Tom Cruise excels in the new film Oblivion, in wide release as of 4/24/13. This movie, however, should not be seen by people who don’t know or understand film as an art form. This ain’t The Three Stooges, folks.
In 2007, my wife and I went to see Hugh Grant in a rather strange, if hilarious, film called Music and Lyrics. We both enjoy Grant, and this film started well. In the opening scenes, we were treated to Grant performing as a member of a two man singing group, once wildly popular but now fallen on hard times. The retrospective of the group that started the film featured Grant singing with his partner in a very tight white suit which screamed vintage Elvis. Funny? Well, as Huckleberry Finn says, “It would have made a cow laugh.”
So we, along with most of the audience, sat in paroxysms of laughter at the preposterous performance not only by Grant but by his exquisitely talented co-star, Drew Barrymore. However, toward the end of the opening sequence, an older couple came to stand in front of us and proceeded to assail for ruining their experience at the film. Our—not just my—laughter had ruined their experience and they intended to complain.
A woman behind me, bless her, spoke up and advised the couple that they were watching a comedy, and that people laugh at comedies, and we as an a me udience found it funny. For my part, I was so surprised that people would complain about others laughing in a comedy that I couldn’t respond. The complainers left in a huff and, we found out after the film, actually did complain that people were laughing at the film. The theatre manager proclaimed herself as dumbfounded as we were.
I saw something like this happen at a production of Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple at the old Drury Lane Theatre in Evergreen Park. Here again, I sat behind two people who didn’t get it. Tony Mockus and Tony Randall all but stunned us with laughter; yet, in front of me were several people who kept turning and looking at us as we laughed nearly out of control at the production. Apparently, they thought the play was an exposition of the tragedy of Oscar and Felix.
So, if you are a person whose experience in film is limited to, say, the humor of the three stooges, or the plot depth of a TV sitcom, you may want to stay away from this superb film. I urge you not to do so. This film is a work of art and will take you to a new level in your appreciation of the potential of movies.
Tom Cruise, a few years ago, took on a remarkable project called Vanilla Sky based on a short story by a true master of the Science Fiction genre named Philip K. Dick. Directed by Cameron Crowe, the film starred Cruise, Penélope Cruz, and a brilliant Cameron Diaz. The film required a great deal of effort on the part of the audience, and those who demand that their film experiences be mindless iterations of, say, Smokey and The Bandit, will be disappointed.
The premise for Oblivion, which is set in 2077, says that most of the earth has been destroyed by a dreadful war against aliens. Cruise has a job of mopping up the mess that is left, and lives in the sky with the beautiful Olga Kurylenko. As he goes about his job, he finds himself in apparently constant battle with what are apparently aliens left over by the war—
–And that’s all I can tell you about the plot. I think I know what happened, but I’ll leave it to you.
This film features great performances by Morgan Freeman, and Andrea Riseborough, but also a fine, if thankless cameo by Melissa Leo. The set is convincing, and convicting as well. I say that not lightly.
At its heart, this film is a love story and hopeful, hard at times to watch but ultimately pleasing. Go and see it.