Sunday, October 11, 2015

movie review: The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet

The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet 
(2013, France/Australia/Canada) 
directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Jean-Pierre Jeunet is most well-known for Amelie, the movie that got even people who don't like subtitled movies from France to watch a subtitled movie from France. Amelie, Delicatessen, and MicMacs have a similar sensibility--whimsy and a lot of visual delight, with an undercurrent of darkness and sadness. Jeunet's newest film (released in 2013 in Europe but delayed until 2015 in North America) continues in this vein.

I don't want to say too much about the plot, because I didn't really know anything about it beforehand, and I think I enjoyed the movie all the more for it. However, without spoiling anything, I can say that it involves
  • a quirky family of scientists and ranchers (with one budding thespian)
  • a ranch nestled in the beautiful, stylized mountains of Montana
  • a tragic accident
  • an ingenious invention
  • a cross-country adventure by rail
  • the Smithsonian
Jeunet divides the acts of his story with dynamic images of a pop-up book. This movie is a lot like a good pop-up book: gorgeous and stuffed with tiny delights. The storyline is absorbing, though at times seems to be teetering dangerously close to too slow--but it revs up again just as things seem to be grinding to a halt. I thought there was a good balance of lightness and sadness, too, which is a tricky thing to get right.

The actors are uniformly good, and there are some cameos that Canadians will enjoy (the movie was made partly in Canada). The boy playing T.S. Spivet is odd but likable, and I have to say this may be one of my favourite roles for Helena Bonham Carter.

Overall, I'd recommend it if you liked Amelie and are OK with whimsy.

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