Film Reviews PROFILE
RAMIN BAHRANI Born 20 March 1975, Winston- Salem, North Carolina.
Background The son of Iranian immigrants to America, Bahrani grew up in North Carolina and studied film at Columbia University in New York, where he made several short films. His low- budget debut feature, Man Push Cart, about a Pakistani street vendor in Manhattan, premiered at Cannes in 2005. His next film Chop Shop again used non- professional actors and was shot entirely on location in New York. Focusing on a 12-year-old Latino street orphan in Queens, it played at the Venice film festival in 2007.
What’s he up to now? The latest film of Bahrani’s to be released in Britain is Goodbye Solo. Set in his hometown of Winston-Salem, it explores the fragile friendship between a Senegalese taxi-driver Solo (Souleymane Sy Savane) and an elderly white Southern passenger, William (former Elvis bodyguard Red West), who plans to take his own life. Bahrani is currently researching a film about the American West in the 1860s, and is also hoping to adapt his friend Aravind Adiga’s novel The White Tiger. On casting Red West ‘I wanted a real Southerner for the role of William. Red sent a tape of himself doing the first scene. I didn’t know who he was. I watched it for about three seconds, and I realised this was William. He looked, sounded, and talked like the guy I had been writing about. I never called him Red: from day one I called him William.’
On the changing South ‘Winston-Salem is completely different from when I grew up there. Now you have Africans, South Asians and East Asians, Middle Easterners, and South Americans. The character of William is more of an outsider in his own town than Solo.’
Interesting fact Bahrani’s favourite novel is Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. (Tom Dawson) ■ Goodbye Solo is at Filmhouse, Edinburgh from Fri 30 Oct–Thu 5 Nov. See review, page 51.
50 THE LIST 22 Oct–5 Nov 2009
DRAMA AN EDUCATION (12A) 99min ●●●●● Danish director Lone Scherfig is showing something of a liking for making films in Britain. The director of Glasgow-set Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself returns to the UK for this 1960s romantic drama featuring conmen, generation gaps, young love, swinging London and, as the title suggests, education. The pupil in this story, adapted by Fever Pitch writer Nick Hornby from journalist Lynn Barber’s memoirs, is a schoolgirl called Jenny with aspirations of going to Cambridge. Jenny is played by rising Brit star Carey Mulligan whose winning turn brought comparisons with Winona Ryder when the film received its world premiere at Sundance. As with Alan Bennett’s The History Boys, the real lessons in life are those received outside of the classroom and it’s Jenny’s misfortune that she meets older seducer David, played by a Peter Sarsgaard on top form. The American actor is always pleasing whenever he plays characters with an evil twinkle in his eye (Boys Don’t Cry, Shattered Glass) and here as the cad David he woos
Jenny with straightforward charm and a hunter’s instinct. It’s a similar role to (but a completely different take on) the one played by Michael Fassbender in Fish Tank. Scherfig manages this relationship superbly and it’s this central lesson that makes An Education a film that will delight both the young and old. The director clearly has great sympathy with Jenny, who importantly is shown as a maturing young lady confused by life and love rather than as a schoolgirl fantasist. This is solid, simple storytelling, in which the audience is aware that David is bad news, unable to do anything but hope that the lesson Jenny is about to learn doesn’t prove too traumatic. In the end, the film contains too many stereotypical characters and clichés to beguile us away from the core subject. Jenny has to fight against the traditional outlook of her parents (Alfred Molina and Cara Seymour) and her own insecurities, especially when David takes her out on the town with his alluring friends (Rosamund Pyke and Dominic Cooper). Emma Thompson pops up as a classic stern headmistress while Olivia Williams plays the teacher that Jenny can turn to in times of need. B+. (Kaleem Aftab) ■ General release from Fri 30 Oct.
COMEDY/HORROR/THRILLER JENNIFER’S BODY (15) 102min ●●●●●
When it was released in the US, the heterosexual males who ogled Megan Fox’s superstructure amid the heavy-metal chaos of two Transformers movies stayed away in droves from Jennifer’s Body, and it’s not hard to see why. Karyn Kusama’s visceral horror film is tightly focused on gal rivalry, specifically between slutty cheerleader Jennifer (Fox) and wholesome good-girl Needy (Mamma Mia’s Amanda Seyfried).
Diablo Cody, who scripted breakout comedy Juno, has
fashioned a darkly original take on the teen-horror genre here, as Jennifer and Needy’s trip to see a satanically-inclined local band leads to a bloodbath. While the small town of Devil’s Kettle mourns, Needy begins to notice that Jennifer has a newfound taste for human blood. With Cody’s script offering the same ingenious stream of über-
smart teen-jargon as in Juno, Jennifer’s Body is a lively update on the body horror genre that began with Carrie, with regular gouts of black bile spewing forth from Fox’s mouth. The result won’t please male audiences, but Jennifer’s Body’s warped take on girl power may well find a cult following. (Eddie Harrison) ■ General release from Wed 4 Nov.