Friday, November 27, 2009


Lukas Moodysson's "Mammoth," while thoughtful, seems familiar, as if borrowing from other movies of its type. It bears resemblance to "Babel," an obvious comparison, yes, but it’s the elephant in the room the whole time. Both have caretakers to American families, both from countries that each respective film dove into and followed, both follow two brothers in a foreign country. "Mammoth," however, opts to observe characters more clearly. We see a happy, affluent family at the film's beginning. The father, named Leo, is Gael Garcia Bernal, who runs a website called "Underlandish" or something of the like, is as over-flowingly rich as the people who started Facebook. The mother, named Ellen, is Michelle Williams, who is a doctor and who is kept at the hospital at night as doctors are. The film centers around Leo having to go to Thailand to make a deal. He ends up staying there for a long, long time.

In this time, Gloria, the caretaker (Marife Necesito), and Jackie, the child (Sophie Nyweide) bond. Ellen feels sad that she is not able to nurture the child herself. But she is grateful for the love and care of her nanny, who lets Jackie learn her native language of Tagalong and takes her along to Mass and the Hayden Planetarium. Gloria is working day and night to care for her poor family across the globe. She has two sons, Salvador (Jan David G. Nicdao) and Manuel (Martin Delos Santos), and she wants them to live nicely. Salvador wants to work for her to come home. This is much to the dismay of his grandmother (Maria Esmeralda del Carmen), who believes he should be thankful that his mother is giving such an effort. Leo decides to move outwards from Bangkok, going to live at a "bungalow" on the beach. I won't go much farther than that.

I appreciated that Moodysson (seemingly) took the time to shoot on location. It's interesting to see different locales. He does something that feels authentic, captures the emotion of people and places. He has strength in his actors, as they are very, very good. I especially liked Williams and Carmen. I could have asked for more out of Necesito, who embodies a typical role typically. Moodysson's screenplay also sometimes goes down roads that I've seen before, such as the treatment of the nonspeaking Anthony (a kid who Ellen treats as a son and as a patient) as a character as well as (to a lesser extent) that of the brothers. The very end, a "perfect moment" as described by one of the characters, is bittersweet, partially well-done while also leaving room for disappointment.

"Mammoth" is a movie worth seeing for the reason that it usually employs different ideas than what you may be thinking. It's thought-provoking. Not to mention containing strong acting. You've maybe heard early hype from Ebert (ed. I thought he was going to rave about it, but his review was about the same as mine), and it's true to an extent. "Mammoth" is not great, but it's unusual and interesting. Your heart may be tugged by some of the contents. Mine was in some ways, but my mind was more. In the end, I'm left a little cold (as was an IMDB user, who created a thread of "Pointless movie"), but it's not all for nothing. B

1 comment:

aspergiansarah said...

Wasn't it Lukas Moodyson who said something like "In a perfect world, my movies would not exist?" I ahve almost all his movies on my to-see list, but I've been unreliable of late and am really slacking off.

Oh well. I wonder, what is the use of making a perfect world in your movies if people know it's a stupid hoax? Playing up that life is swell except for Norman Rockwellien kids losing baseballs just makes it more painful.