Arts & Culture

It’s a wrap: films to finish off the semester

By
Arts & Culture Editor
Friday, December 5, 2014

‘Wild’ | Opened Dec. 3 | 120 minutes
It is often said that before we cast judgment on someone, we must walk a mile in their shoes. According to this logic, hiking the 1,000-plus miles of the Pacific Coast Trail must be the empathy exercise of a lifetime. Based on Cheryl Strayed’s wildly popular memoir of the same name, “Wild” follows the recently divorced protagonist — played by Reese Witherspoon who departs from her standard rom-com fare in a rugged and critically acclaimed performance — on her quest for sublimation through nature. Weighed down by her lack of outdoor experience and the ineluctable consequences of her self-destructive personal history, Cheryl must confront, and transcend, her physical and psychological challenges.

‘Zero Motivation’ | Opened Dec. 3 | 101 minutes
Though its moments of violence will undoubtedly disturb some viewers, it will not be in the ways one might expect from a film about Israeli soldiers. In fact, hardly any aspects of the film meet viewer expectations. Writer and director Talya Lavie makes two uncommon moves: She occupies the viewpoint of female soldiers instead of male soldiers and dares to put a darkly comic spin on the abjection of the situation. Rather than positing a political commentary, the plot focuses on the nosediving friendship between two women whose shared experiences are ultimately too weak an adhesive to reconcile their personal differences, exhibiting a world defined not by its setting, but by the individuals who inhabit it.

‘Two Days, One Night’ | Opens Dec. 24 | 95 minutes
Directed by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, a brother duo known for their incisive social commentaries such as “The Kid with the Bike,” “Two Days, One Night” garnered a 15-minute standing ovation after its premiere at March’s Cannes Film Festival. Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard stars as Sandra, a factory worker in a solar panel-producing plant. About to return from a depression-related leave of absence, she learns that her coworkers are slated to vote on whether to keep her on staff or absorb her workload — and salary — themselves. Sandra spends the weekend traveling door-to-door, pleading her case to those who will determine her future. Though the cinematography is intensely character-focused, with Cotillard on screen for almost the entire duration of the film, the brothers Dardenne also give weight to the plights of her coworkers, whose similarly tenuous situations paint a complicated moral portrait of the cost of living.