Thursday, August 11, 2005

Movie Review: The Constant Gardener

Last night a friend and I went to a free screening of the soon-to-be-released film The Constant Gardener starring Rachel Weisz and Ralph Fiennes and directed by Fernando Meirelles who also directed City of God. The screening was followed by a Q&A session with Weisz and Meirelles.

First of all, I will say that the movie was almost unflawed. Usually, I can come up with something that I feel could have been done better or differently in a film but not so here. A few of the reviews on IMDB offer good critiques, but I am not totally convinced by what flaws were found (e.g. someone thought the premise of the love story was unconvincing; I disagree).

Anyway, the film begins with Weisz's character Tessa and her friend and colleague Dr. Arnold Bloom leaving on an unspecified health mission in Africa. Then it cuts to London, where Fiennes's character, British Diplomat Justin Quayle, meets Tessa for the first time. I don't want to elaborate on too many other plot points, because I think the film is best appreciated when one comes in without knowing anything about it, as I virtually did. If you do want more information about the film, check out the synopsis at IMDB.

The Q&A session after the movie was great, definitely the best Q&A session I have been to. (I remember leaving a free screening of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind disappointed at writer Charlie Kaufman for being terse with his answers and acting like a lot of things he worked in the script weren't intentional. Director Michel Gondry was not as anti-social. Kaufman did say one interesting thing about the film, when asked why he chose to end it happily. I believe he said, "Well, I don't know, is the ending happy?" If you've seen the movie, you'll understand what he means).

Anyway, the audience members asked good questions, and a couple vented concerns that the film provoked. One woman said the film brings up a larger problem that in every industry it seems "m-o-n-e-y" (as she said) trumps morals. Another man said he was a native of Kenya, where the movie is filmed, and that the slums portrayed there really are that bad, and that he's glad the film is revealing this.

Director Meirelles seemed very nice and informative, not at all like Charlie Kaufman. He hung around to speak with people who approached him after the show, and he seemed to have a deep understanding of the film's power and the relevance of its themes today, even though he signed onto the production after another director dropped out. Weisz seemed nice and did a great job with the role, but she didn't have much to add about the meaning of the film or her character besides saying that she was "in awe" of Tessa.

Also, Bill Nighy, probably best-known for playing washed up rocker Billy Mack in Love Actually demonstrates his versatility in The Constant Gardener, undertaking the very different character of British High Comission bigwig Pellegrin.

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