Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Bye, Bye Blackbird
I planned on seeing Public Enemies in the theatre. Not only am I a Johnny Depp fan, I’m also familiar with John Dillinger.
I have a tendency to want to know more about infamous bad asses in history. Anne Boleyn, Rasputin, Charles Manson. They don’t have to have done good in the world, or even been charismatic. I just have the strangest fascination with people who flipped systems on their head, or were anomalies in their time period.
John Dillinger fits in there. Charismatic, smart, and fighting against what was happening in his time period, which was the Great Depression. He was a bad ass during one of my favorite time periods, the 20’s-30’s. In both movies and images, the 20’s are a beautiful time period. Ironic, since this was the time of great loss and poverty. I think I suffer from “the grass is greener” syndrome. Every time period looks prettier to me than the time period I’ve lived in. Remember, child of the 80’s here. You grow up with enough spandex and crimped hair and EVERYTHING looks better before I was born.
Note: I finally figured out how to do a jump cut. You're welcome.
I did not end up seeing this in the theater. In fact, I had the DVD sitting on my entertainment center for over a month before I finally found the time to watch it. This is what happens when you get so many movies and TV shows from the library you don’t have time to watch things that don’t have a specific return-by date.
I don’t think there could be a better actor to play Dillinger than Johnny Depp. The man has more charisma in his pinky finger than any other actor alive today. I would go so far as to say any actor that has appeared on screen since the advent of movie and television. He is loved by women for his looks, children for his obvious sense of fun and camp, and admired by men for being a “real man” (::insert rolling eyeballs here::). He has a universal appeal, as did Dillinger back in his heyday.
This movie is beautifully shot. It feels like it could have been made back then. One of my all-time favorite scenes is the shoot-out in Wisconsin. It doesn’t feel like a movie sheet. The pace is frenetic, like it’s really happening and someone is trying to capture all of the motions at one time, without worrying about actors hitting their mark or just the perfect light reflecting off the gun. Another thing is there is no score behind the shoot-out. I am a big lover of music in the movies. The score can make a scene 10 times more beautiful, or it can ruin a scene by overplaying the suspense until you just know the psychopath is hiding under the bed.
But with no music during that scene, you can’t get distracted from the action. You know Dillinger isn’t going to die here, but someone is, maybe many, and how is it going to happen? When? The lack of music sucks you in and makes you stop doing whatever it is you were doing while watching the movie and pay attention.
I’m not a real fan of Christian Bale. It’s not that I don’t think he’s a good actor (though he was a shitty Batman). But see, I made the mistake of reading the book American Psycho. And my literal-headed self cannot separate his role in a movie from the Patrick Bateman I forced myself to read in that book. Oh, that book. So I can’t look at this actor without thinking of…rats. And cheese. And other…various horrors that should not be mentioned in a public forum.
His role as Melvin Purvis in this movie is difficult to judge. Did Purvis walk around like he had a giant broomstick shoved up his rectum? Because if so, great job, Christian Bale! I mean, are we not supposed to have even an ounce of sympathy for this man and his job? I understand this is a movie about Dillinger first, his opponents second, but dear god, couldn’t we have had a bit of humanity added to the “bad guy”?
The actors who played Dillinger’s gang were all interchangeable in my head. I don’t think I really paid attention to who they were in the movie, let alone real life. They are there as the gang, lesser-than to both Dillinger and Purvis. I will end up looking up on IMDB who each of the actors are, but even then, I will probably not be able to picture their role in the movie. I feel bad, because I am a fan of a lot of what is considered “lesser” actors. When I start discussing my favorite actors, it ends up being along the lines of, “Have you seen Taxi? Remember the guy cop who hated Jimmy Falon’s character? No? Yeah, I figured that…” Actors who have less than 10 lines in most popular movies, those are my people.
Okay, looking at the IMDB page. We've got Giovanni Ribisi. Good actor, but not someone I pay attention to. Stephen Dorff, who I'm surprised got a role in a movie as big as this one. Let's face it, he hasn't done much worth viewing since the early 90's. Other than that...I don't actually care about anyone in this film other than Johnny Depp. Of course, that's all I need to make me watch a movie, so...
Again, as I’m typing this, I’m watching the director’s commentary. What’s interesting about this commentary is that he’s focusing not so much on what’s happening in the movie, but what actually happened historically to Dillinger. This is really awesome. Because while what you’re seeing is as historically accurate as any movie can be, you can’t have a play-by-play explanation of what’s happening. And that’s what I’m getting from listening to the commentary, along with his thoughts about the actors in the role.
Marion Cotillard, who played Billie, was not memorable for me until her torture at the hands of the FBI. She’s rather nondescript until that moment. Obviously her character is important, because Dillinger fell so much in love with her, but it’s hard to see why. Yes, the actress is beautiful, but she is also dull as dishwater. Then the torture scene comes, and she’s absolutely remarkable. Her quiet strength is remarkable, and her rage at the agents who are slapping her around is beautifully played. When she laughs at them for walking right past him, it’s a “stand up in the movie theater and cheer” moment. Not that I do those sorts of things…anymore…
The wardrobes in the movie are so mind blowing. The suits are so extremely well made for the men, and the women’s clothing is so 20’s. I would dress that way if I had a slender body. That was the era of the flappers, and flappers were pretty much stick skinny and flat chested, which I’m not. Though I’m closer to the latter than I’d like to be. ::looks down in annoyance:: But between the fedoras, the suspenders, the vests. It’s just a feast for the eyes. I also love 30’s cars, and despite my deep, deep dislike for guns, I do enjoy seeing people fire tommy guns. I don’t know if it’s just the shape of them, or that you can’t fire one of those without looking like a badass.
The final scene, where Dillinger dies. You know it’s coming, the movie walks you through every lead-up minute to him dying. This was an incredible scene. You can’t hate Anna for turning him in, because of the assholery of Purvis and the FBI. You see her face in the movie theater looking rather terrified, and it resonates. He’s so calm and mellow, enjoying watching Clark Gable, hardly a care in the world. As he’s later walking down the road, and you see the agents closing in on him, you wonder, is there going to be a gun battle? Is anyone else going to die? And it’s just rather a sad ending to such a major player in the crime scenes of the day.
I am a biased viewer in whether this movie was amazing or not. I am such a Johnny Depp fan. He won me over as a child with Edward Scissorhands, and he won me over as a heartthrob with Cry Baby. He is one of my “can do no wrong” actors. That includes most everyone’s least favorite Depp project, Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
But I loved this movie. It was a lot longer than it should’ve been, but I still enjoyed the hell out of it.
And because this is a Johnny Depp film, it really needs no Six Degrees of Whedon. :-)