October 7, 2013 No Comments

GRAVITYThere are moments in Alfonso Cuaron’s new 3-D space story “Gravity”  that are pure magic:  the vastness of space and the splendor of our own Earth suspended in that space are the bookends for our protagonist astronauts (“reel” stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney),  introduced to us as spacewalkers tinkering with the equipment on the Hubbel telescope far above Earth.  Clooney banters and Bullock works, moments before shrapnel from an exploded satellite detroys everything in its path.  The story becomes a struggle for survival in space, against astronomical (pun intended) odds.

Film critics and science geeks are raving about this film.  Great discussions already exist about the accuracy of the space technology so central to the film.  Cuaron creates a space world that we experience in third person looking AT the characters and first person, as we are invited to view the situation from inside Sandra Bullock”  (I mean Ryan Stone) space helmet.  (Clearly this is nothing new in cinema, but the director shifts us back and forth effectively).  The 3-D effect, which can be so gratuitous, works well under the guidance of Cuaron, who creates mega moments and effective micro events that are riveting.  (I’m trying to avoid spoilers).

The actual narrative that propels the film is full of cliches.  Clooney (I mean Kowalski) is ALWAYS Clooney and Sandra Bullock is given melodramatic lines at critical moments that made me roll my eyes.  There are heavy-handed religious themes and an ongoing emphasis on re-birth (Sandra Bullock, that is) that can either be experienced as an homage to films like 2001 or a rip-off.  It is interesting to me that many of the critics gushed about this film despite citing  its “Higher Corn”  and acknowledging it as “predictable” and  “cornball as all get out.”  One reviewer was transformed on the second viewing and found that his quibbling about plot disappeared.

It is a film that I keep thinking about, despite my own objections.  Some of the frequent scenes with Sandra Bullock in her tank top and undies and a very slow camera pan over her as she is suspended in the gravity-less space seem right out of Male Gaze 101 (Laura Mulvey would wince).  Is the story “unrealistic”?  Well, is SPACE TRAVEL “realistic”?  I think the film goes even farther, underscoring and reminding us how our very existence in this infinite universe is “unrealistic”.

And what about the title?  “Gravity” reminds us of the force that pulls us home.  The absence of gravity in this film creates much of the horror.  Although there is a lofty film score much of the time, there are also significant intervals of eerie silence, which are unsettling and powerful reminders of the “grave”,  despite the redemptive moments that share screen time.  Spoiler:  Cuaron is not a nihilist and the nature of his world view certainly shapes the outcome of the film.

Gravity must be seen in order to join in the buzz of a film that “boldly takes us where…….”  (oops, wrong space movie.) Those of us who have grown up on Star Trek, Star Wars, 2001, Alien, Solaris, Apollo 13, Stargate and Lost in Space will find a way to integrate this latest mission and enjoy the pondering.

Jolyn Wagner

Must See Movie of the Week

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