Roma

Roma ★★★

Memories of Underdevelopment meets the bombast of Inarritu - so that makes this a very reluctant three-stars, but this movie has partisans, e.g. the lady at my Super Bowl party who gave me the stink eye when I declared myself unimpressed. Perhaps I’m unwilling to like this on the merits of what it represents (and even that’s debatable - to me, it means that Netflix can throw lots of money at art films), but I also see little here to back up the style. This is what Cuaron does in his big action pictures, uncut takes on a fixed access tilting and panning in many directions, which I think matches the content of a picture that’s trying to sustain tension, trying to make you hold your breath. But here? - what’s the exact point of this style, and this query extends to the black and white, which doesn’t make a ton of sense for a film set in the 70’s, long after we stopped recording our memories in grayscale, unless the point is thoughtless bids for dignified Oscar consideration, or maybe a feeble argument for muted tones that correspond to our muted heroine. From the jump, I thought this was phony, like the way Cleo uses switchbacks to do her opening chores, the elongated motion its own spectacle, versus the sort of pragmatic quadrant approach to tidying up. And I’m weary of a movie that looks incredibly expensive, but is feigning a kind of indie smallness (the reverse is what impresses me, the indie that’s epic through ingenuity). On a basic level, I’d argue this is messy: not taking shape for the first hour, using an inscrutable protagonist as a mirror for the lack of comparative nobility in everyone else, then pre-maturely signaling for legendary status by having the forest fire accompanied by song (I think he’s going for Tarkovsky there). The stillborn sequence is devastating and there are shots where the action in the frame and the depth of field is staggering, but frankly I was bored. Maybe that makes me a bastard, maybe I’m exaggerating my disdain so its fanbase pumps the brakes, maybe I’m stupid - but I even took the time to see this on the big screen.

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