(On DVD, January 2017) I don’t think anyone was actively asking for a feature film reimagining of the Red Riding Hood fairy tale, but Hollywood has seemingly taken aim at every other fairy tale out there, usually producing results far worse than Red Riding Hood. Helmed by Catherine Hardwicke (who also helmed Twilight—this will be relevant in a moment), this take on the classic fairy tale soon runs into a supernatural serial killer mystery set in a small village, with religious paranoia and shapeshifting lust as important plot drivers. There are a few good moments as the village is in near-panic mode. Elfin blonde Amanda Seyfried holds the lead and manages to acquit herself decently even when the material around her threatens self-parody. Gary Oldman shows up as a decent human antagonist, while Virginia Madsen has a too-small role as an imperfect mother. Visually, the film does have a few striking moments—showing the life of a small medieval village not as a drab misery, but a picturesque showcase. Red Riding Hood is borderline ridiculous at times (especially given the Twilight echoes as the werewolf romance becomes stronger—this is a pure Team Jacob film response) but it still manages to hold our attention. Having never been a teenage girl, I’m far from being the target audience for this film—so I’m inclined to be lenient toward Red Riding Hood and simply acknowledge that it achieves what it sets out to do.
(In French, On TV, November 2016) I’ve never been a teenage girl, so allow me some slack when I admit that Thirteen left me cold. The story of how a good girl goes bad, this film further pushed my exasperation buttons by looking like a pseudo-realistic take on a mundane topic. Hampered by a naturalistic approach, a wayward camera and issues that wouldn’t be out of place in a preachy movie-of-the-week, Thirteen feels instantly forgettable the moment you’re not part of its target audience. Albeit respectable in the way it portrays the Los Angeles teen experience in unadulterated realism and a refreshing lack of sentimentality (apparently reflecting a number of real-life experience for the film’s creative crew), Thirteen is the kind of film meant to grate on nerves and leave viewers unsettled. Writer/director Catherine Hardwicke’s grainy super-16mm approach is not meant for visual beauty, even though the film does play tricks with colour and close-quarters shooting. (It does keep a neat trick in reserve for one long uninterrupted shot midway through.) I gather that there is an audience for Thirteen—so I’ll opt out of any further commentary and suggest that audiences for this film will self-identify.