Gus Van Sant's latest film evaporates while you watch it.
Director: Gus Van Sant Rating: PG-13 Studio: Columbia Pictures
You could choke on the quirk, whimsy and dramatic phoniness that clog director Gus Van Sant’s dying teen movie Restless. You could also snicker. Either way, this movie (starring Mia Wasikowska and Henry Hopper) evaporates while you’re watching it. Who could predict that Van Sant would ever make a movie that substitutes emoticons for emotions?
Hopper is cast as an odd, drifty, rich orphan who, when he isn’t hanging out at the funerals of strangers, plays Battleship, discusses pseudo profundities with the ghost of a WWII kamikaze pilot (Ryo Kase) and shuts out the kindness of an aunt (Jane Adams, wonderful as always) who has come to live with him. Meanwhile, twee, annoyingly upbeat Mia Farrow-esque brain tumor sufferer Wasikowska spots Hopper at a funeral and, for reasons clear only to Van Sant and screenwriter Jason Lew, decides to spend her remaining months with him going on adventures in which they're both togged in an endless array of vintage clothing, sharing with him her knowledge of ornithology, talking philosophically and—if you ask us—trying to breathe some freaking sense into him.
As played by Hopper, who displays the looks of his late father Dennis circa Giant but none of the charisma, the object of Wasikowska’s affections is a bratty, pretentious no-nothing and a little snot. But, then again, the more experienced, otherwise wonderful Wasikowska can’t do much with her thinly-written character, either—a girl who completely accepts her grim prognosis, who, despite transfusions and seizures, always looks squeaky clean and who wiles away her stolen hours arranging Halloween candies while her sensible sister (played so well by Schuyler Fisk) looks on incredulously.
Statically directed, lovingly shot by the gifted Harris Savides in Portland and dense with allusions to better movies (Harold and Maude, Breathless, Forbidden Games, even Good Will Hunting), Restless is a fuzzy-headed detour in the career of a usually smarter, hipper director.
About the Author
Playboy Contributing Editor Stephen Rebello has written many Playboy Interview and 20 Questions features. He is the author of such books as the notorious Bad Movies We Love (with Edward Margulies) and Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, the latter of which has inspired a dramatic feature film set for production in 2012. His most recent Playboy Interviews include Josh Brolin and Cameron Diaz.