18 February 2010

La fille du RER (The Girl on the Train) *

I think I've set the bar pretty high lately, especially for contemporary French films. It's not so much that this was bad -- it wasn't -- but that it was only okay, whereas everything else I've watched lately has been no less than great, and a couple have been inspiring, game-changers.

Some of the characters in this were very real to me, and many were likeable (unfortunately, not our protagonist, but I've sat through less winning characters, so I won't grip about that too much). None of the complex action feels unmotivated, not even the somewhat outlandish centerpiece of the story, in which Jeanne half-heartedly fakes an anti-semitic attack on herself. The problem isn't characters and motivation; for my money, the problem is that it never seems to amount to anything bigger than a collection of scenes. It's based on a real event, and maybe it falls into the all-too-common still-inexcusable trap of so many other films based on real events. That an event really happened isn't enough justification to build a film around. You need to have a reason to tell me this story.

In the end, I left very much with the reaction of "okay, so that all happened." And frankly, that's the worst reaction of all. Deadened, unmoved, unprovoked, and ready to turn away and talk about something else or go do whatever's next. Hate's not the opposite of love, everybody; indifference is.

Seen at the Broadway Multiplex as part of the Portland International Film Festival.

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