Schuyler Fisk

I’ve no better, more eloquent way to put this — Gus Van Sant‘s Restless is awful, pandering, painfully acted, lazily written, up its own ass schlock. It’s bad. This is not the Van Sant that pulled beautiful, nuanced performances from his actors in Good Will Hunting, gave us solid, dark, indie-fare like Elephant, or even the almost total airball remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. This, perhaps, is a sign that Van Sant has taken his title as arthouse darling and run it completely off the rails.

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Last year I came away from Cannes needing to tell as many people as possible to see Blue Valentine, which enthralled and emotionally jarred me thanks to a blend of compelling story-telling and two mesmerizing lead performances ranging from touching to explosive in the space of a few short minutes. Already, only two days in, I feel the same way about Gus Van Sant‘s Restless, the film that today opened the Un Certain Regard section of the festival. Restless is a similar tale of two entwined souls romantically entangled, but unlike Blue Valentine, which was all about the central pair’s relationship to the extent that it quite wonderfully presented them as living in an impenetrable and ultimately devastating bubble, Van Sant throws in a couple of narrative conceits and a hugely gripping hook that adds a different element to the film. Both films share a resolute focus on a final point: while Blue Valentine alludes to it (the relationship’s end) thanks to an alinear narrative structure, Restless reveals very early on that Annabel (Mia Wasikowska) has a terminal disease that will kill her inside three months, which gives the story both structure and that killer hook. This is no Bucket List – there are no grand, sweeping gestures, no life affirming to-do-lists to complete in order to feel complete before death. Instead we are offered a portrait of a young couple, both aged by their personal tragedies (one by her illness, the other by the death of his parents), yet unwilling and unable to cast […]

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