Two movies I liked this weekend.
The boy movie: Jarhead, which has apparently been getting criticized for not taking enough of a stand about the current war and/or Desert Storm. But the whole thing starts off with the hero reading Camus, after all. Mendes is busy signalling his disinterest in a typical war film throughout the piece, even as he plays with those conventions: brutalizing training experiences, male bonding, etc. To me, the film is a lot about how the technology of war is changing -- and the difficulty and inevitablity of comparing every contemporary conflict to Vietnam. In this film (I haven't read the memoir upon which the film is based), the young Marines of today, having undergone existential boredom and readiness, struggle to define themselves in relation to Vietnam, the war of their fathers -- happy not to have fought, but feeling inadequate too. The acting is wonderful, particularly Peter Sarsgaard's homoerotic fixation on Jake Gyllenhaal. And the desert full of oil works aesthetically and philosophically as an existential testing ground.
The girl movie: In Her Shoes, which is far better than the typical "chick movie" (a genre I'm partial to anyway). It's got everything: sassy senior citizens, dogs, sibling rivalry, and POETRY -- honest to god reading aloud of real poems, for a purpose. Yay! says the English teacher in me. But the film viewer in me loved it for other reasons. Although it's funny in places, and sad in others, it didn't wallow. It's about sisters (which I don't have, so don't know) but it's also about friendship, and the difficult decisions in family relationships which, once made, are hard to undo or revisit. Cameron Diaz actually gets a chance to act, and Toni Collette is strong as always. A great ensemble movie.