Sunshine Cleaning (2008)

[rate 4]

The past few years have proven that there’s a place for quirk in popular culture, and “Sunshine Cleaning” is no exception. This indie dramedy, starring favorites Amy AdamsEmily Blunt, and Alan Arkin, gives us the story of a woman’s quest to find herself.

Typical.

But it’s the quirk that sets any indie flick apart (naturally), and “Sunshine Cleaning” delivers. Add in some blood and guts, an affair with a cop, and a witty-beyond-his-years kid and you have a film. Is it formulaic? Sure. There’s little doubt that “Sunshine Cleaning” checks all the boxes on the “quirky indie movie” checklist, but it rarely manages to feel like it does. Through the strength of its performers (Amy Adams and Emily Blunt carry this movie), the movie transcends its genre and becomes much more memorable.

4.5 out of 5 stars.
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0862846/

Being John Malkovich (1999)

[rate 4.5]

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Malkovich: malkovich://malkovich.malkovich.malkovich/malkovich/malkovich/

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)

[rate 5]

At first, I was a bit worried about this 1964 French romance. Although I’m an admitted musical theatre dork, and “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” (“Les parapluies de Cherbourg“) is admittedly a musical film, something about it had me on edge. Perhaps it’s because it isn’t a film musical in the traditional sense: there are no choreographed songs (the title sequence notwithstanding) and really there are not even “songs.” The dialogue is presented as recitative, a la opera, and I had trouble getting around the awkwardness of this device.

But as time wore on, I became engrossed and captured. When you open yourself to it, you can see that Jacques Demy has created a colorful French world straight out of our imaginations, where we all speak in glorious melody, where love is pure and beautiful (and musical), and where wrong against love cannot be committed.

Or so it seems.

It’s when the main characters (Guy and Geneviéve, played by Nino Castelnuovo and the beautiful Catherine Deneuve, respectively) are thrust apart and forced into separate lives that the film takes on a depth and even bitterness that, really, we could only experience in a French romance. And in the film’s (arguably famous) final scene the air becomes tense, and the emotion the characters are forcing back is palpable.

Driven by Michel Legrand’s glorious score (and the hauntingly beautiful “I Will Wait For You” theme, which has stayed with me for days), “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” is a stunning romance that will grab hold of your heart and pull you along for its highly emotional ride.

5 out of 5 stars.
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0058450/

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)

[rate 4]

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (the Wilder original) is still campy, corny, and crazy. But watching it years after childhood, it takes on a new tone.

Witty.

Yes, in my rewatch of this classic children’s flick I discovered just why it appeals to all ages. It’s not just the universal themes of rewarding honesty, punishing greed, and (of course) candy; it actually has a hilarious script with smart, witty dialogue that make it truly enjoyable for even those of us who learned its lessons long ago.

In this revisit, the opening act particularly struck me. It’s full of hilarious cutaways depicting news segments and eager ticket seekers. The bits have a dry, sarcastic tone that I’d never picked up on. Actually, much of the movie does – Wilder’s performance especially. When he emotionally and joyfully reveals that Charlie will be given the factory we too are surprised and our hearts are warmed thanks to the use of emotional contrast.

It’s definitely worth a revisit if you haven’t seen it in some time. And if you have seen it recently, you too can attest to the zest the movie adds with maturity.

4 stars out of 5.