ultimately, this is a movie that doesn’t matter. It has been compared to Shakespeare – mostly because a lot of people die in the end. But in Shakespeare, the lives of those killed mattered.

Verona was left a sadder but wiser place because Romeo and Juliet foolishly lived out their story. Denmark was transformed by the action of Hamlet. Even the dark deeds of Macbeth left us survivors altered, with more to ponder and carry away.

Shakespeare's characters left a mark. Their existence mattered.

Yet The Departed doesn’t matter – the characters do not leave a mark. It is reminiscent of Shakespeare more in embodying the line: “Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Martin Scorsese has been accused of having too much Good Friday in his films, and not enough Easter.

Maybe that’s it.

Just my thoughts,



Ben said...

I really appreciate your film reviews. I feel like they leave me more informed about a film vs a lot of film "reviews" I see.

BTW: I'd still be interested in what you have to say about Lady in the Water...



Anonymous said...

"Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean"

In other words, it was Verona which was sadder but wiser on account of the star-crossed lovers, not Venice. Feel free to fix the... ummm... "typo" and then delete this rebuttal, though!

Gaffney said...

Actually, Venice benefitted because the play was often performed there. Yeah, that's what I meant...

-Shamed Sean

Gaffney said...

Ben -- I still haven't seen Girl in a Puddle -- it is on my list, but just haven't managed it yet. Some good friends have labelled it the worst movie of the year; and some good friends have labelled it the best movie of the year. So if nothing else, it is getting people to speak in superlatives!