As I exited the Curzon Soho on Sunday they were prepping for Nicole Kidman to walk down a red carpet later that night in support of Stoker. The connection? The Kidman movie in question is an Ameican film directed by a Korean – Oldboy’s Park Chan Wook – and the film I had just seen was also made in America by a Korean director.
To be fair, calling For Ellen director So Yong Kim Korean is a bit of a stretch since she grew up in LA, but her previous directorial efforts were Korean films so we’ll go with it.
And For Ellen certainly has an LA air to it though, despite being set in upstate New York. Kim evokes Sophia Coppola in her portrayal of restless detachment against the backdrop of a career in performance.
Paul Dano plays a young rock singer who travels from Chicago to snowy New York state to sign his divorce papers. Insular and self destructive, he struggles to deal with the real world-issues at hand, particularly the discovery that he’ll no longer be allowed contact with his daughter.
The film is reflective and slow to the point of seeming like one big indie cliche. Long handheld takes of NOT MUCH HAPPENING are interspersed with wistful landscape shots which suggest we should FEEL THINGS. And occasionally an extreme close up pops up to show us the INTENSITY OF IT ALL.
Dano’s performance is good though, conveying progressive mental despair and unease with the world. Plus a few scenes let him play up to some painfully awkward interactions with others, demonstrating the character’s inability to interact with ‘normal’ human beings who exist outside of his bubbled world.
These supposed ‘normal’ people are represented largely by Jon Heder’s socially awkward young lawyer who lives at home with his mother. A trip to a bar with the fledgling rock singer is bound to provide a hilarious but insightful juxtaposition right?
For all its genre conceit, I still rather enjoyed For Ellen. But it is admittedly the kind of affected indie film I like. For Ellen might be unoriginal, but it is at least small, personal, and thoughtful.
Viewed at : Curzon Soho