Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Wide Awake

[Pic Courtesy IMDb]

Its always interesting to go back and watch the initial movies made by a director who later became famous for a particular genre. Wide Awake was the second movie directed by M. Night Shyamalan, who then went on to direct Sixth Sense, the blockbuster that catapulted him to worldwide fame. It is a more intimate, personal film without the creepy atmosphere and Boo! moments that Shyamalan's films have since become known for. But it does contain his other trademarks like insights into everyday human behavior, ability to lighten a heavy theme with subtle humor and inclination towards the surprise ending.

The film stars Joseph Cross as Joshua Beal, a fifth grade student in a Catholic school. The recent loss of his grandfather has hit Joshua hard and his family is trying hard to help him deal with it. Unable to understand how bad things can happen to good people, Joshua embarks on a mission to find God.

Wide Awake's most affecting moments come from the flashback scenes depicting the relationship between Joseph and his grandfather. The moment where Joseph understands that his grandpa is sick and their subsequent conversations on the topic are very touching. There are some very human moments between Joseph and the rest of his family too(like their moral support of his quest and the scene that reveals his dad's discomfort in talking to him). But its the sequences between grandson and grandfather that are more emotional and this is important in understanding how much the loss means to Joseph.

Joseph seems to be too mature for his age. Apart from his rather high-concept mission, many of the things he says and the way he says them don't ring true when we consider they are coming from a fifth-grader. I guess thats better than him saying dumb things and acting all cute and irritating but it still felt scripted instead of feeling like its from the heart.

Like Signs, Wide Awake has its heart in the right place as long as you share Shyamalan's beliefs about religion and the supernatural. If you do so, the film has a feel-good ending that leaves you with a warm feeling in your heart. But for the viewer with a more cynical bent of mind, the ending could very well seem corny. I belong to the former category and so finished the movie with a smile on my lips and a good feeling in my heart.

The film is held up by some good performances. Rosie O' Donnell gets top billing and is enthusiasm personified as the baseball-loving nun. Joseph Cross seems stiff in a few scenes but is good overall. Robert Loggia brings depth to his role as the grandfather in the few scenes he is on screen. Dennis Leary and Julia Stiles, performers who have since become more familiar, have small roles as Joseph's dad and his sister.

Shyamalan, since Sixth Sense, has become one of my favorite directors. I like his grim, broody but never overtly violent style of filmmaking and am eagerly looking forward to his next film. So it was nice to go back and see one of the films where he sharpened his skills, so to speak. The fact that it was a nice, feel-good film was an added bonus.


At 10:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

did u like "The Village?"

I liked Shyamalan's work in "The Sixth Sense," "Unbreakable" and even in "Signs" but I could hardly sit thro' "The Village" without letting out a yawn every five minutes...I thot the movie was preposterous...

At 11:53 AM, Blogger Balaji said...

rajesh, yes the storyline of 'praying with anger' interested me too. but i havent been able to lay my hands on a copy so far. its not available on netflix.

"even in Signs"...
actually i would rate 'signs' right up there with 'sixth sense' on my list of his movies. 'village' was pretty slow. but still liked his style and the atmosphere he creates. and i may be in the minority but the ending was a surprise to me.

At 12:23 PM, Blogger IBH said...

There should be a rule for u and my hubby dear! No more MOVIES! :)
ahahah! U guys are way beyond my expectation...:) I would defly like to meet ur wife and let her know that there is another soul who is bitten by the same symptoms :)


but I will surley suggest him this he is on a dose for war mite benext in line wuld be for "Shyamalan Vaaram" (remember thisin Sun TV?) :)

At 1:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

IBH, there are many more whose wives you need to meet.. In fact, I am working on a database, which, when completed, I would post in my blog..

guys love movies... ladies love shopping...

At 7:01 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

ibh, will let wife know about her soul sister :-) actually, i don't even write about all movies i watch! so that should give u an idea how many i(we) see. seeing almost no tv and having a very good kid who goes to bed at 8.30 makes it easy to watch so many movies. but probably wont be able to continue doing this after the next one comes :-)

At 8:35 AM, Blogger IBH said...

wow! congrats! :)

analum idhu rombha jaasthi...every week my huby dear watches almost 6 movies...i swear on god! I am not complaining..but it has crossed the boundary of being crazy about movies to being a movie maniac :)

At 8:41 AM, Blogger IBH said...

The best bet is, I am a watch new tamil movies..he is a watch very goo dmal movies...he adores english watch that...and then he is born and broght up in ther eit goes Hindi movies..:)!!!

nangalam oru sangam arambikka porom :)

At 11:27 AM, Blogger Balaji said...

6 a week?! ok, i agree, thats more than me :-) i'm guessing u guys dont have kids yet! but if u do, then virtuala oru kumbudu to him :-)

well... i am tamil and watch all tamil movies. i like mallu movies since parents r from Kerala and so watch mal. movies. have always watched hindi and english movies. have even watched the occassional telugu movies cos I kinda like chiranjeevi! so our house is a virtual bharavilas of movies :-)

At 11:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi. Well written review. I was just wondering if you ever got your hands on Praying with Anger? And if you have, did you like it?

At 4:45 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

anon, thanx! and no, i have not been able to get my hands on 'praying with anger'. i rely on netflix for english flicks and they do not carry the film :-(


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