Friday, May 22, 2015

Clouds of Sils Maria Review

Here's a movie that I've been waiting a long time to see. This was released in various film festivals last year and was received fairly well. Being that I've learned to like smaller arthouse and indie movies that get released in festivals. The only problem is that often it takes them a while to make it to the normal theaters, so I have to exercise this thing called patience. Clouds of Sils Maria finally arrived in theaters back in April on a limited release basis, but didn't expand as fast as I wanted to, so I had to wait longer. Finally I found a theater close to me where it showed up in and went to see it. Just by looking online, I've noticed that this is a movie that critics have loved, but general audiences have less than thrilled by, so I didn't know quite what to expect. As it turns out, I totally understand how some could find this uninteresting, but I personally was fascinated by it as I feel it is a very subtle and smart movie worth seeing multiple times to pick up on all the small details that may have been missed the first time around.

Being that this is not a very widely-known film at the moment, let me take a minute to tell you what this movie is about. Juliette Binoche plays a successful actress who is given the opportunity to star in a revival of the play that made her famous 20 years earlier. The challenging thing for her is she's asked to play the opposite role this time around, so she goes to a quiet place in the Alps called Sils Maria with her personal assistant, played by Kristen Stewart, to practice her lines. Sound interesting? No? I'm going to be honest here, this is a slow-moving movie with a premise that doesn't sound too interesting. But since it had great reviews from a lot of people, I was waiting for something big or crazy to happen. Halfway through the movie and... nothing. But as we continued to move forward, suddenly it hit me. Is this...? Are they...? Is she...? Is the play...? I began to see a whole lot of layers and the more layers I saw, the more questions I had. The more questions I had, the more brilliant the movie became.

In describing that plot, it may seem really simple and boring, but admittedly that's because I left a lot of the details of the movie and the play inside out because I want you to have the same experience that I had as I was watching this movie. Then when you're done the watching this movie, you should come talk to me because I need someone to discuss this movie with. The best word to use when describing this movie is "subtle." This movie is very subtle. So subtle that I can totally understand if you go the whole movie without even catching on to what is happening. But if you walk out of the movie and say that it is dumb because nothing interesting happened, then I'd challenge you to go back and watch it again, paying more attention this time. There's also a whole lot of interesting themes throughout this whole movie that can be discussed. I'm not going to say what those themes are, but the more you think about everything that happened in the movie, the more things you can pick up and discuss and thus the more interesting the movie becomes.

Helping the movie quite a bit is a trio of fantastic actresses, two of which may come as a surprise to some. Juliette Binoche is the rock of this trio. She's been acting for quite some time and been doing a really amazing job in most everything she's done. She even picked up an Oscar win for her performance in 1996's The English Patient and received another nomination in 2000 with Chocolat. So it shouldn't be a surprise to say that she was great in this. The second actress, though, is an actress that I've been raving about for some time now and that is the commonly mocked Kristen Stewart. I've said it once and I'll say it again. Kristen Stewart can act and if you don't believe me, you should really forget about the Twilight mess for a moment and watch some of her recent stuff because she's been impressive. She even became the first American actress EVER to win a César Award earlier this year for her performance in Clouds of Sils Maria. The César Awards are essentially the French version of the Oscars, so that's a pretty big deal. Could that translate into an Oscar nomination for Kristen early next year? We'll see. The final actress in this trio of actresses was a revelation for me personally and that was Chlöe Grace Moretz. Now I've seen Chlöe in a lot of things recently and been impressed with the young 18-year-old actress, but this is the first time I've been blown away by her acting skills. Best performance of her career in my opinion that I think will lead to many more big roles for her.

Overall I think Clouds of Sils Maria is a very subtle movie that deserves to be seen. As it never really expanded very far and is almost gone at this point, you may have to wait till it shows up on DVD or in Redbox before you see it, but when you do get that chance, you should take it. Yes it's a slow moving movie, but there are a lot of layers to this movie and a lot of themes hidden throughout the movie that make it one of the more fascinating movies so far this year. And of course it is led by a great trio of actresses in Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart, and Chlöe Grace Moretz that all do a fantastic job of making their respective characters very interesting. I know it's the summer movie season which means big blockbusters and huge special effects, but if you need a quick break from that type of movie and want to watch a slower character piece that makes you think, then you should find and watch Clouds of Sils Maria. My grade for the movie is a 9/10.

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