Trance by Danny Boyle

Trance by Danny Boyle

Trance by Danny Boyle

An art auctioneer who has become mixed up with a group of criminals partners with a hypnotherapist in order to recover a lost painting.

Danny Boyle’s new film Trance is an cinematic assault on the senses, and unapologetically so. The premise behind Trance is inherently silly. This is a world in which where hypnosis is magic and accomplishes everything. I doubt any real gangster in the world would ever incorporate a doctor of any kind to assist them with crime.  Audiences just have to go along with it. With trippy cinematography and an awesome soundtrack that I want on my mp3 playlist, Boyle crafts a colorful thrill ride of a film.In the past, Danny Boyle has experimented with genre to varying degrees of success. 28 Days Later worked for me, Sunshine did not. For Trance, the genre-shifting nature works mostly because of its three stars giving it the proper balance. All three lead actors are given dimensional characters to play. Vincent Cassell and James McAvoy seem to be enjoying their roles as they get to play out not only their own characters’ complexities, but their fantasies and projections as well. The standout, surprisingly, is Rosario Dawson.

This is the best Rosario Dawson role I have seen thus far. In her past roles, her sex appeal has been used too blatantly and it has taken away from her performances. The more you intentionally portray someone as sexy on film, the less sexy it is. I am too aware that I am supposed to be aroused by something that I am not totally immersed in. It’s more the idea of sex and the building of sexual tension that creates onscreen sexiness. Danny Boyle sets up the proper atmosphere and films her in a way that forwards the story. Boyle creates an allure to Rosario Dawson’s hypnotherapist character, who’s just sitting down in plain office attire hypnotizing the male characters with words. Her presence adds an entire genre, the erotic thriller, and it sets the film off on a corkscrew spiral mixing film genres, reality and dream states. Nobody is who they seem to be and the film delivers some nice twists and turns.

There’s a trashiness that the film revels in, as if the film is fine with the audience being aroused and indulging into its stimulus. It never gets serious enough for the audience to ever truly take it seriously. So for that, Trance is a fun naughty little piece of pop art, that’s not to be taken seriously and I was comfortably lost in it.

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Ruby Sparks by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris

Ruby Sparks by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris

Calvin Weir-Fields (played by Paul Dano), a struggling novelist trying to recreate the early success of his first novel, writes about his ideal dream girl, Ruby Sparks (played by Zoe Kazan), who comes to life.

Ruby Sparks is pretty consistent with its story beats as it journeys through the sweet and the bitter parts. It certainly hits its mark of being a quirky, cute and funny indie film but ultimately it isn’t as deep as the filmmakers think it is. For me to totally indulge into the fantastic dream girl along with the Paul Dano’s Calvin, the film has to make the audience fall in love with the Kazan’s Ruby Sparks as well. I personally did not find Ruby Sparks attractive or fascinating enough in that context to entertain that notion. Having a quirky girl be the perfect girl simply isn’t enough. We don’t know anything beyond Ruby’s quirks because she is a fictitious shallow creation. The way Calvin is fascinated with her is like the way Joseph Gordon-Levitt gets fascinated by Zoe Deschanel in (500) Days of Summer because she likes The Smiths. For any guy who has learned the life lesson of “idealizing the perfect girl” will find nothing profound in Ruby Sparks. I saw where the story was going right from the start, and then eventually the story went exactly to that exact predicted conclusion.

The color scheme is noteworthy. I noticed how they color coordinated Calvin’s clothes and home to be more bland. The standard practice of cinematography dictates one should never shoot white walls. They meant for it to look bland for story reasons, but cinematographer Matthew Libatique does a great job with making an entire interior of white walls interesting with natural lighting.

There is an indulgent approach on the filmmakers’ part. The dream girl is being played by the screenwriter and it seems the directors got the job because they directed Little Miss Sunshine, so they’re basically here to decorate the film with quirks. This is a piece that needed more aesthetic distance from its makers. What I really wanted to see happen was Calvin to come back to reality and date a real girl. Or better yet have Calvin also see a real girl and be forced to choose between fantasy and reality. There are some half-developed themes here, one noteworthy idea about how Calvin has complete control over Ruby with his typewriter. It takes the film to a darker place, which was interesting, but it was took too long to get there and the final message of the film seems to be truncated to “don’t idealize girls” instead of “live in reality”.

It’s like the story doesn’t give its characters a big enough problem to push the story further to a more profound conclusion. It just needed something more. At the film’s final scene, it didn’t seem Calvin learned anything from the events of this movie. Subsequently, I didn’t learn anything either.