A Ghost is an Emotion Bent Out of Shape.
I was very excited to get back to the theaters recently. Actually, at the time of writing this, I WAS happy to get back to the theaters about two weeks ago. When I saw Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, I was able to make it a double feature. But I didn’t find a great amount of talent in the theaters. I really wanted to see Zero Dark Thirty, but Hansel & Gretel’s run time cut too deep into the start time of that movie to make it. But there was another movie that tickled my fancy. That’s probably a little too gay of a way to say that, but it was true. I did not expect much out of this movie based on what little I knew about it. I knew only two people involved with the movie. One of the producers of the movie has made movies that have not impressed me with their story, but always had a great visual style to them. And one of the actresses was in The Help and Zero Dark Thirty. That has nothing to do with anything. But let’s see how it turned out when I went to see Mama, based on story by Andres Muschietti who also directed and co-wrote, co-written by Neil Cross and Barbara Muschietti, and starring Megan Charpentier, Isabelle Nélisse, Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Daniel Kash, Javier Botet, and Hannah Cheesman.
During a financial crisis that apparently happened in 2008, a man named Jeffrey (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) overreacts a tad by killing his business partners, his estranged wife, and kidnapping his two children – 3-year old Victoria (Morgan McGarry) and 1-year old Lilly (Maya and Sierra Dawe) – taking them on a drive to an abandoned cabin where he’ll probably kill them too. Before he gets the opportunity, something grabs him, pulls him out of frame, and kills the bejesus out of him. Also arguably a bit of an overreaction. Five years later, Jeffrey’s brother (who is also him), Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau again) is going broke searching for them. His search crew finally stumbles across the children, still alive but almost entirely feral, and now being played by Megan Charpentier and Isabelle Nélisse. After a psychiatric rehabilitation, the girls’ doctor, Dr. Gerald Dreyfuss (Daniel Kash) suggests that the girls live with Lucas and his girlfriend Annabel (Jessica Chastain). But there’s a problem. The girls seem to have manifested a protector that they call “Mama” … OR HAVE THEY!?!?!?
I kinda liked this movie, but that may also have been mainly because I had just seen Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. This movie was better than that one, but I wouldn’t necessarily call it a good movie. Just good by comparison. With time, I find that I’m getting better at predicting my feelings about movies as my movie-watching wang becomes more prodigious. Turns out, when I see Guillermo del Toro’s name associated with something and I instantly assume I’ll be unimpressed with the story but find the visual style pretty interesting, it’s a pretty safe assumption. It’s not bad, but it’s also nothing special. It’s a ghost story two feral kids. I think one of the biggest points of contention I had was that I never understood Mama’s motivations. I realize that she was the ghost of a crazy person, but shouldn’t she appreciate the people that were taking care of the children that she loved? I understand the possibility that Mama would get jealous that the kids were liking the living family better than the creepy ghost lady, but why would she try to kill them when they were treating the kids well? I also didn’t understand the people that acted like they shouldn’t be a little bit cautious around the kids. Sure, the kids are really young, but even young kids can pick up a knife and stab someone to death in their sleep. And, since they were feral, they probably wouldn’t even realize that killing these people in their sleep was wrong. That’s just survival to them. I also didn’t understand how Annabel was so against the kids. I would’ve though those feral kids were rad! They’re like tiny, female Wolverine’s!
The visual style of the movie was very effective. That is all. Moving on.
As with many movies, I don’t pass a lot of judgment on the performances. They all did really good jobs. What I do take issue with more often is the characters themselves. Jessica Chastain did a good job, and I was happy to see her looking Goth because she’s much more attractive with visible eyebrows. But I was also disappointed that she wasn’t a more likeable character. She really didn’t want anything to do with these kids. That probably stemmed from her trying way too hard to be a badass rocker chick. This was cemented for me when we heard her answering machine message. It was like, “Hey, this is Annabel. I’m not here. Leave a message or whatever. Then fuck yourself. Party on, Wayne.” It’s the sign to me that neither Chastain nor the writers of this movie are rockers in the slightest. I also liked Megan Charpentier and Isabelle Nélisse as the feral girls. They did cute and creepy in equal degrees of quality.
I enjoyed Mama, but I’m also aware of the fact that it wasn’t that substantial. It was just super passionate about being mediocre. The story was nothing special and the characters were hit and miss, but the people playing those characters and the art director did a great job. I cannot really recommend this movie for purchase or viewing in the theaters, but I’d get behind recommending a rental. A dollar at RedBox is right up its alley. Mama gets “What’s under the bed?” out of “Leave a message after the beep. Fuck you. Beep.”
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