CANNES REVIEW: Gus Van Sant Charmingly Takes on Young Love With Restless
Overheard in the mad crush to get into this morning's overcrowded screening of Gus Van Sant's Restless: Woman A says to Woman B, in French-accented English, "What is your problem?" Woman B says to Woman A: "Your being a bitch is my problem!" Ah, Cannes! Where the weather is warm, the selection of movies is vast, and film journos and critics are ready to kill each other by Day 2.
But it's all good. The crowd seemed to have simmered down by the time the Restless end credits rolled, and many responded with affectionate applause. I feel warmly toward Restless too: The picture (which opens the festival's Un Certain Regard sidebar) is so fluttering and tender, so guileless, that you almost can't believe it was made by an old hand like Van Sant. Then again, maybe you can. Annabel (Mia Wasikowska) and Enoch (Henry Hopper, son of Dennis) play somber teenagers who meet at a memorial service. Enoch is haunted by the death of his parents -- he lost them suddenly in an accident. Annabel has her own secret, spilled early on: She's dying of cancer. They fall in love, quickly and fervently, knowing only doom and sadness await them -- and they've never even seen Love Story.
Restless is ever-so-silly. When Enoch accompanies Annabel to the hospital on a "date" -- she has to have a transfusion -- they wile away the time playing Operation. He gazes at her sensitively: "Does it hurt when they...?" The question trails off, delicately. It probably does, but Annabel isn't about to belabor the point. Elsewhere, they run hand-in-hand down a hospital corridor, merrily and mischievously, and sneak into the morgue. Ah, young love!
Do they still make young people like this? I'm not sure. But Van Sant, I think, is wishing they did. It's hard to say exactly when Restless is supposed to be set, but it doesn't feel contemporary. Annabel and Enoch romp around in the kinds of vintage clothes many of us wore in the '70s and '80s (and some of us even beyond): Old silk dressing gowns, lacy flapper dresses, loose woolen coats in soft plaids. Hopper's Enoch has blondish, every-which-way hair and a sultry pout -- he could be the Boy with the Thorn in his Side that Morrissey sang about so long ago. And, perhaps most remarkable of all, neither of them ever use an electronic device -- they talk face-to-face all the time, and actually seem to enjoy it.
Hopper and Wasikowska (the latter seen recently in Cary Joji Fukunaga's fine adaptation of Jane Eyre) are sweet together, and emerge relatively unscathed from the heartfelt absurdity of the movie around them. They sure don't make 'em like they used to. Which is why, every once in a while, it's nice to see someone try.