Mia Wasikowska is the closest thing we have to a Movie Fairy, sprinkling movie magic dust wherever she goes. She is the quintessential actor, because with just a twitch of her left eye, she can convey the perfect emotion required. Her choices never go over the top, nor does she seem to be playing herself based on her varying roles (Alice in Wonderland, Jane Eyre, The Kids Are All Right). Ultimately, she is one of my favorite new performers to watch (her irresistibly cute pixie haircut doesn't hurt, either). She is joined in this film by someone equally as intriguing--Henry Hopper, 19 year old son of the late great Dennis. Since this is a Gus Van Sant movie, where we can often expect despondent youngsters to galumph around in their awkward bodies yelling about stuff, these two are well-cast and well-matched. Regrettably, the movie isn't perfect, although its stars ensure that it's relatively close.
Just the other day I heard a gentleman who is obsessed with death explain that he wallows in the concept because he loves life. Does that make sense? If not, don't see this movie. Annabel (Wasikowska), a girl with terminal cancer, meets Enoch (Hopper), a boy who crashes funerals. Her curious nature causes her to pursue him, and he finally gives in to her and allows her the pleasure of his company. He is brooding, mysterious, and more than a little introverted, but luckily she has time on her hands between chemo sessions, so she eventually wins him over. They find a peculiar kind of peace together that causes them to frolic in graveyards, look wistfully at lakes reflecting the colors of autumn, and role play in the forest. Set against a childlike, dreamy score by Danny Elfman, the movie is an interesting exploration of what it's like to fall in love for the first time against the backdrop of imminent demise.
Watching these two relate to each other is really mesmerizing. The movie is filled with moments I wish I had been cool enough as a teenager to have. They both have adorable quirks--she loves to memorize water fowl facts like genus, size and life span, and he gets life advice from a Kamikaze pilot ghost that he plays Battleship with. They both lack the uncertainty and messiness that accompanies adolescence, and instead have an abundance of fashionable vintage clothes and confidence that makes them seem like old souls. Together these two could take over the planet. It makes me wonder what being that talented at such a young age must feel like. Where is there to go?
The spell the movie had cast upon me was broken in the final act. I enjoyed being whisked away by their eccentricity, but when real life leaks in and Enoch gets some distance from his cool, detached persona, the movie falls into the same dialogue as every other cancer drama you've ever seen. True love and sadness over Annabel's sickness causes him to yell at her, and then at his aunt, and then some doctors, and eventually the Japanese ghost he hangs out with. I wish someone more experienced had written the screenplay. Jason Lew is only credited for this, and although the majority of the movie leaves no question why such talented people got on board, the end feels plagiarized from better films. Restless is not a complete waste of time because of the energy between the two main characters, but had me hankering for another viewing of Terms of Endearment.