In the interests of catching up on my watching, it's a double header review this week, with two pretty contrasting movies. I like it when that happens, to honest, because whilst TV-land has become a barrage of superhero fare I'm starting to struggle to distinguish between, at least my movie-watching fare is remaining diverse and interesting. I'm going to spend a lot more time on Brooklyn than Penguins of Madagascar, but the latter is included here for completeness, and because it's actually OK, as far as these things go. But first, the properly good film!
Brooklyn is definately the better of the two - it's got a deep, soulful quality that makes it really quite a beautiful experience. It's got a deceptively simple story of a young woman who leaves Small Town Ireland for a new life in New York, builds a life there, and then fate brings her back home and presents her with the life she wanted there. It's a simple conflict, and doesn't seem a lot to build a movie on, but it's gentle pace allows for great exploration of character and circumstance. Not a lot happens, in some senses, but everything happens, everything that matters.
What roots Brooklyn is Saoirse Ronan's tremendous lead perforance. Eilis remains, even by the end of the film, a little bit of an enigma, withdrawn and private, but that means that the few emotional breaks she gets have a huge impact, at key moments. Both the films opening movement, as she moves to Brooklyn and slowly grows into that world, and it's final one, as she returns home, work because of her slow and subtle changes in behaviour. The small town girl in the big city becomes the big city girl in a small town, and the change is down without any "big moments", but is clear nonetheless.
Around her the supporting cast is pretty excellent too - especially a scene-stealing turn from Julie Walters as the Boarding House Owner, compereing a series of great scenes around the communal dinner table. Eilis' two love interests remain a little underwritten - sweet, for sure, but this is Eilis story and they remain, at least in part, ciphers for what they represent to her choices in life. Overall then, this is a warm, funny and really likeable movie, and left me smiling well into the next day.
From the subtle and clever to the ridiculous and overblown, we also had Penguins of Madagascar, a spin off the Madagascar franchise featuring the sporadically funny supporting Penguin characters. So yes, a lot like Minions, and in fact this goes in much the same direction, sending our heroes off on side plot rooted in spy pastiche and slapstick. I've got to say that I found Penguins of Madagascar a lot funnier than I suspect it has any right to be; it's well paced, well directed, and the story is...functional, but propulsive.
In a landscape that can reach peaks of Inside Out, for example, or Zootropolis, down to the seeming lows of the cut-price animation fodder that props up the saturday morning showings, Penguins of Madagascar will sit somewhere in the middle. It's fine - its got a sheen of production quality, it's entertaining and not painful to sit through as an adult. But at the same it's about nothing, says nothing, and really, deep down, does nothing. So thats that really, I shall probably never really think of it again!