Friday, January 8, 2010

Happy New Year, "Invictus" Rant

After “Crazy Heart” a couple weeks ago, I left the theater feeling buoyant, if somewhat heavy-hearted. Having felt such unlikely love and empathy for a nasty, old, drunk country singer who seeks redemption he doesn’t deserve, there was nothing else I could do but see another movie. You can't let a wonderful glut of movie-feelings go to waste!

So, as I love double features, after “Crazy Heart,” I chose “Invictus.”

Oh, brother, did I choose wrong.

Whereas the old, drunk cowboy in “Crazy Heart” warmed my cold heart when he swore and swigged and scratched himself, the do-gooders of “Invictus”—namely Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) and rugby superstar Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon)—made me want to poke out my eyeballs and think that had Clint Eastwood (“Invictus” director) been in the theater, the man would’ve had one sore, old face from my fists.

It all starts out fine. Mandela's the recently-elected president of South Africa; the country's in civil-warring pieces; and, we have the story of Pienaar's Springboks rugby team, replete with lots of scenes of grown men suiting up and ramming into one another on the field.

I (once upon a time) care(d) about politics, and who doesn't like to see Matt Damon traipsing around some green, grunting and tossing balls to other men in sweetly-accented voices? I sure do. Or, thought I would.

The movie has almost no character development. Damon's character is boring and un-endearing: we see him at home a couple times with his close-minded father making middling comments about change being bad for the country; we know he has a 2D girlfriend who shows up at his games and drops him off to see the president; and, we know he's the captain of his rugby team and can crack a good whip when need be.

Mandela's portrayed to be a capped-teeth (I liked seeing Mr. Freeman with some big pearly whites, I must admit), wizened man who essentially shirks all actual presidential responsibilities—like, oh, economic policy concerns, international diplomacy, poverty, etc.--to court his country's rugby star (who, half of the country hates due to preexisting prejudices) and leave it up to him to win the World Cup, and thus save the country from its seemingly impending demise.

And, then there were the rugby scenes. The last hour or so is filled with an endless amount of mind-numbing World Cup scenes, with only brief cuts to the people of South Africa rejoicing in bars, on the streets, blacks and whites, lots of hugs, cheering, whatever—it bordered on the satirical.

I'm all for sports scenes (Friday Night Lights is my favorite show, after all.), and lord knows this lady gets more goosebumps in one episode of How I Met Your Mother than should ever be admitted (so, it wasn't the cheesiness of affection that bothered me)--but this? This was just awful.

I started the night loving an old, pitiful drunk for no reason other than good movie-making; I ended the night with a bad taste in my mouth about Mandela and his (exaggerated) poor political judgment. Eastwood, I'm offended.

On that happy note, Happy New Year!

1 comment:

Paramendra Bhagat said...

2D girlfriend .... Ha!

I have not seen the movie, just the trailer, but it did not inspire me.

You throw four good names - Mandela, Freeman, Damon, Eastwood - and end up with porridge. How do you do that?

I think the basic premise of the movie is simplistic. Or is it? Recently there was news some small African country qualified for the World Cup, and people took time off from a civil war to celebrate!

Go figure.

By the way, just this past hour I have an invite from Sara Walker of DigitalFlashNYC to a Popular Science event.

Go figure.