3 Idiots

As a continuation of our “Apparently we have seen every movie except foreign films” adventure, the next movie I pulled from the top list on IMDB was 3 Idiots, the story of three engineering students and their trials and tribulations.   It’s from India and apparently the most successful film that’s been produced over there.  So successful, that apparently it’s being re-made everywhere, including a possible North American version in the works.  Or at least that’s what Wikipedia tells me.

I have never actually watched a Bollywood film before.  The whole thing was sort of a cultural experience, really – I was surprised that the entire film was a mash of Hindi and English speech.  It was so odd to be reading the subtitles and realize half of the sentence was English, just sort of randomly jammed in.  Wikipedia suggests that all of it is pretty much expected from a Bollywood film, so consider me enlightened, I guess.  When they broke into song, my husband said “That’s kind of what I was afraid of when I saw it was from India.”  I knew song and dance was the norm for Bollywood, and I usually enjoy musical stuff as long as the music is good, but it felt really forced in this one.  I’m not sure if that’s typical or not.  It’s like they were expected to have an average of 3.5 songs so they made sure to plunk a scene or two that led into them, even if it wasn’t necessarily a smooth transition.  I hate to say it but I don’t feel it added anything except running time, and I think the film would have been better without it.

Speaking of running time, the movie was 2 hours and 45 minutes long.  Holy crap.  There wasn’t nearly enough plot for that amount of running time, man.

We actually enjoyed it quite a lot, though.  The vast majority of the plot was very cliche.  I sarcastically commented “Wow, what a shocking twist!” on numerous occasions.  The main character was also a huge Mary Sue/Gary Stu, to the degree of almost following the template for one. That said, there was a lot of really good plot buried under all the generic plot.  If it does get a Hollywood release, I’m interested to see how they edit and clean things up (there is no way it will be a 3 hour movie after running through the Hollywood wringer).  The movie is a “comedy-drama” and it does it rather awkwardly: there are some genuinely funny moments, some really forced jokes (oh god, the slide whistle sound effect that accompanied some of them… AHAHAHAhahahaahaha), some jokes that are somewhat inappropriately placed… and a decent amount of dramatic moments that address serious topics.  The overall message of the movie was a good one, and it was thoroughly enjoyable.

I also see that it’s based on a book.  I was tempted to see if I could pick it up, but then I read that the book is more of a string of anecdotes and a lot of the plot had to be invented for the movie (which probably led to the whole Gary Stu thing), and I kind of lost interest.

I guess the bottom line is: I really wish it hadn’t been three hours, and I could have done without the dancing, but I don’t feel like we wasted our time and that’s always a good thing when dealing with entertainment!  I’m interested to see if it gets an American remake and what they will do with it, now.

The Intouchables

We felt like watching a movie last night, and in particular I felt like watching a good movie.  I went to my favourite recommendation site (Movielens… it’s my favourite mostly because I already have like 800 movies rated on it so it’s usually got some reasonable recommendations for us.  I can’t be bothered to rate all those movies on another site, god.) but all the movies at the top of the list seemed to be either war or romance (or both!).  I was not in the mood for either of those.  So I wandered over to IMDB and looked at the list of the top 250 rated movies.  Surprise… we’ve already seen most of them, too.  But there were a few titles I didn’t recognize, so I checked them out and it turned out I didn’t recognize them because they weren’t in English.  We’ve only recently really expanded into foreign films so there are some untapped resources waiting there.  (We’ve already seen the sci-fi ones, of course…).  One of the first ones on the list was The Intouchables, a french film about a wealthy quadriplegic man who hires an ex-con as his caregiver, after he comes in for the job interview merely to get his welfare papers signed to prove he “tried” to get a job.

There’s nothing much unique about the story – it’s pretty much exactly what you expect.  Two very different worlds collide and everyone learns valuable life lessons in the end.  It would be almost insultingly cliche, if it weren’t actually based on a true story.  Well… sort of.  After the movie is over, there is a shot of the real people the movie is based on, and you discover that Philippe is portrayed accurately, but “Driss” is named “Abdel” and he is Arabic, not African.  My eyebrow raised at that change… if you’re portraying a true story about an ex-con arab, why would you feel the need to change it to an ex-con black guy?  Especially since the movie seems to tap into some of the stereotypes of black people in poverty stricken areas and it might have been nice to explore a different nationality attempting to deal with things.  Adding to that, it really felt like the story of Driss’s family was truncated and unfinished, possibly because they had less source material to work with?  It just seemed like the decision to make changes resulted in a lot of awkwardness.  I had to go do some research and sources didn’t exactly pour out of the internet, but it seems as though their explanation is that they simply had an actor in mind already and he happened to be black.  It doesn’t really change the story, and the actor they got is amazing, but it still kind of sets off my OCD.  It’s not accurate dammit!  Of course, it was already sort of bothering me because “intouchable” should not be a word, let alone a title.  >:(

Inaccuracies aside, the movie itself was really, really good.  Any threats of being boring or cliche were buried by amazing writing and excellent pacing.  It seems as though a lot of the situations that are portrayed are based on things that actually happened (in the one interview I found, they only mention two scenes which were fabricated, and a few things that happened but played out slightly differently in reality.  I also highly suspect the scene where Driss is compared to Barack Obama did not happen to Abdel…) and the scenes and lines roll together in an incredibly natural fashion (with the exception of a few that felt very “plunked”.  Like they wanted to include them but didn’t know where, so they just got stuffed in wherever).  The writing is actually quite funny, which is something you may not expect in this sort of movie, but it also plays into the points the movie seems to be trying to make.  At no point did it seem to be inappropriately funny, nor did it ever get so serious that it was oppressive, even when dealing with serious subject matter.  I felt it was really well balanced.

My husband’s review was: “That was really good, but they definitely overused the dramatic piano music.”
So there’s that, I guess.

While looking up the background of the movie, I also discovered it won, like, every award, and was like the second most popular movie of all time in France.  I originally figured I wanted to use this blog to bring attention to things people might miss otherwise (and to bitch about popular things that suck, of course) so I guess this movie doesn’t really fit that criteria, but I do hope the need for subtitles doesn’t prevent people from checking this one out.  Subtitles are actually pretty great because you don’t have to worry about speaker volume imbalance and not being able to hear words over the background music!  Although it does make it infinitely more annoying when the cat walks in front of the TV…