Cannes Report #2 (Money Monster, Staying Vertical, I, Daniel Blake)

If the Cannes Film Festival has taught us anything in the past it’s that it can be a real sucker for unwarranted buzz. Like any other prestigious film festival, it has been known to sometimes give in to star power and screen a film for no other reason but the big names of the cast. Such a theory could possibly explain why Jodie Foster’s Money Monster (5/10) would make it at the festival, truth be told it’s screening out of competition, but one would think that the George Clooney and Julia Roberts vehicle could have substituted its spot for a better, less predictable Hollywood vehicle. Foster directs and reunites Ocean’s Eleven co-stars -and BFF’s- Clooney/Roberts in this Wall Street kidnapping movie that seems to be taking a page out of far worthier fare such as Dog Day Afternoon and Network.

Clooney plays a Wall Street guru and Roberts his TV producer, both of whom get taken hostage by a frustrated investor played by Unbroken star Jack O’Connell. Clooney and Roberts deliver professionally pronounced performances, but Foster, a two-time Oscar-winning actress directing her fourth feature-film, can’t stop the excess and keeps piling it on to the film’s 120 minute running time. The relevant, but too obvious message is a problem as well. Its scathing indictment of a corrupt Wall Street market, which is all-too familiar these days given Bernie Sanders’ political revolution, is well-intentioned, but ultimately falls flat once the film decides to concentrate on sub-plot after sub-plot of hogwash conspiracies.

The first above-average competition film screened this morning as well. After last night’s disappointing competition entry, Sieranevada, I was delighted to encounter Alain Guiraudie’s Staying Vertical (7.5/10) . The follow-up to the French filmmaker’s 2013 sleeper Stranger by the Lake might not be as masterfully restrained and mysteriously frightening, but by comparing them you’d be missing the point entirely. Guiraudie seems to be meshing many genres into his new film, at some point even incorporating an element of screwball comedy. The film follows Leo, a drifter that seduces Marie, a free-spirited shepherdess raising two kids in her Father’s farmhouse. This leads to a pregnancy, a gasp-inducing birth scene and Leo becoming a father, much to his bewilderment. Marie eventually ends up suffering from some form of postpartum depression and ends up abandoning Leo.

Don’t mind the plot, it’s just an excuse for Guiraudie to indulge himself in his wildest, most passionate themes. Just like in his previous film, the 51 year-old filmmaker obsesses over the erotic and subconscious unknown. His film is an ambiguous rollercoaster of a dream that contains some of the most well-conceived moments of the film year. Wait until you witness the “assisted suicide” that Leo gets himself into, accompanied by his much-older gay lover, or did I mention the final scene which re-examines everything that came before it. Staying Vertical is an amalgalm of cinematic love, it brims with the notion that anything and everything is possible in cinema. Its plot may be too wayward for some, but those that are just fine with entering a movie that goes by its own wild convictions will be rewarded with a special treat.

Although there might be better, more deserving directors to take the honor, Cannes’ love for 79 year-old British writer-director Ken Loach’s films is entirely endearing. In a career full of art-house hits and misses, Loach has always remained true to his blue-collar spirit and the fest has loved every minute of it, choosing more than a dozen of his films for their festival. Whereas some of his British contemporaries, such as Mike Leigh, have occasionally decided to tackle new territory in some films, Loach has always remained true to his roots. His latest I, Daniel Blake (6/10) is a problematic, but important critique of the British social system.

The titular character (as played by Dave Johns) hops from one government agent to the next with not many answers to his questions. He’s just had a heart attack and his doctors are telling him he can’t work due to his delicately, risky health condition. The people over at the benefit office for the unemployed want to hear none of that, in fact they don’t want to explain anything to Blake, instead they want him to go online and figure everything out. Problem is our hero is computer illiterate, he’s never used one in his life, to make matters worse he’s a stubborn, hot-blooded, old-fashioned kind of guy.

A chance encounter at the benefit office introduces him to Katie (Hayley Squires) a single mother of two with her own monetary struggles. They build a friendship that will last until the movie’s very final scene. Problem is the story is a little too familiar to be saved by its impeccable direction and harrowingly effective acting. What we get instead is a competent, watchable, but nevertheless problematic Ken Loach film which only reaffirms the fact that this kind of palpably, sentimental film would have not been chosen for the festival if it weren’t for the director’s name.

Catch up on all of The Young Folks’ Cannes coverage: Day 1 coverage can be found here