LAKE OCONEE — "Mama”
Rated PG-13 for violence and terror, some disturbing images and thematic elements.
“Mama” is a ghost story but with a definite heady, European “bouquet,” despite its Richmond, Virginia setting. It is not the usual horror film; the ending is reminiscent of an unexpurgated fairy tale from der Brüder Grimm.
Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) produced the film and his hybrid use of surrealistic and ordinary sets has been respected by the director Andres Muschietti. One never feels exactly certain where reality lurks among the macabre milieu.
A financial panic exposes some hijinks and the fund manager goes loony, shooting his colleagues, his estranged wife, and then kidnaps his two daughters (from his wife’s home) and heads for the snowy hills of Virginia that look more like somewhere in the Alps. His apparent plan is clearly to kill the children to spare them the humiliation of his nefarious deeds. But while searching just for the right place, he and the girls stumble across a cabin in the woods---looking about as American as Ikea. Dad is about to kill the kids (in the deserted cabin) when a Hickory tree covered with ivy…interrupts him.
The girls’ uncle searches for the children for five years when they are found living like feral animals. They are brought back to live with the uncle and his girlfriend, a tattooed and semi-gothic, rock musician played, believe it or not, by Jessica Chastain.
They are able to win custody by making a deal with a psychiatrist played by a guy who looks like Tony Shaloub’s brother.
Here is the horror: the girls were protected all those years by a really spooky ghost who was a mental patient 150 years ago. Mommie Ghoulist doesn’t like the new custody arrangement and this all makes for some rather nasty tugging for moppet affection.
“Mama” is an art house film, no doubt about it. And the boo effects and make up are top notch. Is “Mama” for the usual American audience? Most certainly not. However, if you like Guillermo del Toro, you will want to be spooked by “Mama”.
"Silver Linings Playbook"
After “Mama”, my fellow del Toro aficionado and I were finally permitted to see “Silver Linings Playbook” in our local theater. This film was oft mentioned at the Golden Globes. Released among the glitterati-inhabited cities months ago but only to the rhubarb circuit this weekend, “SLP” is a comedy about two mentally damaged people (played by Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper) who got lost after suffering emotional trauma. Mr. Cooper and Ms. Lawrence totally “charismatize” the audience; competing most competently with Robert de Niro who plays a Philadelphia Eagles obsessed father (of Cooper).
“Silver Linings Playbook” deserves all the buzz it received at the Golden Globes. It is a light comedy but delivered with such cinematic tightness that it is irresistible. Despite the fact it was denied to us, the peasant class, since September of last year, it is worth the insulting wait the industry takes so much delight is dishing out. I guess we must admit to Hollywood that it is well worth firing up the tractor and donning the clean overalls to take in a picture show if they make the likes of “Silver Linings Playbook”.
“Mama” earns three and a half bow ties out of five and “Silver Linings Playbook” earns five out of five.