Friday, April 20, 2012

2012 Florida Film Festival - Highlights, Day 6

Two more movies on Wednesday that exist on opposite ends of the spectrum, Kid-Thing from FFF regulars the Zellner Brothers and the biopic, The Lady, from popular French director, Luc Besson.

The Lady follows the life of Aung San Suu Kyi, a Burmese expatriate living with her husband and two kids in London, suddenly becoming the symbolic and political leader of a burgeoning democratic movement in her home country. The movie is framed by two separate events: the assassination of Suu's father, Aung San, who himself was instrumental in bringing independence and democracy to Burma; and the cancer diagnosis of her British husband, Michael Aris.

And I think this is part of the failure of this movie. By framing Suu's story as both a political one and a personal one, it seems to not do real justice to either. Michelle Yeoh as Suu and David Thewlis as Michael are very good here and do their best to convey their support for each other as longtime partners. But the real-life events of the couple being separated for years while she was in exile in Burma and the movie's decision to not include their courtship and instead jump into their relationship well after their kids had been born doesn't give us any connection to their connection. But the moments of Michael and Suu having protracted phone conversations (don't get me started on how many times someone says, "Hello? Are you there?" followed by a dial tone) and pining to be with each other also take up time that could be better utilized explaining her politics or showing how she was able to mobilize her significant supporters.

If The Lady does little to surpass the conventions of the standard biopic, Kid-Thing complies no ideas of convention. Throughout the early moments I was ready to dismiss the meandering story of Annie, a ruthlessly delinquent child, living on a farm with her mostly inattentive father. But amongst stealing from convenience stores, throwing uncooked biscuit dough at passing cars, and shooting dead cows with paintballs, a potentially tragic discovery gives her at least some semblance of direction. The Zellner's perfectly calibrated pacing and tone matches a great performance by newcomer Sydney Aguirre. The movie languishes in its poor rural setting, but it always knows where it's going. And by that final frame, Kid-Thing just hits the most perfect note.

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