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Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar Voynar@moviecitynews.com

TIFF12 Review: Love is All You Need

Susanne Bier’s latest film, Love is All You Need, takes an accessible, easy-to-digest premise – at their children’s wedding, a man who’s closed himself off to love meets a sympathetic woman whose marriage is falling apart – and makes of it a much better film than it sounds on paper, thanks in no small part to a smart screenplay by Anders Thomas Jensen, who’s just good enough at storytelling to pull it all off. I enjoyed this film quite a lot, although I went into it fully prepared for it to be overly saccharine, based on the catalog description. It’s not. Bier and Jensen have crafted an entertaining little slip of a story here, quite Danish in style and with bit of a humorous bent, and if it’s not taking itself too seriously, well, it is at least entertaining to sit with for a couple hours.

The man in question, Phillip (Pierce Brosnan, whose presence also lends heft to keep things from being too fluffy), is a wealthy trader of fruits, and we learn early on that he’s an emotionally impotent, walled-off jerk who rejects any semblance of kindness or connection from others and treats his employees like chattel. Ida (Trine Dyrholm, previously seen in weightier works A Celebration, Troubled Water, and In a Better World) comes home from her final chemotherapy treatment to find her husband, Leif (Kim Bodnia) on their couch balling Tilde-from-accounting, a hot blond who’s keen to make Leif her own man.

Everybody comes together at the wedding of Phillip’s son Patrick ( Sebastian Jessen) to Ida’s daughter Astrid (Molly Blixt Egelind). Also along for the ride is Paprika Steen as Benedikte, Phillip’s brash, brassy sister-in-law, who’s always had a thing for him, and hopes to use the auspicious occasion of the wedding to kindle a little flame of her own. Steen is a terrific actress, one of my favorites of any culture, but Benedikte is so over-the-top that she tends to play a bit more as caricature than character; then again, so is Leif a bit of a caricature, and so is Tilde-from-accounting, so perhaps it was an intentional choice on the part of Bier and Jensen to render the less appealing characters with broader strokes, all the better to contrast and define those that are more firmly on the “good” side – Ida and Phillip, of course, but also Patrick and, especially, Astrid. It all plays a bit like a soap opera, but it’s a mostly entertaining one, and the scenery, especially once everyone goes off to Italy, is stunningly lovely and will make you want to call your travel agent to start planning your next vacation.

I could see this one doing well on the arthouse circuit, boosted by its rom-com-for-older-women sweet spot and the built-in appeal of the undeniably sexy – but also here sometimes bumbling and funny and sweet – Mr. Brosnan. It’s also exactly the kind of nice little film you could easily see some Hollywood studio think about buying remake rights for, after which they would take Jensen’s charming little script, butcher it mightily, cast some older actress (Meg Ryan, perhaps, or if they were sincerely aiming for “good,” maybe Meryl Streep (visions of Mama Mia?) or Toni Collette or Patricia Clarkson in the lead role, and turn it into some overly sentimental, sappy romantic comedy targeted squarely at middle-aged housewives in the Heartland who won’t watch films with subtitles. Here’s hoping that won’t happen; Bier has already done a perfectly fine job here with Jensen’s material, and it wouldn’t hurt some folks to stretch a little and learn to watch films with subtitles anyhow.

One Response to “TIFF12 Review: Love is All You Need”

  1. marianne says:

    butcher it mightily is what will happen if this is made into a remake. leave it alone. broaden your horizons heartland housewives. learn to be a multitaskers and read subtitles. millenium trilogy fanstastic as it is. i will not bother with the lynch version.

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“The core fear is what can happen to you, personally. Your body. That’s what horror films deal with, precisely. We are a very thin skin wrapped around a pumping heart and guts. At any given moment it can come down to that, be it diseases, or somebody’s assault, or war, or a car wreck. You could be reduced to the simple laws of physics and your body’s vulnerability. The edged weapon is the penultimate weapon to disclose that reality to you.”
~ Wes Craven, 1996, promoting Scream

MAMET
Well, that, to me, is always the trick of dramaturgy; theoretically, perfectly, what one wants to do is put the protagonist and the audience in exactly the same position. The main question in drama, the way I was taught, is always what does the protagonist want. That’s what drama is. It comes down to that. It’s not about theme, it’s not about ideas, it’s not about setting, but what the protagonist wants. What gives rise to the drama, what is the precipitating event, and how, at the end of the play, do we see that event culminated? Do we see the protagonist’s wishes fulfilled or absolutely frustrated? That’s the structure of drama. You break it down into three acts.

INTERVIEWER
Does this explain why your plays have so little exposition?

MAMET
Yes. People only speak to get something. If I say, Let me tell you a few things about myself, already your defenses go up; you go, Look, I wonder what he wants from me, because no one ever speaks except to obtain an objective. That’s the only reason anyone ever opens their mouth, onstage or offstage. They may use a language that seems revealing, but if so, it’s just coincidence, because what they’re trying to do is accomplish an objective… The question is where does the dramatist have to lead you? Answer: the place where he or she thinks the audience needs to be led. But what does the character think? Does the character need to convey that information? If the answer is no, then you’d better cut it out, because you aren’t putting the audience in the same position with the protagonist. You’re saying, in effect, Let’s stop the play. That’s what the narration is doing—stopping the play… It’s action, as Aristotle said. That’s all that it is—exactly what the person does. It’s not what they “think,” because we don’t know what they think. It’s not what they say. It’s what they do, what they’re physically trying to accomplish on the stage. Which is exactly the same way we understand a person’s character in life—not by what they say, but by what they do. Say someone came up to you and said, I’m glad to be your neighbor because I’m a very honest man. That’s my character. I’m honest, I like to do things, I’m forthright, I like to be clear about everything, I like to be concise. Well, you really don’t know anything about that guy’s character. Or the person is onstage, and the playwright has him or her make those same claims in several subtle or not-so-subtle ways, the audience will say, Oh yes, I understand their character now; now I understand that they are a character. But in fact you don’t understand anything. You just understand that they’re jabbering to try to convince you of something.
~ David Mamet

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