Sunday, 14 February 2010

2009 in Review: Coming of Age…

The coming of age film (regardless of what genre it hides itself in) is one that filmmakers and audiences often latch on. It’s not always the literal coming of age (though it sometimes touches on becoming an adult) – from Juno to Almost Famous to Mean Girls. Either could be fall into the category, and this year we had quite a few. Two came from Sundance. Precious (review) and An Education (my three reviews) both centre on their heroines as they are edified about life and its machinations. I suppose standing next to Clarice Jenny’s story could lose some its significance, but even though she doesn’t suffer at the hands of psychotic mother her coming of age is still as poignant and precious (yes, I went there) as her teenage counterpart. Education, in its basest form, plays an important role for both girls. Ms. Rainns and Ms. Stubbs are the two important teachers in each girl’s life. Though Jenny spends most of her time ignoring the importance of her education and Precious spends most of her time doubting her potential. Two beautiful moments in each film occur because of these women. My favourite moment in Precious is when Paula Patton completely sells her line “I love you!” It’s a strong moment for Gabourey but Patton’s delivery is on point. Similarly, in An Education Olivia Williams shines in her plea for Jenny to remain in school, "You can do anything you want to."
                   
Ellen Page’s Babe Ruthless doesn’t come of age in school, she grows on the track. I wonder if I misjudged Ellen Page? Juno didn’t do anything for me, but I’m awaiting her next venture before I make a decision. Unfortunately for Susie Salmon she doesn’t get the chance to revel in her education or in sports. Her life is snatched from her as a teenager and her coming of age is the most curious. She is fourteen for the entire film, yet she must grow as much as the years continue. The terror in her eyes as Tucci closes in on her in that pivotal scene is one of the strongest acting scenes of the last year. It’s a prodigious performance even if the film was panned, but you all remember how I felt about those Lovely Bones. The coming age film that should be getting such horrible reviews should be I Love You, Beth Cooper (my only F last year). The less said about the film, the better. But I do wonder how the bland Hayden Panneteire would try to sell a scene opposite Tucci if she was on Ronan’s shoes – not very well, I presume.
              
In The Young Victoria Emily Blunt must play the young Queen as she grows before her eyes. On the basest of levels, perhaps Miranda Richardson could shake hands with Mo’Nique’s Mary Jones, but then again no. Miranda’s seeming impassivity is not a sign of hatred, or jealousy she’s just a queer mother. There’s a pivotal (somewhat) scene in the film regarding a shooting and I love the shot of Miranda immediately after – no words, but her very face haunts me, even if the film is only okay. In Where the Wild Things Are Max doesn’t quite come of age as the film ends, I can’t be too sure if he’s learned anything – unlike Coraline (which incidentally would fit right into this category) I can’t discern any realisation of the importance of his family at the film ends. But, I suppose, that’s all moot.
              
Did you feel that any of the 2009 characters have really come of age? Metaphorically speaking...

3 comments:

Mike Lippert said...

Good call on I Love You, Beth Cooper. I can't believe Christopher Columbus (who is no great filmmaker to begin with) follows up the first two Harry Potters and Rent with something as horrible as that flick, which would feel dated even if it came out back in the 90s when teen movies were at their worst.

As for Precious, I don't know if she comes of age so much as she has it forced onto her because of her situation. I know a lot of people who felt deeply moved by Precious but I think the ending is just as targic as it is happy and that's sort of it's brilliance (it doesn't soften around the edges). The ending isn't so much about how everything is going to be all right for Precious, but how she just needs to learn to deal with things and take it one day at a time, getting as much as she can out of life before it is taken away from her, which is inevidable. I guess that's what coming of age is really about isn't it?

Another good post!

anahita said...

an education completely dominates this category for me - one of the best films of the year as far as I'm concerned. STILL haven't seen the lovely bones - am too scared to watch it alone! xx

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

mike as i've said before, precious impresses me most in the seemingly typical moments - like in school. i feel she learns to be friends and that people have some good in them. your reading on the ending seems about accurate, though.

anahita you and be both on an education. and the lovely bones isn't scary. don't be afraid... ;)