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Juliette’s Trousers: Leggings Are Not Trousers
This film is a graduation project mostly shot on the AUC campus. Now as any student who’s tried to make a film knows, filmmaking is incredibly hard work; it can be very costly, even if you’re working with a micro budget, and usually it consists of using friends for as much free labour as possible. It’s an immensely difficult task and requires major guts and perseverance, but having said that, Juliette’s Trousers isn’t a very good film. And while some of its faults can be blamed on a small budget, the film’s biggest fault is in the script and plot; two things that could have held it together should all else fail.
The film revolves around the idea that leggings are not trousers and should not be treated as such. Arguing this is Tarek El Ibiary, while taking the stand for the opposing side is his girlfriend Mona Lasheen. He disapproves that she wears leggings with short tops; she maintains that her fashion choices are none of his business. This is the one issue that poses a problem for them in their otherwise blissful relationship and the film is basically a chronicle of how Mona’s leggings brought them together then tore them apart.
Funnily enough for a film with a central argument, it fails to make a convincing case for either side. The characters speak in clichés and platitudes never delving beyond the surface. Their arguments can be summed up to: leggings overly reveal a girl’s body, and the counter argument that girls are free to wear whatever they want. What is absolutely astounding is that not once does Mona tell Tarek that perverts will stare at a woman no matter what she’s wearing, and that the onus is on the harasser to stop and not on the woman to alter her lifestyle. There was clearly a concerted effort to avoid sexist tropes but due to the film’s shallowness, they fall into many of them anyway. For example, the justification that he is doing this because he cares and isn’t a control freak is trotted out a few times, though this makes it no better. The film doesn’t seem to realize that sexism is sexism no matter how sugar coated or how well-intended that person is.
Another problem that goes hand in hand with the aforementioned one is that the characters are wildly inconsistent with Tarek being the number one example of that. He fluctuates all over the place, starting out as a guy who’s idea of a good time is watching women as they walk by - in fact that’s how he first met Mona - only to become possessive when his friends insinuate that her leggings are a sign of her easiness. From then on, he goes back and forth between being mad at her for wearing them and supporting her right to wear whatever she wants. The acting doesn’t help much either; the cast is made up of amateurs and therefore the dialogue often sounds forced.
As for the technical side of things, the film is for the most part, poorly shot, lit and edited; some ‘funky’ editing tricks are liberally used, giving it an amateur feel - but there are some commendable points nonetheless. It was a pleasant surprise to see that even though the film revolves around leggings, not once did the camera focus on a woman’s curves, preferring instead to use multiple below the knee shots and guys’ reactions to convey the idea. The filmmakers chose the anti objectification route and kudos to them for that; this choice seemed to send a stronger message than all of the film’s dialogue. It says that women shouldn’t be ogled at no matter what they’re wearing and that is ultimately a very decent message to send.
There’s no real reason why Hollywood hasn’t totally embraced Jake Gyllenhaal; but it just hasn’t. While he may not fit the mould of the empirical Hollywood hunk, he has proven in the last five years that he can carry a movie and carry it will – which is the case in boxing drama, Southpaw.
A traditional story of redemption through and through, the Antoine Fuqua-directed film falls into the same pitfalls that the majority of sports films fall into, but it’s the performance of Gyllenhaal and Fuqua’s ability to put together memorable scenes that give Southpaw its worth.
The story tells of world champion boxer, Billy Hope (Gyllenhaal), and his struggle to cope with the death of his wife Maureen (McAdams) during a brawl with a prospective – and of course cocky and arrogant –challenger. An injury that threatens his ability to see, a quick descent into guilt-ridden alcoholism, growing debt and the loss of his daughter to child protection services are just a few of the things that drive Hope to taking a job at a gym, where he meets Titus ‘Tick’ Wills (Whitaker), who helps Billy get on the track to recovery.
There are plenty of clichés flying about in Southpaw, but there are moments that will send a little shiver down your spine and linger long after the credits roll – and it’s largely owed to Mr Gyllenhaal. He’s intense, he’s committed and he’s utterly convincing as a man trying to get his life back on track after a horrific incident that he comes to blame himself for. At times, the plot feels formulaic – and it is, almost verging on predictable – but it’s a formula that is executed well; Fuqua, like he did with Training Day, has a knack of infusing single scenes with a huge amount of emotion, passion and intensity.
This is not Rocky – it’s grim, it’s grey and it doesn’t necessarily glamorise boxing and the spectacle that surrounds it. This is not a film that will win awards or be talked about in twenty years as a classic, but it certainly is an emotional ride.
There are few actors that commit to their roles as much as Benecio Del Toro, no matter how small; the Puerto Rican actor is approaching his fiftieth birthday, but only seem to be getting better with age, as he demonstrates quite spectacularly at times as one of the most infamous drug-lords of the past century in Escobar: Paradise Lost.
While the title would suggest this is a film documenting the remarkable life of Escobar, it’s not; in fact, he’s almost plays an antagonist in the film – and that’s the movie’s biggest problem. While it never pretends to be an Escobar biography, Del Toro is simply more interesting than the main narrative, which switches from romance, to thriller, to gun-toting action in its 120 minute running time.
Hunger Games’ Josh Hutcherson is technically the lead and the young actor takes on the role of a Canadian thrust into Escobar’s world after he falls for the Colombian kingpin’s niece, played by little-known actress, Claudia Traisac.
While Hutcherson occasionally injects the character of Nick with the right kind of youthful naivety, he cowers in the presence of Del Toro’s portrayal of Escobar, relegating the character to nothing more than a bit-part player – both in Escobar’s world of crime and in the context of the film. It disrupts the flow of the film somewhat; while Hutcherson and Traisac’s on-screen romance takes centre-stage in the first third of the film, by the time Escobar is injected into proceedings, Del Toro’s sheer magnetism leaves little room for you to maintain interest, let alone root for, Hutcherson’s character.
As the directorial debut of Andrea Di Stefano, this is a solid piece of work from the Italian director – but at the same time, there’s a lingering sense that suggests that this project could have been so much more if the eponymous character was also the main one – such is Del Toro’s charisma and Escobar’s endlessly remarkable life story.
Shot entirely in Panama, everything looks as it should be and it further contributes to the aesthetic domain of Escobar, where Nick, rightly, stands out like a sore thumb. But by the end of the film, one can’t help but wonder what Di Stefano and Del Toro could have achieved with an adjusted script.