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Cannes 2011. Gus Van Sant's "Restless"

Updated through 5/17.

So Gus Van Sant has opened Un Certain Regard and Melissa Anderson, dispatching to Artforum, has a quick rundown: "Written by first-time screenwriter Jason Lew, Restless recounts the romance between two teenagers, orphaned, funeral-crashing Enoch (Henry Hopper, son of Dennis), and Annabel (Mia Wasikowska), a naturalist with a brain tumor given three months to live. Wasikowska, who gives one of the best interpretations of roiling adolescent passion in the recent Jane Eyre, helps leaven the emo goo of Restless, a film that droops with its own tender earnestness."

"The most banal and indulgent of Gus Van Sant's periodic studies of troubled kids, this agonizingly treacly tale comes off like an indie version of Love Story except with worse music," grumbles the Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy. "Van Sant can be good at creating private worlds inhabited by sensitive and/or disturbed characters, but here the individuals are simply not very interesting. The project started as a group of short plays and vignettes by NYU student Jason Lew, a fellow classmate of co-producer Bryce Dallas Howard who subsequently worked them into a play and, ultimately, a script. It still feels sketchy, however, neither deeply developed nor very nuanced…. Shot by Harris Savides in the Portland, Ore., area, Restless has a rather washed-out look, especially in the darker interiors. Danny Elfman's score is uncharacteristically sappy, emphasizing all that's most annoying in the material."

"Restless, essentially, is Van Sant's take on the adorably quirky awkward-teen comedy of the Juno/Rushmore/Submarine mould," writes the Guardian's Andrew Pulver. The "main problem is that, although barely a minute of screen time goes by without some adorable quirk revealing itself, it's essentially dramatically inert. For all their soppy looks and histrionic yakking, there's very little chemistry between the leads, which might have made up for it. Hopper certainly resembles his dad in his Rebel Without a Cause period, but has a long way to go before matching Hopper Sr's screen charisma: his Enoch comes across as snotty, petulant and self-involved by turns. And Wasikowska, though undeniably one of Hollywood's major hopes, can't do much with a character so gamine it hurts."

"Do they still make young people like this?" asks Movieline's Stephanie Zacharek. "I'm not sure. But Van Sant, I think, is wishing they did. It's hard to say exactly when Restless is supposed to be set, but it doesn't feel contemporary. Annabel and Enoch romp around in the kinds of vintage clothes many of us wore in the 70s and 80s (and some of us even beyond): Old silk dressing gowns, lacy flapper dresses, loose woolen coats in soft plaids…. And, perhaps most remarkable of all, neither of them ever use an electronic device — they talk face-to-face all the time, and actually seem to enjoy it." They're "sweet together, and emerge relatively unscathed from the heartfelt absurdity of the movie around them. They sure don't make ‘em like they used to. Which is why, every once in a while, it's nice to see someone try."

Screen's Mike Goodridge finds Restless to be "a gently moving hymn to life." What's more, it "has a similar combination of eccentricity, melancholy and profundity to Van Sant's 20 year-old My Own Private Idaho and, although it's less memorable than that film, acts as a valuable reminder of the director's sensitive touch and eclecticism."


"It's like Van Sant saw the potential for taking a page from the Juno playbook, focusing on cynical wisecrackers and letting their inherent appeal lead the way," writes indieWIRE's Eric Kohn, "but he forgot to connect the dots. Enoch's frustrations are sincere, but directionless. 'I wish I could do something more,' he says. 'Something better.' By its unremarkable conclusion, Restless leaves you thinking the same thing."

Micropsia is collecting grades.

Updates, 5/13: Restless "is essentially a Nicholas Sparks flick given a Van Sant aesthetic makeover," argues Karina Longworth in Voice Film.

"This is the most mainstream feature that Mr Van Sant has done since Finding Forrester, even if its eccentric flourishes and deep feeling are unmistakably his own," writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times.

"It's hard to know where the film was foiled," writes Kevin Jagernauth at the Playlist, "but Restless wears its amalgam of influences on its sleeve but has no idea what makes them special."

But for Little White Lies' Matt Bochenski, "Somehow, by the end, it all comes together just as it ought to be falling apart and might even elicit a few quiet tears if you're in the mood. The very final shot is a peach."

Film-Zeit gathers reviews in the German-language press.

Time Out London's Dave Calhoun: "Restless is an almighty dud. Van Sant crashes back to Earth with a tasteless and whimsical riff on teen romance and death in which he tries to recast the American suburbs as a fairytale world in which passion, imagination and a love of nature can counter the debilitating effects of cancer and grief."

The Telegraph's Sukhdev Sandhu: "Imagine if your teenage diaries — soppy, gaudily melodramatic, weepy with gothic self-pity — were made into a film. Imagine a parallel universe where The Twilight Saga was seen as the acme of world cinema. Imagine there's no heaven, only somberly-photographed pictures of Portland."

"Van Sant's minimalism proceeds with maximum delicacy," writes the Boston Globe's Wesley Morris. "He doesn't use many visual or narrative tricks — the palette even looks a little washed out. He clearly loves the two kids (as well as their friends, one of whom is the friendly ghost of a Japanese kamikaze) and lets their performances create all the color. I get that, but it was a little twee for me. The whole thing is a weepie not unlike Love and Other Drugs from last year. The difference is that Van Sant is an artist. Ed Zwick is not."

"Imagine Harold and Maude reconceived with a hot ingénue in place of wrinkled Ruth Gordon, and you'll have a fairly accurate sense of this nauseatingly twee doomed romance," warns Mike D'Angelo at the AV Club."

Updates, 5/14: "A delicate romance between two teen misfits — if by 'delicate,' we mean 'watery,' and by 'misfits' we mean 'curiously dressed waifs that even Stephenie Meyer might have excised for being too moonsome' — that makes mortality its meet-cute rather than its second-act complication, it's a confoundingly glib and out-of-time work from a filmmaker with real form in delineating pre-20s alienation." Guy Lodge at In Contention: "If not Van Sant's worst film (let us pause for the prosecutors of Finding Forrester and Even Cowgirls Get the Blues to state their cases), it's certainly his most under-realized."

Interviews with Van Sant: Dennis Lim for the New York Times and Jada Yuan for Vulture.

Updates, 5/15: "When he can lift something like Good Will Hunting out of the After-School Special gulch and into the stratosphere, we're reminded of how rich the results can be when a filmmaker injects his vision into something that otherwise verges on being rote," blogs Time Out New York's David Fear. "That transcendental sense never comes in Restless. All we're left with is another Young Adult film with a Tiger Beat–cute misfit and a stereotypical manic pixie dream girl, ambling down a Sundance-friendly path of self-conscious quirk that may inspire fidgety anxiousness in those over the age of 14."

Daniel Kasman finds that "Van Sant retains lessons learned from Murnau: emotion in light, tender psychology through visual tone, and the suggestions of joy and death in the very same."

Harold and Maude is Charles H Meyer's favorite film and, in Cinespect, he explains why Restless "is so far my favorite of the six features that I have seen so far this year at Cannes."

Updates, 5/17: "So successful has Gus Van Sant been in trying to make films with teen appeal that the 58-year-old has now started making movies resembling the work of film-school students," writes Kaleem Aftab in the Independent.

"For a quarter-century, Van Sant has drawn sympathetic portraits of young outsiders, but in directing Jason Lew's soggy script he has drawn a blank," writes Mary Corliss for Time.

Cannes 2011. Index: Reviews, interviews, coverage of the coverage. For news and tips throughout the day every day, follow @thedailyMUBI on Twitter and/or the RSS feed.

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