-A tepid drama that never reaches an emotional height and a stale Hollywood hot-take on Wall Street.

The controversial romance novel “Me Before You” has been adapted to the big screen from the writer of the novel herself, Jojo Meyes, an event that’s usually discouraged in film due to mostly mediocre results. Oftentimes, novelists are not screenwriters, with the exception of John Irving and Gillian Flynn, that is.

This is one of the misses, as Me Before You is one of the weakest romance films of recent memory, both due to a production that couldn’t decide the look and feel desired here, but also shoddy performances from the two leads, Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin.

When Will Traynor (Claflin), a wealthy businessman brought up in an affluent family living in a castle-like house in the UK, gets into an accident as a pedestrian, he becomes a quadriplegic, no longer able to play in competitive sports or live the physical lifestyle he once took for granted. Depression sets in soon after the accident, and he desires doctor-assisted suicide in Switzerland after he promises his parents a sixth month trial run in his new life. His parents (Janet McTeer and Charles Dance) in an effort to want to see their son happy enough to not go through with the procedure, hire a bubbly and cute caretaker from the town named Louisa (Emilia Clarke), who brings her giant smile and tacky fashion sense to the home everyday to try to give Will a companion after he pushed away everyone in his life.

After some initial struggles, Will and Lou become very close, and when she learns of his desire to end it all, she begins trying to show him how good life can be, possibly bringing on a romance with it, to the ire of her current boyfriend (Matthew Lewis).

The movie’s first and most glaring flaw is its inability to combine the dark themes of euthanasia with the bright and bubbly personality of Lou, creating a contrast in tone that can only come off as awkward. By not fully heading down the path of the pain that Claflin’s character is suffering, the movie itself really comes up short in creating the atmosphere for why a romance like this would be so powerful. If you’ll recall, Me Before You was one of the films I really wanted to see before crafting my Mid-Year Top 10 list, because a romance that has such a good central theme starring Emilia Clarke has to be on my radar. The mixed reviews make sense now, it didn’t really know what it wanted to be.

Imagine instead of the movie that we ended up getting, where it becomes about “saving” Will, we got a story in which the two characters already knew each other, and struggled to make their romance work after the accident, and the pain of the choice that he was going to make would completely derail their potential life together. The caretaker role takes forever for them to even be comfortable with one another, so the consequences of his choice never reach us as an audience. Actually, I was kind of on his side the entire time, while it was clear that the film wanted us to be with Lou. It doesn’t help that the film has an extremely stale and super-bright color palette that matches her wardrobe. Nothing about the circumstances here ring of a fairytale backdrop. It’s a little sickening that they thought to choose this way to showcase the imagery and environment.

Now, I love Emilia Clarke. She’s the Queen of Dragons, she’s the Unburnt, she’s the damn Khaleesi, and what the director and writers do to her in this is the film equivalent of having your puppy fixed. They take all of her charisma, sex appeal, fiery persona, and ability of persuasion completely out of this character in an interest of making her seem dorky, bashful, and bookish. I understand that she can’t be Daenerys in every role, but what they make her do here is an insult to such a proud and famous actress. They make her smile just a bit too wide, and play the awkwardness up just a bit too much, and what’s left of arguably TV’s most famous actress is just an eccentric wardrobe and a collection of cardboard character tropes that culminate in a dependency on Will that lets the audience truly know about how the author feels about this humanitarian issue. She’s just a vessel of empty stereotypes and it was infuriating to watch a movie entirely to see one performance and get nothing in return. It doesn’t help that Sam Claflin is about as interesting as a piece of lint.

I think in the future, I think I will put ‘Me’ before ‘You,’ and not watch movies like this.

1 star

Me Before You (2016)

Genre: Romance

Director: Thea Sharrock (X)

Starring: Emilia Clarke, Sam Claflin, Matthew Lewis, Janet McTeer, and Charles Dance

RT Score: 58%

 


Jodie Foster’s movement toward the director’s chair has taken a more mainstream route with Money Monster, a film that gives a leftist view of Wall Street while being unable to fully insert itself into the persuasive arguments that could be mined from this concept.

A young man (Jack O’Connell) loses everything due to an unexplained drop in stock prices, and makes his way, gun and bomb-vest in hand, to take out the host of “Money Monster,” a politically charged show about smart investment hosted by millionaire Lee Gates (George Clooney) and directed by one of Gates’s best professional connections (Julia Roberts). When he causes a stand-off situation, Gates begins trying to get the man answers, heading down the route of corrupt money-handling and deregulated Wall Street policy.

I’m going to avoid the Dodd-Frank/Glass-Steagall argument, as well as the important themes that could be mined from this movie. An industry wide problem is connected to one individual (Dominic West) and the film refuses to really address the problems that it wants to take on. We get it, Wall Street is corrupt and needs reformation, but Jodie Foster doesn’t have a damn clue what she’s trying to say here, so another useless political attack misses the opportunity to be actually informative. It makes me appreciate The Big Short a little more.

The immaturity of this film is extremely frustrating, so when the movie tries to take us down a path of tension and white-knuckled stand-offs, the result is a lot of eye-rolling and watch-checking to find out when this thing ends. Plus, Clooney never breaks his Clooney charisma even in a life or death situation. It’s a little odd to have a film like this where a character never stutters or breaks a sweat.

I’m not interested in a thriller that looks so clean that you could polish your wooden floors with it. None of the performances are worth a damn, none of the political commentary is worth a damn, and the film isn’t worth a damn.

 

1.5 stars

Money Monster (2016)

Genre: Romance

Director: Jodie Foster (The Beaver, Home for the Holidays, Little Man Tate)

Starring: George Clooney, Jack O’Connell, Julia Roberts, Dominic West, and Emily Meade

RT Score: 58%

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