Wednesday, July 25, 2012

TIFF HIGHLIGHT #14: TAKE SHELTER - ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! This movie is NOT "deep" (its not even good)

I love Michael Shannon just as much as the next person. He makes Oscar bait movies like Revolutionary Road tolerable, he brings intensity to silly movies like The Runaways and has been one of the FEW positive elements to Werner Herzog's recently disappointing work (with the exception of the misunderstood masterpiece; Bad Lieutenant). He's like a new breed of character actor that follows in the footsteps of old school odd, creepy, menacing and versatile character actors like Ted Levine, Tom Noonan and even Christopher Walken (actually all those scenes where Michael Shannon would spazz out and have post-apocalyptic visions in Take Shelter kinda reminded me of Walken in The Dead Zone). Shannon has become one of those actors that people will watch in anything no matter what it is. The only problem with that is people are starting to love his menacing & intense presence so much that they’ll overhype anything he's in and not question if the movie is actually good or not. Case in point: Take Shelter. A movie so bad, that I didn’t feel like watching anything else for the rest of the night at the Toronto Film Fest last year. And you know what, Take Shelter isn’t even overhyped. That’s the wrong term. Something that’s overhyped or overrated is at least "ok". No, Take Shelter is just bad. The only good thing I got out of that movie was the constant ongoing jokes myself, John & Chris had about it throughout the duration of our Toronto trip last year. Take Shelter is so bad that not ONCE have I thought about giving it another chance. You know how you see a movie for the first time, think it’s bad but sometimes, depending on the movie, you think in the back of your head that maybe in the future it'll grow on you or you'll give it a second chance in about a year? Yeah, Take Shelter won’t be one of those movies for me. A lot of my defiance in not giving Take Shelter another chance also has to do with all the undue praise it’s been getting from everyone. Like...everyone. I seriously think besides myself and John & Chris at the pink smoke, every person in the world that saw Take Shelter loved it. And I’m sure some of you reading this are thinking: well, if so many people liked it maybe that should tell you something. No, that tells me this is one of those rare times when I'm the only person in the world that’s right about something. As I'm sure you've read many times on here before, I absolutely HATE when an "ok" or "good" movie is blown up, put on a pedestal or mislabeled as a classic. There's this unexplained thing inside me that makes me dislike movies like Donnie Darko, Fight Club or The Matrix more than I really should just to add balance to all the unnecessary praise those movies get. Looks like Take Shelter is the newest edition to that list. Take Shelter is the story of a family man/construction worker ("Curtis") with a history of mental illness in his family that starts randomly having intense visions of the end of the world. In these visions, where he just randomly starts looking off in to nowhere, Curtis sees things like thick oily yellow rain, tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, crows, and a mysterious grim reaper-like figure. He's so sure that the end of the world is coming in the form of a storm he uses all his money (which was supposed to be used for an ear operation for his deaf daughter) to build a storm shelter to hide him and his family from the oncoming storm. Naturally no one else has these visions and thinks that Curtis is cracking up (especially due to the fact that his mother is clinically insane). By the end of the movie we're left hanging (not in a good way) as to whether or not Curtis' visions are legit or if he's really just going crazy. I don’t need shit spelled out for me, but I also don’t like the rug to keep being pulled out from under me every 10 minutes. That gets annoying after a while.

I'm all about plot twists, open endings, psychological thrillers and movies on mental illness (these are all aspects of Take Shelter), but sometimes when you throw a bunch of shit in to a pot it turns in to a big mess. And that’s what happened with Take Shelter. By the middle of the movie I had given up hope and knew the movie wouldn’t pick up in the 2nd half and just figured I'd ride it out because Michael Shannon's performance was ok. But not even he could save the constant flip flopping of the story that kept annoying the shit outta me. Is he crazy or is there really a storm? Is his wife the one that’s crazy? Are they both crazy and just don’t realize it? Is the world around him just oblivious and he's the only one that can see the oncoming apocalypse? I haven’t been this annoyed from a pointlessly plot twisted movie since Kill List (another overrated movie I may rip in to in the near future). Here's what I don’t get; why does M. Night Shayamalan (who IS an awful director) catch so much hate these days and get shitted on for his empty plot twists, but Take Shelter gets a pass? What’s the difference between the stuff that pisses you off in an M. Night movie versus Take Shelter? Seriously, think about that one. Take Shelter also has this forced vibe as if it’s saying; "Hey, us southern & midwest folk got depth to us too!" Just like Winter’s Bone, Take Shelter is another movie that took the trailer park, poor/working class white southern family drama and tried to mix it with the psychological thriller genre. But at least Winter's Bone was "ok" (overrated, but ok). Take Shelter was like "Country fried Polanski" (no that’s not a good thing). Jeff Nichols was trying to mix worlds that didn’t really go together in my opinion. Another thing that annoyed me about Take Shelter was Curtis' daughter. For some reason filmmakers today think that the presence of a quiet, cute yet creepy little kid ads some kind of symbolism to the film. You're not Stanley Kubrick and this isn’t The Shining. WHY do so many people like this movie? How does it have an 80-something% rating on rotten tomatoes while other great genre bending films on mental illness like Trouble Every Day have a 17%? Normally in these kinda rants I ask; "What am I not seeing? Help me out." But I’m not doing that this time. I’m seriously not kidding when I say this, but it’s almost like Jeff Nichols was poking fun and making light of mental illness like it’s something someone can go in & out of or turn on & off like a switch (obviously I know that’s not what he was trying to do but that’s what it felt like). In Take Shelter it felt like he's going "CURTIS IS CRAZY! oh, wait no he's not. JUST KIDDING, HE'S CRAZY. Nah, he's fine...OH, NEVER MIND, HE'S CRAZY AGAIN!" Take Shelter makes you crazy just watching it.


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