Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Movie with Abe: Love Is All You Need

Love Is All You Need
Directed by Susanne Bier
Released May 3, 2013

There is good reason to anticipate the latest film from Danish director Susanne Bier, who took home an Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 2011 for the mesmerizing and powerful “In a Better World.” Before that, she was a nominee in 2006 for the equally compelling “After the Wedding,” and in between those two projects, she tried an English-language film, “Things We Lost in the Fire,” starring Halle Berry and Benicio Del Toro, which wasn’t nearly as satisfying. Now she’s created, with frequent collaborator writer Anders Thomas Jensen, a story that switches back frequently between Danish and English, weaving together multiple tales of romance in what can be described as Bier’s lightest film yet.

As Patrick (Sebastian Jessen) and Astrid (Molly Blixt Egelind) prepare for their whirlwind wedding in Italy after just a few months of being together, the lives of their parents in Denmark take center stage. Cancer-stricken Ida (Trine Dyrholm), Astrid’s mother, finds her health improving but her marriage in deep trouble when she returns home from the hospital with good news only to find her husband in bed with a much younger coworker. Philip (Pierce Brosnan), Patrick’s father, works nonstop and rejects the idea of romance, despite multiple offers from his admiring coworkers, as a tribute to the wife he lost years ago. When Ida and Philip end up on the same flight to Italy, the wheels begin to turn and everything changes.

As the story progresses, the film’s tone shifts from a lighthearted character drama to a more emotional, serious story about people. Fans of Bier’s previous films might expect the overwhelming anguish and heart-wrenching power of the human interactions she showcases, and not much of that is to be found here. Instead, these characters’ less grim lives take a turn for the more complicated, which brings out surprising depth in them and allows them to be transformed into richer personalities. Comparing this cinematic wedding extravaganza to a middle ground between “Melancholia” and “Margot at the Wedding” with a bit more charm and a lot less doom is probably accurate.

Bier has assembled a diverse cast to populate her film, with mixed results. Brosnan, as usual, has the charisma but lacks the thespian energy necessary to portray a lead, and it’s hard for his character to be believable as a result. In contrast, Danish actress Dyrholm is superb, making Ida endearing and sympathetic rather than pitiable. Jessen and Egelind are strong as well, but the true standouts are Kim Bodnia as Ida’s clueless husband Leif and Paprika Steen, who could be described as a Danish Allison Janney, as Philip’s overeager sister-in-law Benedikte. With a mostly competent cast, Bier manages to achieve some of the emotional impact that she has made in her past films, and this should be viewed as a less intense but more entertaining departure from her usual themes.


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