The Seattle International Film Festival has been underway for three weeks now, but I’m just getting around to writing about the movies I’ve seen. I’ll post my thoughts on the various movies I see at the festival.
First off, I saw I am Love, an Italian movie featuring Tilda Swinton. Swinton plays Emma, the Russian trophy wife of a rich Italian businessman. The movie centers around Emma’s family life; her son and husband have been named heirs to the family business, but the son is more interested in opening up a restaurant at his friend Edoardo’s remote mountain home, and her daughter is dealing with new revelations about her personal life. Emma, seduced by Edoardo’s cooking, begins an affair with him.
Emma’s relationship with her children is lovingly drawn, and she shares quiet moments of affection with each child that are touching and genuine. Her affair with Edoardo is compelling, showing the forces that draw her down a destructive path. However, for the first 3/4 of the movie, I found it surprisingly dull and uninspiring despite Swinton’s weird and amazing screen presence. The final portion of the movie was emotionally wrenching, with Emma making monumental choices in relation to her family and her own life.
The score, by John Adams, is beautiful, but until that gut punch of a finale, it is mostly confined to establishing shots of beautiful Italian countrysides and cityscapes. This might be why the first portions of the movie felt so uninspired; we get used to musical cues that heighten emotion and tell us what to feel. I’m really not sure what to make of I am Love, other than to adore the parts that work well - Emma’s loving relationship with her children, Swinton’s performance, Edoardo’s blazing hotness, the score, and the sumptuous visuals - and appreciate it for that.
The Freebie is an entirely different movie; a mostly improvised movie based on a 6-page outline, written by director/star Katie Aselton. Aselton and Dax Shepard play a married couple who haven’t had sex in quite some time. In a late night conversation, they both admit that they have things they would explore with other people, and they agree that, for one night, they can each sleep with someone else. Their agreement affects them both in ways they did not expect
The Freebie is a bit similar in style to Humpday and The Puffy Chair, and the strongest point of the movie is the acting. The portrayals of the relationships of long-time friends, relatives and lovers feel incredibly lived-in, the conversations spontaneous. The story develops fairly naturally, and feels more realistic than the implausible dare at the center of Humpday (I mean, really. One of the characters motivations for wanting to fuck another straight man on film is summed up as ‘I don’t know why I want to do this, but it’s important to me.’) Aselton and Shepard are best in show, but Ross Partridge, as the bartender at Aselton’s ‘free night’ is also notable for his funny and sexy turn.
The Freebie also avoids the biggest pitfall of these improvised and/or mumblecore movies; it is not visually awful, though it is not particularly visually inspired, either. The Freebie also has a greater deal of depth, exposing the ugly underbelly of a marriage that at first seems ideal, and suggesting that the husband and wife would rather lie to each other than have some difficult conversations. Overall, The Freebie is enjoyable, with understated comedy amid some difficult truths about relationships.