Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Clouds of Sils Maria (Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart, Chloe Grace Moretz)

I find it hard to describe Clouds of Sils Maria, but I will say, this female-oriented indie is a conversation piece no doubt.
The story concentrates on two women, Maria Enders - a middle-aged actress (Juliette Binoche), and Valentine - a young personal assistant (Kristen Stewart), who travel to a remote mountain location to rehearse a play that the older woman really doesn't want to do, but the younger woman knows she should do to stay relevant.  Maria's reluctance is clearly connected to her inability to face her own maturity because, after all, she was the younger lead in the very same play twenty years ago.

Clouds of Sils Maria doesn't really get started until the middle of the second act.  Then the layers of the script appear and suddenly we are watching art imitating life imitating art affecting life. (Try saying that three times fast lol)  More detail would spoil the effect for some potential viewers.  But, I must warn anyone who is interested, that Clouds of Sils Maria has A LOT of clouds in it.  If you go in believing the title is just a metaphor, think again.  The metaphorical clouds are indeed present, but then the repetitive use of cloudy images dilutes the effect.

Besides the clouds, the movie was a bright platform for three gifted female personalities.  Bravo! (Note: the movie was written and directed by a French man, Olivier Assayas, do with that information what you will.)  Binoche, Stewart, and Moretz deliver drama and even a few laughs on an almost incoherent script - that is, until it became clearer in the later part of the second act. 

Binoche (Chocolat) is elegant and somewhat convincing as an aging actress who is woefully disconnected with reality but completely in tune with her craft.  Fittingly, Stewart plays the paid friend/personal assistant who's in the know but under-qualified and under-satisfied in her position.  I think Stewart's Twilight fame actually validated her shiny, hipster, new penny character.  Again, art imitating life imitating art affecting life.  Moretz (Kick-Ass and Kick-Ass 2), who plays Jo-Ann Ellis, brightened up the joint in what would have been a sedate cinematic affair!  As a manic, young, dramatic genius, Moretz only appeared in snippets but somehow captured the energies of young Angelina Jolie, Courtney Love, Colin Ferrell and Mel Gibson on demand. 

Clouds of Sils Maria is not unforgettable.  I think its female cast is artfully appropriate too.  The movie certainly passes the Bechdel Test, which makes me smile.  The movie is smart, and while it takes itself a little too seriously, may be a sophisticated choice for girls movie night - you know, instead of Bridemaids, which I absolutely loved but seems to be polarizing amongst a group of women.  Clouds of Sils Maria gets a MEDIUM BAG from me due to its savvy display of girl power.

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