Monday, July 28, 2014

Movie Monday: The Monuments Men

The Monuments Men
When opportunity arises, I feature Movie Monday. I recognize that few people have the time or desire to read the amount I do, especially when it comes to the 100 Best Novels list. Luckily, Hollywood loves adapting a classic and I love a good story in any form.

It seems near blasphemy writing about a movie before I even finish the book. However, on the recommendation of Jamie, in whom I completely trust, I reversed standard operating procedure.

The Monuments Men got a lot of media hype when it came out in February 2014. Most likely because of the big name stars listed at the top of the credits. George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, Hugh Bonneville (aka Downton Abbey's Lord Grantham) and others made it look like a European, period-piece iteration of the Oceans movies.

I mean, it kind of was.

Brad Pitt wasn't there eating his way through the scenes (seriously, it's a thing), but the group dynamic feels similar. Plus, the men are running around, each doing their own tasks that contribute to the whole mission.

It was a fine movie. Certainly not the blockbuster for which Clooney was hoping. I loved seeing all the art and the dry humor (again, like the Oceans movies). The fact that they got this story into the mainstream is a wonderful thing in and of itself. Still, now that I'm partway through the book, I agree with Jamie in that there is so much they left out. I realize that not everything could make it from page to screen, but I thought they adapted too much to make it a revenue-producing movie. The story is an incredible one and could have worked just fine on its own. Clooney didn't need to make it so "Hollywood." My opinion, at least.

I have not gotten to the part of the book yet where Rose Valland/Claire Simone makes an appearance, but even just from watching the movie, I can see Jamie's points. Her role was clearly much largely and I didn't like how they portrayed her so antagonistically. I mean, I am certain not everyone involved in this effort got along at all times, but we already had the Nazis as a great antagonist in this movie. We really did not need to add the only female character to that list as well.

It seems that the source of all the problems, really, is that it is so much like an Oceans movie. The script does not give the real life heroes the serious accolades they deserve. Their whole effort comes off a bit too jovial for the intense effort these men (and women!) actually made. I would have liked to see the whole thing given a bit more gravitas and less of a campy feeling. It needed depth and character development. They gave us well-timed jokes and big names whose actual talent far supersedes the script they were given.

All in all, I felt very meh about the movie (a very detailed, scientific analysis, I know). Kevin felt the same. It just seemed to have so much potential and squandered much of it. With that cast and that story, it should have been a phenomenal production. Instead, it felt mediocre and a bit dull.  I'm with Jamie on this one. Read the book, skip the movie. 

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