Thursday, 5 January 2012



















After I received the 13th email request to review the film, Submarine, I took the hint. I've also taken the hint about the film, Beginners, which I promise to review soon, and which I really loved. I love that people send me these film requests as some of you have introduced me to films I would not have heard of otherwise. But I digress, back to Submarine.

I first saw Submarine in the cinema and it left me feeling underwhelmed. I saw it again on DVD recently and I was even more underwhelmed by it. This is a film I wanted to like much more than I actually did. Particularly as it's written and directed by Richard Ayoade, whom I love. It has all the ingredients I typically like in films, but it left me feeling cold, like something was missing from its inherent make-up.

I'm aware that many people loved Submarine and found it incredibly clever. And I can understand why. It's intelligent, funny in places, sweetly self-conscious and abundantly intertextual. It makes numerous visual and cinematic references to its screen predecessors. If you examine the film carefully, you'll find homages to, and direct visual "quotations" from, various films, such as The Four Hundred Blows, Harold & Maude, Amelie, Lolita and The Royal Tenenbaums. It's an extremely self-conscious film that wears its mode of postmodern pastiche on its sleeve quote obviously. While this is clever, it's not actually balanced by anything else to make it involving.

Ostensibly, all these intertextual references are supposed to feed-into the film's two main plot lines: Oliver's teenage romance with his somewhat unpleasant girlfriend, Jordana, and his plan to break-up the romance between his mother and their silly neighbour, thus saving his parents' marriage. This is all done in a quirky manner, and nothing is sentimentalised, unlike many other teenage romance films. But it was quirk without much charm for me I'm afraid. I felt like the film was overwhelmed by all the knowing references it sought to make, to the extent that it began to feel like a catalogue of the director's knowledge about films and film history.

But there's another side of me that simply doesn't understand why I didn't enjoy Submarine. There are many films that display the same sense of self-consciousness and intertextual references to other films which I love. So technically, I should have loved this film too. And since so many banal and stupid movies are made on a regular basis, I should have thoroughly appreciated a clever film such as this one. I just didn't connect with it though. I understood this film intellectually, but it didn't grab me in any other way. And for me, films that are memorable are those that move between the intellect and the heart, between the mind and instinct.

I'm really interested to hear other opinions about this film because I wonder if I'm the only one who feels this way about it. And if you'd like to convince me otherwise, I'm open to be convinced! Like I said, I really wanted to like Submarine, so maybe I missed something that others have not. Has anyone else seen it?


Hotly Spiced said...

I've never heard of 'Submarine'. I don't think it's been released here yet. That is such a shame you found it underwhelming but good on you for trying to like it twice.

Jamie said...

I felt almost exactly the same after seeing the film. My brother's got the book and very briefly dipping into it I've found it to be really interesting, observant, witty and warming. Perhaps a bit too much time is spent in an attempt to translate this style: although nicely done, I think it can be difficult to enjoy things that have been done for the sake of, rather than with, artistic merit. As a viewer, do you think we should put in the effort?

Sanna said...

I know exactly what you mean. I really, really wanted to like it (I have a lot of Ayoade-love as well), and while it's not a bad film at all, it didn't grab me like I was expecting it would.

I'll still see whatever he directs next, though.

amy said...

i couldn't get into this one either, even though it seemed to be made of all the things i usually like.. yes, all quirk very little charm.

rooth said...

I haven't seen it before. But if you don't like it, you don't. Even if you think you're supposed to. It's like how I feel about some books by my favourite authors

L▲UREN said...

I've seen submarine and feel much like you. I think a part of why I felt underwhelmed was because there really wasn't anything redeeming about jordana. Some characters although flawed and mean sometimes, you come to love them. However with jordana I just didn't like her! Even though the movie was about love, it felt remarkably cold.

Katarina said...

I felt exactly the same way about it. Love R. Ayoade, was so excited he made a film. I had to stop the film after the first half because it was boring and annoying me, and I didn't even care to find out why. Shame.
Looking forward to your Beginners review, I watched it on NY weekend, and quite liked it.

Sarah Rooftops said...

Ach, if you don't like it, you don't like it (don't get me started on Twilight. Or The Hangover).

I couldn't stand Jordana, but I don't think we were supposed to like her - I think part of the point of the film was the ill-chosen paths we choose in love. And I thought the sense of alienation was intentional. But perhaps it's one of those films which has to remind you of something in your own teens to really work; I can see why it might not grip you otherwise.

Anonymous said...

i couldnt finish this one, too precious and i didnt care about the characters.

CloudyKim said...

I've seen this film. At first I thought this was a series of photographs... until I saw that it was a movie review, haha. I guess there's something very quiet about the screenshots - having got that impression, I'm not sure if I would like it that much with some energy behind it.

I also hear what you're saying about all those nods to past films. Most of that stuff goes over my head, to be honest, but I'm sure it would show if I watched this film. I like to see new things, you know? A film should stand on its own and not depend, so obviously, on what other films have done before :)

naomemandeflores said...

I loved the book and thought the movie was very sweet. Loved Alex Turner's soundtrack too. Also spoted a few Godard references, which is always a nice thing.

Camila Faria

elliottwithlove said...

Haven't seen this yet, but I'm sorry to hear that the movie left you feeling underwhelmed — and twice! It's a shame when a movie that one so eagerly wants to like turns out unsatisfactory.

I'm thrilled, however, that you've seen Beginners and liked it! I recently got to watch it, and loved it too, so I'm eager to read your review of it.

Chuck said...

I feel slightly relieved - I've only heard people rave about this film and then I finally watched it this week and felt it was pretty blah. I didn't hate but it didn't provoke any emotional response which surprised me. It is just missing something...

Lies said...

I haven't read any other comments but I know the feeling when you go see a movie and you have all these high expectations and it ends up sort of falling flat and you are left puzzled because you don't get why you didn't make that click. I had it at first with Submarine. I especially didn't care for the guru neighbour. But although I wasn't entirely convinced with some of the plot, the movie as a whole took my breath away. I don't know a lot about films but the cinematography combined with the score was astonishing to me. Unoriginal and overdone, maybe but I didn't catch any of those intertextual references (shame on me!) It's not the best movie ever but it was a very charming one which left me with a strong sense of nostalgia for the rest of the day and that's why I loved it.

Rambling Tart said...

I'm so glad to know it's based on a book. :-) It's so disappointing when a movie doesn't live up to its potential. I've not seen it, but I shall look for the book. :-)

cluelesspixie said...

i'm glad that someone feels the same way about the movie as i did - i was also baffled by the fact that it had all i usually love in a movie and yet i positively hated it. however, i had read the book before i saw the movie so i knew what i was getting into: the oliver character in the book is even more obnoxious. although as much as i hated the book, the film still did the story a great disservice - lines were taken out of context and placed elsewhere and the parents and jordana characters got changed. what confuses me the most is that in the film the viewer is apparently supposed to root for oliver. it doesn't matter in the book but here it seems absurd.

Mia Wallace said...

I'm so glad you were so honest! I read a review that sought to recommend the film that said very similar things but the reviewer thought they made the film clever... I read it as smarty-pants and a bit superficial. I look forward to reading what you think of Beginners.

Ana said...

I also loved Richard Ayoade and I totally agree about the self-conciousness nature of the film. For me the real problem is that I thought, because of Richard Ayoade and Ben Stiller and a rather good trailer I thought I was going to love it... and with such high expectations I couldn't do it, I'm sure that that even made me enjoy the movie less.

Could the same thing happen to you?

fifth floor apartment said...

aaaaand i'm checking out this movie. thanks for the tip!

xo Alison

Laure said...

Jolies captures :) Ce film est magnifique, très bon choix.

Bonne continuation

hila said...

hotly spiced: I gave it my best shot. I think the film was released last year, so you may have missed it.

jamie: I always think it's worthwhile to put in the effort with a film, unless it's downright insulting or ridiculous. Obviously, this is a film that is lovingly made, but it failed to convey much of anything besides style to me.

sanna: I'm glad you agree Sanna! I'll still see anything else he makes too.

amy: yep, that's pretty much what I felt.

rooth: it's so disappointing though, maybe my expectations were too high.

lauren: yes, that contradiction was so evident to me. It was such a cold film, and it was supposed to be about love. I didn't necessarily have to like Jordana, or any of the other characters, to like this film. Characters don't have to be loveable or redeeming for me to connect with them. But I felt nothing for these characters, they seemed all style, no substance.

katarina: yes, I know what you mean, but I stuck with it till the end.

sarah rooftops: I definitely think the alienation was intentional. But many films have employed alienation much better than this.

anon: 'precious' is apt!

cloudykim: I usually love it when films reference other films, but there has to be something else going on to hold my interest.

camila: oh yes, I spotted many godard-esque references too :)

elliottwithlove: I can't wait to review the beginners!

chuck: missing something indeed. and I did think the raving reviews were overdoing it a bit.

lies: it was very well done, but I guess I just felt nothing else than aesthetic appreciation for it.

rambling tart: me too, maybe it'll change my opinion of the story.

cluelesspixie: I'm not one to advocate fidelity in adaptation, but I did find oliver obnoxious too - his plan to poison the dog was particularly blah.

mia: it was too overcooked for me, it should have spent more time on character development, rather than film style.

ana: I haven't seen the trailer, so I didn't have that to base my reaction on.

alison: I hope you like it more than I did!

laure: merci :)

saarah said...

i really want to see this movie. these pictures look amazing :)

thanks for sharing!

hila said...

my pleasure saarah.