19 November, 2010

Clooney's New Film: The American

Yes, I've seen Harry Potter. Yes, there will be a post. But it takes me time! Surely you know that by now :) I'll try to get it up Sunday or Monday.

But in other news...

So I've just come back from a screening of George Clooney's new film, 'The American,' about an assassin trying to get out of the business while on assignment in Italy, after a bit of a debacle in Sweden.

The screening was for bloggers and online media staff, and apparently someone at the publicity company had me on their roster as a film blogger (sweet!) so I got an invite.
Firstly, the screening experience was interesting and had me asking a lot of questions. Who organizes them? What points are given to the organizers? How do they find their audiences? I've asked, and I'll let you know when I have some interesting updates.  It was neat though. I went with my friend Jen, we walked in, and were offered a glass of wine. There was little socializing, which I found odd because we were obviously all bloggers and media people, about to see the same film, you'd think there'd be some networking going on...nope. So then we went into the screening room which had THE MOST comfortable seats ever. It was like temperpedic memory foam seats... very nice. I also found it odd that there was no introductory speech, no welcome etc, no press pack handed out, and after the film there was no discussion. Everyone just left. Huh.

Maybe that was on purpose though, to not give any preconceptions about the film; but as this was my first proper screening, that was my reaction. I just figured that someone was paying for renting this room, someone was paying for the wine... I thought there'd be a bit more production and ceremony in it; but it's possible that it purposely wasn't there, so nothing would taint our experience.

Anyway, onto the film...

If you've seen The American (it was released in the US September 1, but doesn't come out in the UK until November 26), and if you've read this blog, then you may know where I'm going to go with this post.... analysis, pros, and cons... my first questions is, 'Really? This is the best that they came up with? With that talent and what I'm assuming was a healthy budget?' I mean it wasn't horrible, it wasn't even bad, but it certainly wasn't good and it had the potential to be really lovely!

Let's start with the name, shall we? Because I often wonder from the start why they change titles when based off of an original work. Why remove the familiarity of the title? Sometimes there is very good reason, and I happily admit that, but I'm not sure on this example. After that, I'll then go into pros and cons.

So it's called 'The American,' when the work it was based off of is called 'A Very Private Gentleman,' ... the first really has little implication on the film. Yes, they ask him in Italy if he's American, twice, and for Americans abroad that's a question that resonates (with me, at least), and yes, there is a spaghetti Western playing on the TV perhaps suggesting that he is a cowboy in his tiny, Italian village... but that's where it ends. His character has been living abroad for years; 'The American' has very little reference for the audience at this point. The film does not make an overarching political statement about Americans these days, or anything of the sort! It is about a dude, yes originally from America, who is an assassin and has been living abroad for what we can deduce is YEARS (the film opens in Sweden, then moves to Italy. He is fluent(ish) in Italian, and we have no reason to suspect he's been in America for some time)... but it's not actually much of a statement about him as 'an American' as it is about him as a man, or perhaps him as an assassin.

Whereas if it was entitled 'A Very Private Gentleman,' that would intrigue me. That almost implies an opinion from and outsider, as if someone was being interviewed about an incident and they stated that he was just “a very private gentleman.” This lends intrigue to the title, and makes you immediately think that there is more to this person than the description. There must be. It lends interest instead of stereotype. Perhaps I'm sensitive to this point, but 'The American' seems like a cop-out title to me. It does not contribute to the story. I want to know about the story of this assassin with a soul, and 'A Very Private Gentleman' does much more to intrigue me to finding out that story.

Good points:
  • The cinematography was excellent. I almost think that the production company hired some small, aspiring Italian filmmaker to camp out on the hilltops to get some of those establishing shots in the wee hours of the morning or in the twilight hours of the evening. They were beautiful! Rolling clouds, gorgeous lighting, and striking angles. Also, there was a steady shot of a road from an aerial point of view that is still causing me to wonder how they got that shot. A suspended crane? A plane with a somehow wicked, really steady camera attached?
  • Of course the setting was brilliant. As well as the premise. Basically Clooney is a bad-ass assassin who can put together a gun in less than a minute, and he's in Sweden and Italy...gorgeous, and somehow mysteriously hot. Plus there are a few scenes of him doing push ups, pull ups, and sit ups (lots of ups) topless... of course that appeals. You have the bad boy elements with some rockin' abs, plus the distinguished awesomeness that has come from Clooney's career, age, and experience.

ProCons (Not good nor bad)
  • The story... it wasn't bad, but it wasn't good.
  • Premise: assassin wants to get out of the business, but how does he do that without getting killed himself because he knows too much? Intrigue, international locations, gorgeous, sexy, mysterious....
But yeah, it ends there.

  • There were far too many moments that were unearned. The shoot-off with the Swedish assassins, hot on his tail... too quick and the climax unearned. Too fast.
  • The tale of the hottie assassin lady- that's how it ends? Really? She kicked ass, and you get rid of her that quickly and easily? Lame. You could have done better.
  • The boss-man. Clooney kept reporting to this guy through the WHOLE film. All of a sudden he shows up, decides Clooney's character is too much of a risk, wants to kill him, and there's barely a shoot off. There's a mini chase, and suddenly it's over. There are three shots, and only two go into the bad guy, so we can clearly infer what's going to happen next... end revealed... blerg.
  • The prostitute. Sure, it showed that he wanted something else in his life, but he didn't even care when she was sleeping with other dudes. Did he really care about her? Or was he just playing a part like he was when they went to dinner and he seemed happy that they were assumed a couple? The realistic 'girl' in me can't help but say... 'honey, he's not honest with you, he's just sleeping with you to feel good, he even told you that... how long do you think its going to last, and at what cost to yourself?'
Okay, rant over for now. I guess its good that I had such a strong opinion about this film, but more than anything it just made me mad that they had such an opportunity to make a film to be proud of with a good story, a huge leading man, gorgeous shots, and an emotional conflict... but they lost it at story and conflict. There could have been SO much more.

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