Film Review – Restless

Restless (M)

Directed by: Gus Van Sant

Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Henry Hopper, Jane Adams

One star

Review by: Julian Wright

 

It would be interesting to see Gus Van Sant’s career tracked in graph form. The peaks and valleys would be fascinating to see. After gaining street cred for indie films such as Drugstore Cowboy and My Own Private Idaho (gradual incline), he hit a mainstream home run with Good Will Hunting (peak) only to follow it up with the critically derided shot for shot remake of Psycho (valley).

His career recovered with the Cannes Film Festival favourite Elephant before he hit it out of the park again with Milk. Only for it all to come crashing down again with the mind numbingly ordinary Restless. This guy either gets some of the worst career advice or he is a sucker for self sabotage. Maybe  he just likes a challenge.

Van Sant plays it the safest he ever has by bringing us the nauseating story of two offbeat teenagers in love. Going down the checklist of how to make a quirky indie comedy/drama, we are introduced to strangely named Enoch Brae (Henry Hopper) who gate crashes funerals and talks to the ghost of dead pilot Hiroshi Takahashi (Ryo Kase). Instantly loveable, right? Not so much, unfortunately.

This outsider finds his soul mate in the equally strange Annabel Cotton (Mia Wasikoska) who also gate crashes funerals. The pair bond over their mutual fascination with death. But as if life isn’t hard enough being an outcast, Annabel has cancer and only three months to live. No spoiler alert required here , this is clearly telegraphed with her extra short hair and some story she makes up about time spent volunteering in the cancer ward. And if you hadn’t connected the dots in the first few minutes, it is spelled out fairly early on anyway.

This could have been a sweet and passable piece of indie fluff about two young kooks and their unconditional love and acceptance of each other, but instead it appears more interested in sending its audience to sleep. The charmless cast have little chemistry or spark and despite the occasional bright moments (which are very few and very far between), are mostly unremarkable. When things start to get heavy in the final scenes, Hopper clearly struggles.

Apparently, Van Sant didn’t catch the fun and frothy Submarine earlier this year, which shot a much-needed jolt of freshness into this indie exploration of the angst suffered by off the wall teens sub genre. Restless really could have benefited by taking a page out of Submarine’s book.

After watching this misfire, one might be inclined to double-check the credits (if you make it that far) to make sure that really was Van Sant listed as director. He may not have always pleased his audience or critics, and he may have made some bonehead moves in his career, but you cannot deny he has always had balls; until now. Hopefully his career survives this valley and we are treated to another peak soon.

 

 

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