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The Professor (2018) Movie Review By Peter Pluymers

 

The Professor Review

Director: Wayne Roberts
Writer: Wayne Roberts
Stars: Johnny Depp, Rosemarie DeWitt, Odessa Young

Let me start in a cheeky and derogatory tone. Let’s take Jack Sparrow, promote him to be an eloquent university professor teaching literature and tell him that he’s terminally ill. If you watch the movie “The Professor” (the original movie title was “Richard says goodbye“) with a dismissive attitude, you could utter such a statement. Well. Johnny Depp may have the tendency to use the ever-drunk pirate character. But otherwise, this entertaining tragicomedy doesn’t have much in common or many similarities with the Caribbean pirate spectacle. Even if the film is steeped with dark humour, a deeply tragic subject can still be discovered. A message about acceptance and an attitude of resignation. Though, Richard’s (Johnny Depp) way of acceptance and resignation can be called very rigorous.

Instead of a tough treatment against the proliferating ailment, Richard decides to let things carry on as they are and completely change the course of his life (the subtle Sparrow-references come to mind spontaneously). That means enjoying life to the full. In short, exploiting the saying “Carpe Diem” in an extreme way. Richard gets dead drunk continuously, smokes pot on a regular basis and ventures into unabashed free sex. In fact, with both sexes and with the approval of his wife who confessed she’s having an affair with Richard’s boss. So you can say that the bad news told by his doctor, caused a groundbreaking turn in his personal life. For the bystanders, however, it seems as if he has become completely insane.

This is without a doubt one of the most successful interpretations of Depp in years. Here this energetic actor shows he can act for sure. I fully understand that he was given this part. The rebellious character of the egocentric figure Richard fits effortlessly with a figure like Johnny Depp. Perhaps his personal private situation provided the appropriate state of mind to play this indifferent intellectualist. His sarcastic view on life produces amusing scenes. The recklessness with which he plunges into adventures, causes others to frown. As a viewer, you understand this turnaround much better. As a result, Richard finds himself in some fairly bizarre situations in which his wife Veronica (Rosemarie DeWitt), daughter Olivia (Odessa Young) and best friend Peter (Danny Huston) are involved. By the way, I didn’t think the acting performance of these last actors was that bad either. Apart from the theatrical drama of Danny Huston.

“The Professor” probably won’t appeal to a younger audience. It’s not really a movie that will make you happy. I guess it applies to all films that deal with this terrible disease. Yet “The Professor” succeeded in transforming this tragic fact into something humorous. That the end would become more emotional (you could use the expression corny as well) was of course inevitable. Serious films where you are confronted with the concepts of finiteness and death clearly does something with a person. It makes you think about the meaning of life and what you have achieved. And I agree that as I grow older my thoughts sometimes drift away into that area. After seeing this film, I think I will drastically revise my opinion and also take a “Je mon fou” attitude like Richard. So I can fully enjoy everything in the time that’s left. That seems a more pleasant way to end my earthly journey.

La La Land (2016) Movie Review by John Walsh

LA LA LAND

Director: Damien Chazelle
Writer: Damien Chazelle
Stars: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Rosemarie DeWitt

After recently cleaning up at the Golden Globes, La La Land, the triumphant follow up to Whiplash from Damien Chazelle is a truly beautiful creation. Following in the footsteps of Hollywood classics; such as Singin’ in the Rain and Casablanca, the latter even getting a mention at one point. It’s an immaculately crafted piece of escapism that draws even non-musical fans like myself in with its alluring charm.

Opening with an infectious musical number performed symbolically by young commuters stuck in a gridlocked freeway headed to Los Angeles. They begin exiting their cars, one-by-one, dancing, flipping and performing all sorts of intricate choreographic acrobatics to the ear worm inducing ‘Another Day in the Sun’. The camera weaving exquisitely around, over and through the performers in one continuous take. Following this brash, Broadway-esque introduction, the film begins in earnest panning down to our two leading stars. Mia (Emma Stone); barista come aspiring actress and Seb (Ryan Gosling); a surly, jazz enthusiast and pianist. Some road rage and finger flicking ensues after Seb is trapped behind Mia, who is blissfully unaware that the traffic has began moving again, too busy reciting lines for an audition.

The film continues to follow Mia as she travels to her work at a small coffee shop within a film studio before we see a brief, comically bad audition unfold. Somewhat dejected looking, she arrives home to a flat shared with three other friends. Another musical number soon kicks off and all four head out to a party that proves to be rather anticlimactic. An impounded car later and she’s soon walking past a club on her miserable trek home. Hearing the somber tones of a lonely piano, curiosity gets the better of her and she heads inside. The screen fades to darkness leaving Mia standing, gazing outwardly at the pianist. Seb gets up, barging past a startled Mia and completely ignoring her attempts to talk as he leaves. The film then flips perspective into Sebastian’s life. Just like Mia, he’s pursuing a dream, though not for stardom, but to resurrect an old jazz club to its former glory. He’s living in a grubby apartment, driving without a licence and practising steadfastly on his piano whilst doing small gigs in restaurants and clubs just to get by. “I’m letting life hit me until it gets tired then I’m going to hit back” he tells his sister after the latter attempts an intervention of  sorts.

The third time our charismatic duo meet is at a pool party. Seb having been fired from his previous gig at the restaurant is now part of a dodgy, 80s tribute band and wearing an equally horrendous outfit. Mia spotting him immediately, gets her revenge following the cold shoulder treatment from the mystery man. She requests ‘I Run’ and mimes along mockingly, as Seb positively exuding surliness is forced to play the synth instrumental. Afterwards the pair finally get chatting, the great chemistry between the two becomes immediately apparent and they both end up going for a walk before diving into a cool little tap dance sequence, singing ‘A Lovely Night’ and my what a lovely night it is with the gorgeous violet sky and sparkling lights of the city forming a simply breathtaking backdrop. There’s even lamppost in there, providing a cool little nod to Singin’ in the Rain.

After this moment the pair become entangled in a relationship sprawling the four seasons in a city seemingly blessed with eternal sunshine. The names literally popping up at various points, effectively separate the film into different acts. All seems to be well between our loved up couple. Mia encourages Seb to pursue his dream of opening the jazz club and likewise he pushes for her one-woman show to become a reality, hopefully providing a platform to further success. Though after overhearing her doubting mother and in desperate need of cash to make any of it possible, Seb decides to join an old acquaintance Keith’s (John Legend) jazz/rock band. This becomes an immediate success, earning him a decent pay check finally and he heads out touring shortly after. It’s at this point where the cracks first begin to show; highlighting the overarching theme of the film really. The seemingly incompatibility of pursuing an ambitious career in show business whilst maintaining a long term, loving relationship. There’s a fantastic scene between the two at this point the film which encapsulates this perfectly. During a surprise dinner they have a painful argument about their relationship after Mia hints at Seb selling out on his dream for success and neglecting their relationship whilst away.

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are pure magic in this. The on screen chemistry between the two is palpable, which given it’s their third time starring opposite each other, shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Stone puts in a fantastic performance as the down in her luck actress and Gosling plays the brooding, often moody, jazz obsessed Seb with equal excellence. Learning to play the piano parts himself over an intense three month period, he looks and sounds the part of a pianist and his heartbreaking performance of Mia and Sebastian’s theme in the final scene is filled with pure emotion. Neither are perfect singers nor dancers by any means, but they do enough in that department.

Visually, it’s a complete masterpiece. Full of rich, vibrant colours and breathtakingly beautiful wide shots. The cinematography is utterly majestic and a testament to Linus Sandgren’s talents. I genuinely didn’t think anything would touch Arrival in that department, but this comes close. Musically, the score is spectacular. The string arrangements, delicate little harp and woodwind instrumentals are pure bliss and only serve to add to the films magic. The accompanying songs such as; City of Stars and the aforementioned Mia and Seb theme are catchy and will stick in the mind for a few days afterwards.

As a person who’s not mad on musicals, I didn’t expect to enjoy this and was pleasantly surprised at just how much it managed to draw me in. I would highly recommend this to anyone.