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Mia Wasikowska and Henry Hopper

Mia Wasikowska and Henry Hopper in...

"Restless" | a film review by Gary Chew

GARY CHEW/Sacramento

Mia Farrow

Mia Farrow as Rosemary

Although she's still very much alive, it seems the ghost of Mia Farrow flits through Gus Van Sant's new film "Restless." Mia Wasikowska ("The Kids Are All Right") plays the female lead in it with a cute, short haircut like Ms. Farrow was known for back in the day ("Rosemary's Baby"). Moreover, Ms.Wasikowska resembles Mia F., but doesn't flit as I remember Farrow was wont to do. Mia W. just plays Annabelle very well in "Restless."

Her co-star, Henry Hopper is Enoch. They meet and thence go to other funerals for people they don't know. Yup, just like "Harold and Maude" did so wonderfully, so long ago.

What's different is that this couple is age appropriate. Annabelle isn't a old, groovy, Ruth Gordonish lady, but a lovely, rather innocent young woman who's dying of brain cancer.

(As I remember, Maude was not well either, but we didn't know it.)

Enoch isn't quite as nutzo as Harold, but he's close by. The quiet, depressed and solitary young man "talks" to a young Asian man named Hiroshi (Ryo Kase), who died diving his plane into a US war vessel.

Ryo Kase

Ryo Kase

Late in the film, Annabelle refers to Nagasaki while Enoch is locked in "conversation" with Hiroshi. The ghost pilot quickly asks Enoch for clarification about how she uses "Nagasaki" in context with the rest of her statement. (Hiroshi really died in 1941 and, to the script's logic, wasn't around for the nuking.) The dialogue gives Van Sant license to edit in an old documentary film clip of the flattened ruins. It fits, and is important that young people, not around in 1945 (as Hiroshi was then absent) to see the devastation. Van Sant nails his message with that one stroke. No one in the bunch watching the picture, including me, laughed.

I hope everyone who sees "Restless" has the same mirthless reaction to that scene.

Now back to our action-packed story: Enoch's parents, a few years prior to the film's beginning, died in a terrible car crash with Enoch in the back seat. He was in a coma for three months and was clinically dead for about three minutes while hospitalized. But Enoch's okay, now. Or, about as okay as young guy can be after such an event. His mother's sister has come to his city to be the only other family member at Enoch's family's home. But like Bud Cort's Harold, Enoch goes to funerals since his folks are gone. He's also been suicidal, but, as we can see, so far, hasn't been "successful" with that---just like Harold.

Clearly a good story (script by Jason Lew) is in the offing when he and Annabelle happen to meet at a memorial service. It's only after he's gotten to know her, slightly, that she tells him that she really isn't a volunteer at the hospital for kids of cancer (as she calls them) but someone who is a kid with cancer. Enoch carelessly calls them cancer kids. Annabelle disapproves.

At this point, with a quiet gulp, I stayed in my seat, anyway, I could tell "Restless" wasn't going to be as big on gallows humor as "Harold and Maude." It was then that I also recalled that "Restless" was directed by Van Sant ("Milk"). Mr. Van Sant has always hit me as a filmmaker who is quite adept at twisting the knife in a person's emotion gut. I'm not wrong about that, and after seeing "Restless," I can say that Van Sant is still hitting his stride.

Don't get me wrong. "Restless" has plenty of light, funny moments, but all painted with the broad stroke of young people who have the good sense, or lack of maturity, to make the most of the ninety days, according to her oncologist, Annabelle has left.

Oh, here's one funny line that stays with me: "Been to any good funerals lately?"

Fun, furor from Enoch (as he falls in love with Annabelle) and anguish are generously applied. A very nice love scene is a part of Annabelle's last days. The couple seems pretty much just arriving to lovemaking. A sweet scene it is.

Love Story

'Love Story"

But it's such a trite film, albeit well done and acted. It should be hard hitting for the young who've not seen many "Love Story-like" movies. Remember Ali MacGraw and Ryan O'Neal?

The best way to compare "Restless" to "Harold and Maude," might be to say: you're in a better mood after seeing the 1971 film than when leaving the cinema at the close of "Restless." That may be due to the aging process, however. Consulting a geriatrician might give clarity on that.

Another good, sweet line coming from the dialogue gives you the tenderness to be found in "Restless." Near the end, Enoch says to Annabelle, "I wish I could do something, like...make it Spring for you."

The narrative is set in October.

Nothing like true love, whatever our age---or the season.

Now playing.

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Gary Chew can be reached at garychew@comcast.net
and Facebook.com/justin.playfair.

Copyright © 2011, Gary Chew. All rights reserved.

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