Film | Nathaniel Rogers | Oscars

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Movies: Heartbeats, Oscar Weekend

XAVIERDOLAN
 Xavier Dolan, an out gay quintuple threat: writer/director/actor/producer/wunderkind.

GuestbloggerNATHANIEL ROGERS
...would live in the movie theater but for the poor internet reception. He blogs daily at the Film Experience. Follow him on Twitter @nathanielr.

 
 YOUR FEATURE PRESENTATION
"The only truth is love beyond reason" goes the quote from French poet Alfred de Musset that opens Xavier Dolan's moody dreamy French Canadian film Heartbeats. That sounds beautiful in theory, sure, but living it is messier. Immediately the film cuts to a funny frank series of talking head interviews from people who have been unlucky in love. One woman compares herself to Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction and describes panicking at her computer, waiting for emails that never come.  "If somebody died every time I hit refresh, there'd be nobody left alive." 

Poetic idealized notions of love clashing with humiliating darkly comic reality? It's a pretty apt way to introduce and describe this arguably slight but beautiful film in which best friends Marie (Monia Chokri) and Francis (Xavier Dolan) fall for angelic blond Nico (Niels Schneider) who they spot at a party. They feign disinterest for the other's benefit but they fall. Soon they're vying for his attention with gifts, sleepovers, and phonecalls. Is Nico interested in Marie or Francis? Both? Neither?

MORE AFTER THE JUMP...

Heartbeatstrio

The casting works marvels: Dolan and Chokri, who are friends in real life, conjure deeply specific codependent-friends-who-irritate-each-other chemistry; Schneider plays Nico just blankly enough that it's easy to understand (or at least forgive) the mutual confusions. It's almost as if his golden curls absorb all fantasies and projections. To steal a phrase from Mean Girls... 'That's why his hair is so big. It's full of secrets!'

Some of their fantasies are visualized. At one point while Francis is eating his feelings, he imagines Nico serene under a shower of marshmallows. Viewers may that Dolan tricks up his movie too much: there are fantasy segments, color coded sex scenes, and a fondness for slo-mo that might even embarrass Wong Kar Wai. Even if Dolan's personal voice as a filmmaker is still forming (he's only 21) or a bit muffled by his inebriated declarations of love for the cinema, there's little doubt that he's gifted. One long slo-mo segment paired with the theatrically mournful pop classic "Bang Bang" features Marie and Francis over-primping, over-dressing, and tragically over-hoping for Nico's birthday party. Just as the slo-mo walking and fetishized color risks grating on your last nerve, Marie and Francis enter the party. Their song vanishes forced out by the party's own idea of a soundtrack: "Jump Around". This jarring transition from their drama queen headspace to the drunken messy reality of a party (delightfully bitchy) is both moving and funny if you're letting the movie's moods and observations about human behavior sink in. If you are, you can feign indifference all you want, but you'll fall. Bang Bang. The movie shoots you down.

Oscar-statue BONUS SCENE

Hey, it's OSCAR WEEKEND. What do you have planned for the big night? There are a lot of sites that cover every detail leading up to and after the big night so if you want to gorge on Oscar prognostication and commentary check out Awards Daily, Movie|Line, In Contention, Gold Derby, The Film Experience (that's mine. plug plug), The Carpetbagger and the like. Most pundits are betting on The King's Speech to take at least a handful of statues with The Social Network, Inception, and The Fighter getting scraps from The King's Table. You can see my full predictions here, as well as silly trivia and "how'd they get nominated" for each category.

Did you know?

If Annette Bening pulls off the upset beating Natalie Portman, she'll only be the second woman in her fifties to ever win Best Actress? (The only 50-something winner for Best Actress is Shirley Booth in Come Back Little Sheba. They like their ladies young.)

If The King's Speech wins Best Picture it'll be the first film about a British monarch to win. (Royalty Porn as we like to call it -- which has a whole new meaning now! --is often nominated but doesn't usually win the top prize.)

If Christian Bale and Melissa Leo both win for The Fighter, it'll be only the second fictional "mother/son" double Oscar win in history after Brenda Fricker and Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot (1989)

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Comments

  1. I want Xavier Dolan so bad can taste it!

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Feb 24, 2011 8:15:46 PM


  2. I love The Film Experience, Nathaniel!

    Posted by: The Iron Orchard | Feb 24, 2011 9:55:34 PM


  3. The problem with Xavier Dolan, it's when he do something new, they talk so much about him in Quebec that you don't even want to see his work, you already have an overdose...

    Posted by: A guy from Quebec | Feb 24, 2011 10:37:05 PM


  4. This movie, while entertaining, is really just typical of what one would see in the Mile End of Montreal.

    Xavier Dolan will definitely grow into a fine filmmaker, but this doesn't deserve all the hype it has been getting.

    Posted by: Rob | Feb 24, 2011 10:59:30 PM


  5. @A GUY FROM QUEBEC,

    Agreed. Regardless of his talents, he comes across as a little too precious for my taste. An alternative media darling.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Feb 24, 2011 11:50:21 PM


  6. I saw "Heartbeats" ("Les Amours Imaginaires") last month in Toronto. I'm sad to say that I hated it. Xavier Dolan is obviously talented, but he's also incredibly derivative: the slow-mo segments, as described in the review above, were a shameless and unimaginative rip-off of Wong Kar Wai's breathtaking sequences from "In the Mood for Love". Of course, it's only natural for an artist to be inspired by another, but Dolan has swiped Wong Kar Wai's style wholesale (including the tight focuses on sensuous body-fitting dresses and a woman's posterior curves while a romantic soundtrack swells) without also adopting the soul. In Wong Kar Wai's movie, the sequences are dripping with longing, desire and intimacy. In Dolan's film, the sequences feel trendy and superficial, like a perfume commercial.

    "Heartbeats" reminded me of several other films, but never by way of inspired allusion or homage; instead it just felt like cinematic name-dropping, or using other people's talents and stylistic techniques to somehow bolster one's own, without adding anything new.

    I found the plot in "Heartbeats" irritating as hell. Although Dolan tries to suggest that the film is about love and the illusions it creates in our minds, I just couldn't buy that these characters could feel "love" at all. The movie is essentially about two hipsters (make that uber-hipsters) who become obsessed with an attractive young man, solely on the basis that he's physically beautiful and somewhat mysterious.

    The central question driving the plot -- is he gay? is he straight? -- is stretched for the film's entire 90 minutes, but you really stop caring after the first 20 minutes. There's only so much you can do with the "Is he or isn't he?" cliche. If they really want to know whether the guy was gay, why don't they just ask him? The scene where you finally find out which way he really swings is just preposterous.

    I haven't seen Dolan's previous film, "J'ai tué ma mère," but I hope it's better than this offering. Based solely on "Heartbeats", I'd say Dolan has a promising future, but really needs to mature and start having something worthwhile to say.

    Posted by: DTBF | Feb 25, 2011 12:13:47 AM


  7. DTVF;


    I likes Les Amours Imaginaires, but I also agre with your critiques.

    However, I urge you to see J'ai Tué Ma Mère: It's absolutely not derivative, and easily entered my top twenty of best movies ever when I saw it. Obviously you'll make up your own mind about it, but I really think it's a great movie.

    Posted by: James | Feb 25, 2011 1:27:14 AM


  8. I just finished watching Heartbeats. Tired, cliched themes, slow pace, can't recommend it.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Feb 25, 2011 2:55:25 AM


  9. I think this feature should include a link to the movie and/or IMDB profile, as well as a trailer. It would greatly improve the feature. (Honestly, I barely notice titles of things anymore if it isn't hyperlinked.)

    Posted by: Ryan | Feb 25, 2011 4:01:27 AM


  10. We will be seeing a LOT more of Xavier Dolan. At Cannes he was one of the most photographed celebrities, competing for page space with the likes of Angelina: he is absolutely beautiful and with his Eraserhead-meets-French-New-wave haircut and glasses, has a very Cannes retro chic look that is unique.

    Go to Google Images > "Xavier Dolan Cannes" and you'll see what I mean

    I saw the blonde in Montreal with a girl(friend?) at a cafe at 7am waiting for the morning papers' reviews, he's adorable.

    I say support new filmmakers, support queer filmmakers, see the movie!

    Finally, a note to whatever marketing genius came up with the HORRIBLE TITLE "Heartbeats" -- it just sounds so generic -- why not keep the poetic sounding translation of "Imaginary Loves" or "Imaginary Lovers"? So much better.

    Posted by: Strepsi | Feb 25, 2011 7:41:39 AM


  11. I liked "Heartbeats" a lot. I certainly understand all the criticisms of its heavy reliance on slo-mo and other derivative stylistic techniques to fill out a story that otherwise is not enough to fill out a 90-minute film. And I agree that the story line is hardly original.
    But I really liked the performances and thought the characters were realistic. The contrast with how the two friends ulitimately confront the object of their desires toward the end of the money thoughtful. And the Tadzio-like object of their affections is the sort of person I've always wondered about. Is Nico naive or otherwise clueless to his affect on other people? Does he take the attention he receives from others as his due? Is he cruelly toying with the friends who lust after him?
    Explaining my own interpretation of Nico would amount to a plot spoiler, and I wonder if it is different than Dolan's own assessment. I'd sure like to an intimate dinner with Xavier to find out.

    Posted by: MichaelJ | Feb 25, 2011 12:28:00 PM


  12. Jessica Tandy won for Driving Miss Daisy and she was like eight hundred years old...

    Posted by: EriK | Feb 25, 2011 1:03:35 PM


  13. This movie review is a bit over-worded and uses for too many qualifies/adjectivs/adverbs as to why the movie is great. The review makes the movie sound like a really bad marijuana high.

    Posted by: Sergio | Feb 27, 2011 4:27:36 PM


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