Monday, May 18, 2009

Monday Movie Review: Mozart and the Whale

Mozart and the Whale (2005) 10/10
Donald (Josh Hartnett) has Asperger's Syndrome. He runs a group for other people with Asperger's, austism, and other socially-isolating disorders. When Isabelle (Radha Mitchell) joins the group, a tentative romance begins.

I see a fair number of movies. And most of them are good, because I'm picky and I read reviews and I have no taste for "so bad it's good." I see many movies I like, admire, and recommend. But I don't fall in love all that often. I don't often say, "Oh, my," with stars in my eyes after seeing a movie, and that's what happened with Mozart and the Whale.
So I saw this movie with my son, and he has Asperger's, and that kind of colors everything, doesn't it? I mean, I rearranged my Netflix when he came home from college so that there were movies we would want to see together. But this could all have backfired. Because Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a part of Asperger's, not getting it right can be painful, and any sense of humor about sensitive subjects is right out, and overall, I was fully prepared for him to run out of the room. (As an aside, the movie opens with the unusual disclaimer, "This movie is a work of fiction based on a true story." Most movies use a shorter "based on a true story" statement, and I am 100% certain that the longer version was needed to appease the OCD of Aspies being depicted.)

So where was I? Right, run screaming. He didn't. He loved it. It may be his new favorite movie (except he has a whole OCD thing about calling things his favorite). He declared Isabelle "my perfect woman." He related to the characters, who were not cute or pretty or comic relief fodder or disgusting or charming or inspiring or heroic or any of the other things that we expect to happen to real people when they become movie characters. In fact, the only way Donald and Isabelle were movied-up is that they were played by breathtakingly pretty people.

The whole thing works. The supporting cast (including Rusty Schwimmer, Gary Cole, and John Carroll Lynch) do the job. The filming is understated and warm. The cinematography and set decoration work to convey these people and how they place themselves in the world. The love story is unbelievably touching. And the sum total is that you feel enriched just to have watched it. Just to have been there, witnessing the act of loneliness being eased by love.

Just see it, 'kay?

(Cross-post and the Movie)