Posted October 18, 2011 by David Watson in Films
 
 

Restless


In Gus Van Sant’s 1991 movie My Own Private Idaho, River Phoenix’s narcoleptic rentboy had a tendency to just drop off throughout the film. 20 years later, audiences may find themselves doing the same during his latest film, Restless. Selling your ass is however optional.

In Gus Van Sant’s 1991 movie My Own Private Idaho, River Phoenix’s
narcoleptic rentboy had a tendency to just drop off throughout the film. 20 years later, audiences may find
themselves doing the same during his latest film, Restless. Selling your ass is however optional.

Enoch (Henry Hopper) is a bit of a shoe-gazing mope. And not in a fun, self-harming Goth
kinda way. Obsessed with death, he
spends his days gate-crashing funerals and throwing stones at trains with his
only friend Hiroshi (Ryo Kase), the
ghost of a World War 2 Japanese kamikaze pilot who may be imaginary.

At one funeral he meets his soul
mate, Annabel (Mia Wasikowska), a
cute, quirky girl who’s dying of one of those tragic but photogenic brain
tumours where the cute, quirky girl never looks ill, loses her hair, becomes
incontinent or pukes on herself at any point. The tumour may be affecting her decision-making however as,
for no discernible reason, she throws herself into a bittersweet, doomed
romance with Enoch, reawakening in him a passion for life.

And that’s pretty much it. Enoch and Annabel are impeccably
geek-chic styled kids who are too cool for school. Literally.
Neither teenager bothers with school. They spend their days hanging out in cemeteries, drawing chalk
outlines around themselves, reading about Darwin and learning to play the
xylophone until Annabel’s inevitable end.

Restless isn’t a bad film, it’s just
whimsy by numbers. Soporific and
self-consciously, teeth-rottingly, cutesy, the film borrows plot elements from Harold And Maude (death obsessives in
love), Love Story, Autumn In New York and Sweet November (all feature annoyingly
quirky girls snuffing it tragically, photogenically young). The protagonists are quirky, laid-back,
hipsters who look like they’ve wandered in from the sidelines of a Michael Cera film and spout the kind of
stilted, self-conscious, wistful dialogue you’d expect from a Zach Braff or Wes Anderson movie.

Enoch and Annabel aren’t
disagreeable company for 91 minutes (ok, he’s a bit of whiney hemorrhoid) but
you’ve just seen them too many times before. Enoch is emotionally constipated, Annabel is a prime example
of what American film critic Nathan Rabin termed the manic pixie dream girl, “that bubbly, shallow
cinematic creature that exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive
writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its
infinite mysteries and adventures
.” She’s
not a character; she exists simply to kick-start Enoch’s emotional growth AND
THEN DIE!

The spitting image of his father
Dennis, it’s unfortunate that, at least on the evidence here, Henry Hopper
hasn’t inherited any of his mercurial talent. Despite playing Battleship
with a dead Japanese suicide bomber (the films best joke), Enoch’s a mopey,
whiny, adolescent and that’s exactly how Hopper plays him. You spend much of the film wondering
just what Annabel sees in him and the rest wondering when he’ll grow a pair. One of the recent crop of phenomenally
talented and beautiful young actresses (Abbie
Cornish
, Emily Hampshire) that
seem to be being bred in a greenhouse somewhere in Australia, Mia Wasikowska is
the best thing in the film, breathing life into the ragbag of quirks and
clichés she has instead of a character.
She deserves better than this dull, formulaic, knowing nonsense.

Sentimental, self-consciously hip
and self-indulgent, two-thirds of the way in Restless will make you wish the quirky, pretty, terminally-ill,
dream girl would just hurry up and die.


David Watson

 
David Watson is a screenwriter, journalist and 'manny' who, depending on time of day and alcohol intake could be described as a likeable misanthrope or a carnaptious bampot. He loves about 96% of you but there's at least 4% he'd definitely eat in the event of a plane crash. Email: david.watson@filmjuice.com