Director: Gus Van Sant
Writer: Jason Lew
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Henry Hopper
Country: United States
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Time: 91 minutes
USA Release: 9/16/2011
On DVD (USA): 1/24/2012
After bowing out from it’s initial release date in late January of this year, “Restless” is finally being release across the country. Although it showed it’s face at this years Cannes on May 12 it has since been seen with mixed and negative reviews. Even with that I was still curious to see what this movie had to offer to it’s genre and what performances it’s leads might bring.
“Restless” is a romantic drama dealing with the lives of Enoch Brae (Henry Hopper, the son of late Dennis Hopper) and Annabel Cotton (Mia Wasikowska). After initially meeting at one memorial service where Annabel tries and fails to talk to him, she later has to cover for him at another as we find out he’s a funeral crasher. Soon the two slowly start to become friends as they hangout and talk somewhat about their lives which consist of Annabel learning of Enoch’s ghost friend Hiroshi (Ryō Kase). However things get heightened after Enoch learns of Annabel’s impending death from cancer, but shakes it off since she still has three months to live life and get everything in order.
Like with most movies dealing with terminal disease and romance “Restless” does have predictable plot points and characters, but I found this movie to overall be very touching and a bit different than most of it’s kind. Director Gus Van Sant does a great job of telling this story having it move along at a reasonable pace, it never feels rushed or boring. But it’s his work with cinematographer Harris Savides that really had me noticing, Savides really made this film unique with his use of close-ups that went in and out of focus, which is also used in other kinds of shots throughout the movie. Van Sant has this way about his movies that is evident in this as well, but it’s hard to figure out quite what it is. It could be a number of things from the type of sweet melody score he uses in this and “Good Will Hunting”, or maybe it’s his use of locations although many aren’t seen in this, either way Van Sant has the tools to really tell a sweet romantic story. The thing that makes “Restless” gets these mixed/negative reviews mostly lies within the script written by Jason Lew. Now I hate to pick on Lew on his first script because it was a good effort but it’s a bit too predictable even for me. Although he did succeed in making the characters a bit different as they are both somewhat obsess with death, and both even plan situations for Annabel’s death. But the thing that gets me is that unlike “50/50” which dealt a “normal” person getting cancer, movies like “Restless”, “Sweet November” and “Autumn in New York” always has the person, usually female be unusual, quirky and very much artistic in some form or another. Now this might all be a coincidence but I really doubt that everyone who gets cancer has all of those qualities, and I find it very unrealistic (since they are obviously aiming for realism in someway) that they pinpoint making them noticeably unusual. Another thing that makes this predictable is the use of a happy montage with slow motion and that falls on Van Sant and his editor, yes it works within the story (as it always does) but when you see that in every movie you know exactly what’s going to happen next, so I would suggest try it another way next time. Like I brought up before the score used in this has a sweet melody and that’s no surprise seeing as it was done by Danny Elfman and I always enjoy his scores. And like in his other film, Elfman’s score works well giving the movie a little pop here and there.
But what luckily saves this movie from being a complete waste, rip-off, whatever you want to call it is the actors. Although the movie is without a doubt mostly dealing with the two leads, I thought I would still say something about the rest of this small cast. Lusia Strus, Chin Han and Jane Adams all do great in their respectively small roles. Strus who plays Annabel’s drunk mother is seen only a few times to give her words of wisdom. Han plays Annabel’s doctor who gives some advice to Enoch. And Adams plays Enoch’s Aunt who is just as depressed as he is, but maybe for other reasons. Now as for Schuyler Fisk and Ryō Kase, they are our two leads closes friends/family. Fisk is Annabel’s older sister who has given up whatever dream she had or didn’t have to stay at home and look after her mom and sister, she seems left to do everything like cook, clean and do the boyfriend interview. Fisk gives a good performance but it doesn’t look like a lot of effort was required except for maybe a couple of scenes. Kase plays Hiroshi who is Enoch’s ghost friend, he has been for a better word “haunting” Enoch for a number of years and the two have grown to have these little joys in life, like throwing rocks at trains and playing Battleship. Kase does a great job of really getting through to Enoch who is sometimes blinded by things. Left now are our two leads, Mia Wasikowska and Henry Hopper. Wasikowska as always delivers a fantastic performance, as Annabel she tries to just live life and although she is unable to go to school she continues to learn about her favorite things. She brings a light to a very depressing situation and keeps a smile on while other around her just want to cry. Hopper (son of the late Dennis Hopper) delivers a excellent performance, and surprisingly this is his first real film and first leading role. It’s no surprise that he has inherited his fathers acting ability that has this ease and carefree attitude. He brings a unusualness to a already unique character, Enoch as we learn just from the trailer is a funeral crashing dropout with a ghost friend. Although that seems to be the character in a nutshell, there is more going on with him then you see on the surface, you just have to be willing to take a look.
To sum up, while “Restless” may not be the most original story or movie, it still delivers a good deal of heart and romance. Some may walk away completely hating it, while other will really like it. It may not be one of the best movies of the year but it still is something worth taking a look at mostly because of the actors involved, in particular the excellent performances done by Mia Wasikowska and Henry Hopper, both of whom are rising young actors that have great chemistry and likeability.