MRR Movie Review: Restless

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A complex romantic drama about first love between two teenagers who are both struggling with grief and mortality. During the joyous experience of their blossoming romance, Annabelle (Mia Waskiowski) and Enoch (Henry Hopper) are able to offer each other unique perspectives about life and death. Directed by Gus Van Sant.
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Movie Review: "Restless"

-- Rating: PG-13
Length: 91 minutes
Release Date: Apr. 6, 2011
Directed by: Gus Van Sant
Genre: Romance/Drama

"Restless" is a 2011 romantic drama directed by Gus Van Sant. The screenplay was written by Jason Lew, who also wrote the original play of the same name. The original music was written by veteran film composer Danny Elfman. The lead roles are played by Mia Wasikowska and Henry Hopper. The producers for this film are Gus Van Sant, Ron Howard, his daughter Bryce Dallas Howard, and Brian Grazer on behalf of Imagine Entertainment and Sony Pictures. The first screening of "Restless" occurred on May 12, 2011 at the Cannes Film Festival.

Gus Van Sant signed on as director of "Restless" in August 2009 and Mia Wasikowska joined the cast as the female lead in October 2009. This role required Wasikowska to cut her real hair, which is normally quite long. Henry Hopper joined the project in November 2009. "Restless" was filmed in Portland, Oregon, in November and December 2009. The film was completed in July 2010.

Enoch Brae (Henry Hopper) is a young man who has recently dropped out of high school. He is friends with the ghost of a kamikaze fighter pilot, who serves as Enoch's spiritual guide. This character is similar to Rick in Woody Allen's 1972 film "Play It Again, Sam." The scenes with Enoch and the ghost also contain some humorous exchanges.

Enoch routinely attends the funerals of people whom he doesn't know for reasons that the film does not fully explain. He meets Annabel Cotton (Mia Wasikowska) at one of these funerals, and she tells Enoch that she works with young cancer patients. Enoch and Annabel begin dating and Annabel later reveals to Enoch that she has cancer. Enoch seems to accept this fact, even after they learn that Annabel is going to die within three months from a brain tumor. Their relationship turns to romance at this point, while Enoch remains placid about Annabel's fate. He explains that his calm acceptance of death comes from his own near-death experience when he was a child.

However, Enoch grows more troubled as Annabel's impending death comes closer to reality. Annabel becomes more accepting of her death than Enoch as her illness progresses. She eventually dies, and Enoch tries to speak at her memorial. He is initially overcome with grief but his happy memories of their time together allow him to come to terms with his grief.

Director Gus Van Sant has a reputation for making consummate films and "Restless" is no exception. He adroitly manipulates the elements in this film with elegance and grace. The audience will admire Van Sant's ability to create a fluid film and edit it into a tight 91 minutes. Van Sant is at his best when a film has something to say, as is the case with "Good Will Hunting," "Milk," and "My Own Private Idaho." However, Van Sant has also made disappointing films such as his remake of "Psycho" and "Elephant."

Mia Wasikowska is ideal for her role in "Restless." The young actress is known for her understated performances in films such as "The Kids are Alright" and "Alice in Wonderland." She always seems to have an energy that radiates from within her. Wasikowska's performance gives Annabel a lovely sense of curiosity and fatalism. Henry Hopper is the son of actor Dennis Hopper and is well-cast in his role as Enoch. His cynicism is reminiscent of Holden Caulfield in "Catcher in the Rye." Hopper transcends the clichéd character of an angry teenager by actually resolving some of his issues.

Mortality and young love are the primary themes in "Restless." The story of a dying heroine in love for the first time will remind audiences of films such as "Love Story," although Van Sant's directing style prevents "Restless" from becoming sentimental. This oddly touching romance also pays slight tribute to the 1971 black romantic comedy "Harold & Maude" by showing that all love affairs are eventually doomed. The best parts of the film are the scenes in which Enoch and Annabel bond over their pragmatic attitudes towards death.

Van Sant routinely features adolescents in his films, although not to the extent that director Larry Clark does. This is surprising, since Van Sant is now aged 59 and most directors begin to feature actors their own age when they mature. Van Sant's use of teen dialogue is less convincing than that of younger filmmakers. Nevertheless, he demonstrates an acute ability to present the inner monologue of adolescents in a way that shows them to be capable of deep thought.

Rating: 3 of 5