‘Mother’ And ‘The Runaways’

On The Aisle

By Tony Macklin

“Mother” is a mother of a movie.

It’s a unique, convoluted journey along the bland surfaces and into the dark recesses of mother love.

For those who believe in justice, this movie probably is not for you.

When her simple-minded son Yoon Do-Joon (Bin Won) is accused of the murder of a high school girl — and the police get a confession from the addled suspect — his mother (Hye-ja Kim) goes on an obsessive crusade to prove her son innocent and find the killer.

Her son has trouble focusing and gets violent when he is called “retard,” but she knows he didn’t commit the crime.

As one watches the first half hour of “Mother,” he doesn’t know quite where the film is going. South Korean director and co-writer Joon-ho Bong keeps us off balance. His movie is off balance.

Is it a comedy? There’s slapstick as the son tries to kick a car and takes a pratfall. There’s a Keystone Kops’ rumble at a golf course.

Is it a mystery? Is it a brutal revenge story? Is it a slog through the rain? Is it wacky or wise?

Bong is a wily necromancer. He weaves a fortuitous spell. Justice is trumped by fate and willfulness.

“Mother” is overflowing with misleading clues, false steps and mistaken identities. Seemingly bad characters are not so bad; seemingly good characters are not so good.

Kim captures the flighty anxiety and desperate determination of the mother. Won captures the ignorant, reckless vulnerability of her son.

“Mother” is as disparate as rice liquor and cell phones, acupuncture and perversity. It’s full of rocks, umbrellas and accidents, oh my.

It’s wind-swept and mind-swept. It may have a disconcerting conclusion, but it stays with you.

“Mother” is sometimes disappointing, sometimes intriguing and sometimes enthralling. Just like a real mother.

“The Runaways” is not a potent cherry bomb. It’s more a sputtering candle. While not quite a dud, it’s not the movie it should be. It’s a packaged cake with vanilla icing and a Cherie on top. A maraschino Cherie, at that.

Based on the book “Neon Angel,” by lead singer Cherie Currie, “The Runaways” is the patchwork story of the making and breaking of the teenage all-girl rock band in the 1970s.

The band was a fresh concept; the movie is about as fresh as a Lifetime Special. Instead of being dressed in black leather, it’s dressed in faux leather.

The major problem can be traced to music video director Floria Sigismondi, who is directing and screenwriting her first feature. She’s a stylist, but has little grasp on dramatic arc or motivation. Fortunately she is served well by two of her cast members.

Kristen Stewart (“Twilight”) is credible as the raven-haired Joan Jett. (You can see the actual Jett in a strong performance in “Light of Day.”)

Michael Shannon (“Revolutionary Road”) is effectively crude and noxious as music producer Kim Fowley. Unfortunately, Sigismondi is not well served by Dakota Fanning as Cherie Currie.

Dakota was an engaging marvel as a child star — mesmerizing and delightful. But she’s basically bland as Cherie. She’s too often a cipher. Her doe-eyes do not have teen spirit. She has a difficult role because her character is caught between innocence and experience, between image and family. Dakota is not able to handle the range of these elements. She has no chemistry with Stewart as Jett, even though they share a kiss that is supposed to be dramatic.

There are few, if any, memorable scenes. Perhaps the most memorable is an early scene of 10th-grader Cherie on stage at a school talent show lip-synching to David Bowie.

Both Cherie and Jett have posters of Bowie on their walls, but it’s not a good idea for this movie to remind us of Bowie’s artistry, since it badly suffers in comparison.

“The Runaways” is Cherie bomb unplugged.

Tony Macklin, a former college English and film professor, is still foraging for truth in literature and film, in Arkansas, Las Vegas and beyond.

Categories: Entertainment