Saturday, January 31, 2009

CAST AWAY (Robert Zemeckis, 2000, USA) The first act sets up Chuck Noland’s character as a go-getter with little time for those he loves; he doesn’t connect to his girlfriend, her family, and those with whom he works closely. The next two acts set him up on a deserted island after miraculously surviving a plane crash and he spends the next four years in total isolation. During this time, his metamorphosis into a human being through loneliness, hope, despair, and physical suffering is completed: he suddenly has all the time in the world and his only friend is Wilson, the volleyball he projects a personality into so he can stay sane. Hanks is able to make this work because he’s a damn good actor; his performance is brilliantly subtle. Even more importantly, there is no musical score the entire time he is on the island; Zemeckis lets the film breathe and move through the ambient sounds. When Noland loses his ‘friend” on the raft, four years of hopelessness and despair are purged through his heartfelt apology and gut wrenching sobs. Hanks makes this convincing and powerful. The final act is one big Hollywood emotional crapfest with all the obligatory romantic conventions that caused me to grit my teeth and groan. It was also coated with a thick mucus of sound; the score was intrusive and awful. But one scene was exceptional and I think is the signature for Noland’s character: he is able to truly feel empathy for his friend whose wife died while he was lost. Hanks looks him in the eyes and makes that human connection that he couldn’t make earlier in the film. The power of the story is here in this interaction and not with the cardboard fake melodrama “romantic interest” that he loses for a second time. It doesn’t help that Helen Hunt is out-acted by a bloody piece of leather. (C)

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