Quick Reviews: 'Atlantics', 'The Dead Don't Die' | Romance Drama, Jim Jarmusch's Zombie Comedy
When the last shot of Atlantics (Atlantique in French, Wolof title currently unknown) started fading out, it insists one to think that they just saw something cool as lame as that sounds. 24 hours later, that is still the main thing on my mind because cool and fresh are the most pertinent words for describing it. It’s about a Senegalese woman named Ada (Mame Bineta Sane) who is about to get married with wealthy Omar (Babacar Sylla) but finds herself struggling because she’s in love with another man, Souleiman (Ibrahima Traoré). Eventually there’s also a criminal investigation led by detective Issa (Amadou Mbow) in which all of them are involved. The way that it transports you to Ada's state of mind is executed with immaculate style and composure.
One thing that perhaps should be pointed out is that sometimes a distinction between a romantic drama and romance drama could be useful. Atlantics falls more to the latter subgroup as it all revolves around the connection between Ada and Souleiman, whereas romantic dramas tend to have more B- and C-stories as well. One of the reasons that it took a bit longer for me to see the film is that it’s not really my preferred genre but to see the way I enjoyed it should speak to the level of execution here. Since the cast is full of first-timers with no previous acting experience, it’s laudable that none of that is too apparent. In her feature debut, director and co-writer Mati Diop's style, handheld camera work (by Claire Mathon), gorgeous colour grading, minimal lighting and small spaces actually support the natural, low-key performances by the actors.
Maybe it's because I don’t go out of my way to seek romantic or romance films to watch but even if that was the case, I’d likely say that Atlantics is something original and thoughtful in the genre. Diop and co-writer Olivier Demangel's story also involves other kinds of commentary than just something about love; societal issues like poverty, class structure and refugees are just some of the things weaved in, very eloquently I should say. What is less eloquent here was the, dare I say, obnoxious amount of insert or transitional shots (streets, ocean, buildings) and the half-baked detective angle which could’ve used more effort, stakes or better editing by Aël Dallier Vega. Lastly, the movie's final twist is an audacious choice but it would be a spoiler so I’m not going to ruin anything. It'd be helpful if you didn't read about the film beforehand because it's a moment one should experience fairly blindly.
Smileys: Originality, colouring, story, lighting
Frowneys: Some issues with structure and editing
The Netflix Romantic Universe—featuring all of the Noah Centineo Universe films, The Kissing Booth series and Atlantics.
THE DEAD DON'T DIE
I have a feeling that this review isn’t going to end well because of how absurdly aggravating the movie in question, that being zombie horror comedy The Dead Don’t Die, turned out to be. There are respects to be paid at the graveyard where all the hard work done by the cast and crew has since been buried. The most upsetting part of it is that the gravedigger was revealed to be the most important piece of the puzzle and you can’t resurrect any part of it as the bones have been shattered, dirt has been poured on top of it and life goes on without ever thinking about it again. Jim Jarmusch, who wrote and directed the film, has committed the unthinkable and desecrated the stone by clearly being slightly too arrogant about his own exposed brains.
The movie's premise is obviously lighthearted and fun. In a small town of Centerville, we follow local police officers Robertson, Peterson and Morrison (played by Bill Murray, Adam Driver and Chloë Sevigny, respectively) as gruesome bodies start to be reported and they are assumed to be from zombie attacks. Along with that you also follow a few kids at a juvenile detention centre, Scottish undertaker Zelda (Tilda Swinton) and three young adults spending the night in town (Selena Gomez, Austin Butler and Luka Sabbat as Zoe, Jack and Zack, respectively).
I definitely love some dry humour with deadpan delivery and since the movie depends on its success rate, it's good news that it's mostly effective. Murray, Driver and Sevigny do a great job delivering all of it as their group chemistry is fantastic and you do wish that you could just spend the whole runtime with them as they blabber about anything and everything.
Unfortunately you don’t get as much of that humour as you’d like since Jarmusch’s script is all over the place which is most apparently shown in some of the pointless side quests. The part with the kids has zero impact on anything and drags badly, whilst Zelda is a funny character but from a different movie altogether and the hippie youngsters show up just to reference older films for references' sake. It’s rather frustrating because the crew clearly showed up to make a solid zombie comedy if you just look at the flawless work done by the makeup crew when it comes to the zombies and bodies lying around. Ultimately Jarmusch seems to have reached the highest honour of laziness when the last 15 minutes play out because they are filled with outright embarrassing writing. An equivalent of a blank page after blank page, it finally cuts the already decomposing corpse's head off.
Smileys: Makeup, humour
Frowneys: Ending, screenplay, pacing
How do you make a zombie film with incredible actors that isn’t even good enough to become a cult classic ten years from now?