Thursday, November 13, 2014


I realize its been two weeks since I posted something. That's far too long a break for my liking. But, life has been busy and I haven't had a ton of time to think or much reason for my mind to wander. It's strange how mental burnout always seems to fall post-election. There's nothing so good for enriching a life of nihilistic depression as democracy in action.

Anyway, since I need to write something and I happened to really enjoy my three hours with Christopher Nolan last week, I thought I'd review Interstellar.

There's been a lot made of Christopher Nolan's weaknesses. The best description I've heard is that he overestimates what he has to say. His movies always have a message, but he sets up a relatively simple message in a complex, utterly innovative way. His movies are like giving someone a Hershey bar inside one of those cool stainless steel briefcases you always see handcuffed to someone's wrist in the movies. No one is going to complain about getting chocolate, but they might be slightly disappointed there wasn't more in the box.

I happen to be one of those people who's sufficiently impressed with the box to be happy. I loved Interstellar. The critics are right that Nolan relies on his actors to carry the weight of the film, which probably keeps him from winning directing awards, but he almost always finds the right actors and gets great performances from them - which make for great movies.

Interstellar tells the story of a not-too-distant future, where blight and environmental degradation have literally decimated the planet. Human exist, essentially, in a state of stubborn denial that they will eventually be extinguished from the Earth. Coop (Matthew McConaughey), a former NASA test pilot, refuses to lose hope. Through mysterious circumstances, he and his young daughter uncover a secret mission to find a new home for humans on another planet and he's recruited to fly the spaceship - along with Anne Hathaway (a scientist whose father runs the program), Wes Bentley (whose character is so unimportant it doesn't merit someone whose name we know), and another guy who looks just like US Mens National Soccer Team legend, DaMarcus Beasley.

The story centers around father-daughter relationships, particularly the one between Coop and his daughter, played as an adult by Jessica Chastain. She ages as he's in space due to relativity. There's been a lot made about what's "true" and what's not about the science of Interstellar. They had renowned astrophysicists consulting on the project (one so important he's a character in the Stephen Hawking biopic out now), and while some liberties were taken for the sake of story (and of course some speculation was made based on the unknown), it's much less Science Fiction than most outer space films.

The ultimate message Nolan wraps in this incredibly impressive box is that love means something. Love isn't frivolous and it isn't unimportant. It's a message I wholeheartedly support. I think it's pretty darn important even if it is simple. It's told through beautiful artistry and skillful storytelling. There are lots of surprises and real human emotion done extraordinarily well by extraordinary actors.

Yes, there are things to pick apart. The storyline with the "surprise hollywood star" is unnecessarily convoluted (likely to make sure they slipped a fight scene into the movie), but the power of the whole shines through well.

It's a story about fathers and daughters, $165m spent for one father (Nolan) to say something important to his own young daughter. If they can handle the intense space depictions and emotional turmoil, you can take your daughter to see it without having to cover her eyes or ears. I cried at least three times, although it could have been more. Nolan is telling his daughter the importance of dreams and ambition, but also balancing those notions with the importance of relationships and simplicity.

It's a beautiful movie, but you don't have to see it in theaters to appreciate it (although you won't be disappointed if you do fork over the dough for a big screen). In the end, the critics are right, the degree of difficulty, story-wise, wasn't real high, but it was still an excellent movie. I said upon leaving the theater, "Christopher Nolan might've just ruined movies forever." I believe this was beautiful, entertaining, timeless, passionate, and good. It's not an epic piece of craft, but it is an extraordinary movie.

Art doesn't have to be perfect to be moving. I liked this a whole lot more than other movies which were obviously better. That has to say something.

I think everyone should see it. Not because it's world shattering, but because it's good and fun and promotes the kind of love our society so often forgets or ignores. It might not be profound or narratively groundbreaking, but it's nothing simple. It's not easy. But it's not easy in the best possible way.

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