Monday, 28 July 2014

NZIFF Film Review: "The Young and Prodigious T. S. Spivet" (2013).




For my seventh entry for the NZIFF, I have watched the quirky and charming adventure from Frances most imaginative director The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet. “Dear Spivet family, I have gone for a while to do some work. Don’t worry. I’ll be fine. I didn’t want to bother you by telling about it ahead of time. Thank you for taking care of me. You are one of the best families in the world. Love, TS.” This what you’re going to expect when watching this is fantasy adventure by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, based on the book The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet, written by Reif Larsen.

The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet is the debut novel by American author Reif Larsen, first published in 2009. The book follows the exploits of a 12-year old mapmaker named T.S. Spivet, who lives on a ranch near Divide, Montana, as he receives a prestigious award and accepts it, hitch-hiking on a freight train for the acceptance speech in Washington D.C.. The book is noteworthy for its unique design; the plot-line is illustrated with images which further the narrative by providing charts, lists, sketches, and maps accompanying each page, mirroring T.S.'s cartographic interests and his minute attention to detail.

The film stars Kyle Catlett, Helena Bonham Carter, Judy Davis, Callum Keith Rennie and Dominique Pinon. The performances in this film were all quirky, comical, individual and dramatic as it is typical of a Jean-Pierre Jeunet film. Carter gives a brilliantly quirky performance, reminiscent to her roles in Tim Burton’s films. Rennie gives a brilliant performance reminiscent of the classical cowboy archetype associated in Western movies: stoic and silent. And a great little cameo from one of Jeunet’s collaborators Pinon. Who gives an eccentric, whimsical yet terrific performance as always. But the true credit goes to new-comer Kyle Catlett who carried this picture forward as the film's plot focused mostly on him. If TS had been played by any other little boy, he would not have affected us as mightily as it did.

The Young and Prodigious T. S. Spivet is a sprightly confection of oddities, attractively eccentric, witty and strangely clothed. It captures the texture of childhood, the sense of yearning to do adventurous things. It is one of the year’s best, with crossover potential along the lines of Moonrise Kingdom (2012) and Micmacs (2009). Given its quirky heart, it might well surpass them all. Its whimsical, free-ranging nature is often enchanting; the first hour, in particular, is brimming with amiable, sardonic laughs. The film is a winning blend of sophistication and silliness. It is also a feel-good film, perhaps for moviegoers who have bamboo under their fingernails. If you are miserable, then this is the film for you. The film is Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s best live-action feature because it takes as its primary subject matter of an odd, genius child, rather than the damaged and dissatisfied adult that he will one day become.

Simon says The Young and Prodigious T. S. Spivet receives:


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