Restless (2011) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
26Jan/120

Restless (2011)

Take one look at the poster for Restless at the end.  Does this look like another indie romance in the vein of Gigantic or Eagle Versus Shark?  You wouldn't be wrong by saying "yes", but more in the spirit of what Gus Van Sant is trying to accomplish by saying "no".

That said, there are very few indications you will avoid the astonishingly shallow world of the indie romance.  They aren't helped by a basic plot description, which includes such wonderful phrases as "main character who speaks to the dead" and "romantic interest with a Diane Keaton fashion fetish who so happens to be dying."  If you were to tell me those details without mentioning who the creative forces behind Restless are I would tell you that God has unknowingly allowed one of the worst movies in creation to wander the Earth.

Instead, Van Sant has crafted the ultimate rebuttal to the indie romance.  It is as Breaking Dawn is to the supernatural romance world, a biting indictment of how the Eagles Versus Shark's of the world are doing their characters a disservice by allowing them to wallow in their fantasies.  Instead, it does something far smarter by gliding through a film which realizes the idiocy of the idealistic quirky romance and still somehow staying respectful to it.

All this said, it is impossible to like this film if you are not at least a little bit sympathetic to Van Sant's worldview.  He has been long maligned as the purveyor of slow motion camera trickery and faux-artistry in divisive films like Gerry and Last Days.  I am very much in his wheelhouse while still acknowledging that he misses (Last Days and Paranoid Park) as much as he hits (Milk and Elephant) while still acknowledging that, dammit, he tries to do something different.

I liked the connotations of the structure here, we have something designed to be either consumed or fall.

Part of what makes Restless such a delightful surprise is the way he pays tribute to the artists who came before him.  Both in the soundtrack and in the shot length you can see the influence of Woody Allen (the aforementioned Diane Keaton wardrobe) and Bela Tarr, the great and unsung Hungarian director who influenced much of Van Sant's career over the last decade.  Moreso than their style, Van Sant allows their realism to seep into the story.

Despite the fantastical elements of Annie Hall, the story is rooted in the very real idea that the relationship of your lifetime may have been just that.  It's a somewhat cynical notion that is wonderfully subverted by the stylistic detours that Woody Allen takes over the course of it's run-time.  The protagonists of Restless, Enoch (Henry Hopper) and Annabel (another Annie Hall callback, Mia Wasikowska) are stuck in the idea if you cross a bridge wearing the same kind of flower you are bound together for eternity.  The rest of the characters with respond with what you and I might consider "sanity".

Van Sant is clearly not in support of the kind of unrealistic supernatural romance present in Restless.  Instead he seems to be vehemently against it, tossing a large number of supporting characters against the leads in their big dramatic moments when they should be blindly supported.  They even get to make fun of themselves in another amusing bit when they are reenacting Shakespearean dialogue re-purposed to fit Annabel's deteriorating state and they both realize how silly and pointless it all is.

But the films greatest triumph is in emphasizing how true romance is still attained through unspoken connections mediated through physical contact.  Driving this home is the utterly fantastic two-minute montage of unseen moments in Restless that emphasize how Enoch and Annabel felt about each other without utilizing a single word of dialogue.  This isn't to say the script by Jason Lew is just in service of the visuals.  It's sensitive to the way we all want to be unique in romance and life while still realizing that at the end of the day we want to feel the same comfort in the arms of someone who really loves us.

Life and death. Sweet fucking, or ironic dances on a bridge.

Those are very broad second to third person pronouns intended on saying this - too many indie romances focus on how we all need to be unique snowflakes instead of just sitting back and going "Shouldn't we be romantic to each other?"  Restless understands romance is more than that, especially in the way it has been presented in film lately, even if some of the main points are delivered through the ghost of a World War Two kamikaze pilot.

And that, dear readers, is still part of the point.

Restless (2011)
Directed by Gus Van Sant.
Written by Jason Lew.
Starring Henry Hopper and Mia Wasikowska

Posted by Andrew

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