Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Reel Simple's Top 10: #4 & #3

Into the final stretch now!

In case you missed #6 & #5, read them here.

In case you missed #8 & #7, read them here.

In case you missed #10 & #9, read them here.

#4: The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Cast: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller
Director: Stephen Chbosky
Release Year: 2012

The second story on this list about the awkward teen years,* I was gifted The Perks of Being a Wallflower book by a very dear friend in college. Reading it, I was quickly endeared to the central character/narrator of Charlie (Logan Lerman), an eccentric, intelligent, and highly introverted 14 year old with a troubled past. On his first day of high school, popular seniors and half-siblings Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller) adopt Charlie into their quirky, motley clique, whose unquestioning acceptance of him sets the stage for the evolution of his own self-esteem.

Often, especially if we’ve emerged from that adolescent chapter of our lives relatively unscathed, we forget how truly difficult it was, and how deeply formative it is to who we have eventually become.  Set in the early 1990s, Perks is a profound and perceptive reminder of that period, handled with incredible heart by writer/director Stephen Chbosky, who adapted the film from his own novel.  Vulnerabilities and inner strengths both emerge as Charlie and his new pals navigate the familiar rites of passage that accompany adolescence, from parent-less parties and debut games of Spin the Bottle to identity crises and first loves. 

 But most touching is the relationship Charlie builds with Patrick and Sam, who not only challenge and protect him, but need him just as much in return. Lerman, Miller, and Watson infuse truth and soul into Chbosky’s characters to recreate their ineffable bond from page to screen. Never in a million years did I think I’d say this, but The Perks of Being a Wallflower almost, almost makes me want to go back to high school—just for the chance to find friends like these.

* can you tell I have a deep connection to that particular phase? J

#3: The Intouchables
Cast: Francois Cluzet, Omar Sy
Directors: Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano
Release Year: 2011

A few things make The Intouchables impressive right off the bat: not only is it one of Frances’s biggest box-office successes ever, but it also earned actor Omar Sy the prestigious 2012 Cesar Award over Jean Dujardin, the charismatic star who won us all over in The Artist.  Though the narrative of the movie isn’t especially groundbreaking—a man transformed by an unlikely friendship–its roots in a true story lends the film a credibility and depth beyond purely fairy-tale fluff.

In need of a new caregiver, quadriplegic, widowed, and curmudgeonly mogul Philippe (François Cluzet) hires ex-convict Driss (Sy) on a whim. Unlike Philippe’s previous live-in aids, Driss doesn’t give him a pass for his disability, nor does he perceive him through a pitying lens. Impulsive and brazen, but well meaning at his core, Driss’s natural joie-de-vivre begins to permeate into his cranky employer’s cheerless world.

Essentially a buddy film, the story’s effectiveness comes largely from the rapport between the two lead actors. Cluzet and Sy have been cast perfectly, exuding a potent bond that blends crude humor and heated banter with protectiveness and affection as Driss re-injects energy into Philippe’s life. The Intouchables has its corny, regrettably over-the-top moments, but for its overarching optimism and the personal chord it struck with its message of living in the moment, it makes my list this year.

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