Walk in the Park

Experiencing Robert Zemeckis's newest film The Walk, is almost exactly like walking across a shaky tightrope line similar to the one that our protagonist often crosses. Zemeckis is juggling a lot of fine elements to keep the film steady, but might just be a little too focused on attempting to get through it that it's not quite as fun as it could be. It's breezy and extremely enjoyable to be sure, but something about it kept me at arms length. In certain respects that I'll address, I couldn't suspend disbelief enough; like a shaky tightrope walker I may have looked down one too many times. That's not to say it's a bad movie at all, it's actually a very good one. It's very well made and has all the elements to be great, there's just something missing that these street performers couldn't sell me on.

But let's discuss what the film does have going for it, before trying to figure out what's missing. The film is light, colorful and whimsical. Above all else, it's a great film to let the eyes take in. It has a Tim Burtonish feel, the kind when he's NOT playing with gothic palettes (ie Big Fish, Big Eyes, the dream sequences in Sweeney Todd, and the period piece feel of Dark Shadows) coupled with Amelie and Moulin Rouge (all movies I adore, for the record...minus Shadows) The visuals are spectacular, and during the film's climax the 3D really shines (though I'm not sure if it's really worth it for the entirety fo the film.) For example, I LOVED the perspective shots of Phillipe looking at his feet, because it really makes the audience see things from his perspective. This visual element is one of the film's biggest strengths and definitely makes for a pleasant viewing experience. Its other strength is how well crafted the tension is during "the coup." While the first half of the film is a cheerily brisk lesson in how Philippe Petit and his aspirations came to be, the second half ups the strain on the audience as difficulties arise to achieve his dream in tightrope walking between the Twin Towers. If you're not good with heights (and really, who is??) you'll have plenty of uncomfortable moments toward the end...and the 3D only intensifies that.

The Walk is a film I really admire, but don't love; there are three reasons for that and they all in one way or another revolve around our protagonist played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Firstly, the film deploys a framing device where Phillipe breaks the fourth wall and tells us all about the events of the film, after the fact. There's a uniqueness to the approach the way it's done to be sure, but after awhile it took me out of the film with how often they went back to it. Also, as I mentioned before...the film requires a suspension of disbelief and the biggest is whether or not you can buy all American Joseph Gordon-Levitt (we'll call him JGL for short from here on out,) as a true Frenchman. His scenes are more convincing when he's not breaking the fourth wall and has someone else to play off of, but every time he was alone addressing the audience I was reminded of some of the faux art films he appeared in, in his earlier film (500) Days of Summer, and it made things feel a little inauthentic here too.

I love JGL in almost anything, but he only sold me on his performance half of the time here which just doesn't work. The other problem, is that his character isn't particularly likable.. let alone lovable. He needed to be the heart of the film, and while he certainly carries it on his shoulders and does his best... his character never clicked for me. The tension at the end of the film certainly works, but could have been magnified if we truly came to love him as a character. The other thing the film is sorely lacking in is humor. There are brief moments of it and every time something works, you can't help but think "why isn't there more of this?" Instead, the film settles for being pleasant when it could have had real heart and humor. It's a solid effort, but it could have been just a little more magical.

However, once again on the plus side, I must say that they handled the ending with absolute care. There comes a moment where you wonder if the filmmakers are going to turn exploitative or maudlin in their remembrance of the Twin Towers, but the film ends on the perfect note in paying them tribute without drudging up the past for the sake of manipulating the audience. EMILY RATING: 8/10


Sarah said...

Sounds like an interesting movie. The perspectives look cool (though scary!).

Johanna said...

Now see, I though this would be too hard to watch, but JGL tips the scale. I'll have to tell Niel to go see it with me.