Reviews

Jim Jarmusch's slow tender Paterson, grand ideas in Viceroy House and Colossal let down by delivery

Actors Manish Dayal and Huma Qureshi (both above) play lovers in Viceroy’s House.
Actors Manish Dayal and Huma Qureshi (both above) play lovers in Viceroy’s House.PHOTOS: ANTICIPATE PICTURES, SHAW ORGANISATION
Adam Driver in Paterson.
Adam Driver in Paterson. PHOTOS: ANTICIPATE PICTURES, SHAW ORGANISATION
Jason Sudeikis and Anne Hathaway in Colossal.
Jason Sudeikis and Anne Hathaway in Colossal. HOTOS: ANTICIPATE PICTURES, SHAW ORGANISATION

History and poetry are featured this week, but not all are winners

The Mummy is the blockbuster movie opening tomorrow, but that does not mean that there are no other options around for viewers.

At the other end of the budget scale is Paterson (NC16, 118 minutes, opens today, 3.5 stars, showing only at The Arts House, go to anticipatepictures.peatix.com for bookings). Writer-director Jim Jarmusch must have taken a lot of pleasure in casting Adam Driver as a bus driver named Paterson who lives in the town of Paterson, New Jersey.

Paterson (the driver) writes lean, natural-language poetry in the style of his idol William Carlos Williams, who also happens to have written an epic poem called Paterson.

Slow, but filled with tenderness, this work was selected for competition for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival last year. Jarmusch celebrates small-town life and the dreamers who live in them, while choosing visuals that mirror the patterns of poetry.

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Viceroy's House (PG, 107 minutes, opens tomorrow, 2.5 stars) opens with the title card, "History is written by victors", words attributed to British wartime leader Winston Churchill.

The quote here is used ironically: Director and co-writer Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham, 2002) tells the story of Indian independence and partition from the point of view of a non-winner. She is a British Asian whose Sikh family lost their ancestral home after communal violence erupted in 1947, as the sun set on three centuries of British rule.

The film feels like a six-part miniseries, condensed. The story follows the political and household intrigue surrounding Lord Louis Mountbatten (Downton Abbey's Hugh Bonneville), the man put in charge of the handover of power by the British government. It also tracks his Hindu servant Jeet (Manish Dayal), who is in love with Muslim woman Aalia (Huma Qureshi).

The political goings-on in the smoke-filled back rooms would have been interesting on their own. That, combined with Chadha's eye for detail in how even the most trivial items in the stately home in the film's title had to be divided between the two states, would have been enough for one solid film.

Because when the focus shifts to the young lovers, everything falls apart. Their portrayals are so cloyingly overdone, they feel insulting. Chadha is afraid that without two cute and noble young people to care for, the audience might not feel the tragedy of the death of thousands.

Like Viceroy's House, there is one good idea in Colossal (PG13, 110 minutes, opens tomorrow, 2 stars), but like that other film, the idea is buried under distracting junk.

In this science fiction-tinged drama-comedy, Gloria (Anne Hathaway) is a failed writer living in her boyfriend's New York apartment. Tim (Dan Stevens), frustrated by her drinking and lack of ambition, kicks her out. She drifts back to her hometown, where she meets old friend Oscar (Jason Sudeikis).

After a giant monster attacks Seoul, killing many citizens, she discovers that she and the creature have a psychic connection.

This indie production from Spanish writer-director Nacho Vigalondo cannot decide how its central premise - an American woman's petty personal issues are manifested as a 100m-tall monster in Asia - is meant to be understood, so he lurches from ironic distance to sincerity and back again. It is one thing for an artist to mix genres and blur lines, but it's another to cheat by having an extraordinary premise, then ignoring the demands it makes on the story.

A DIFFERENT TAKE ON HISTORY

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 07, 2017, with the headline 'Grand ideas let down by the delivery'. Print Edition | Subscribe