IHAO on ... Rosewater

Some real terrible stuff happens in the world.  Some really awful stuff happens in the world.  And some really bad stuff happens in the world.  Rosewater is the story of something bad that happened in the world, in a script adapted from a man's accounts of what happened, written by a man who feels responsible.  Jon Stewart, of Daily Show and Big Daddy fame, wrote and directed this film.  I don't mean to put words in his mouth, but from all accounts I've read, he is very passionate about this, and feels probably at least some to blame for the real world bad thing that happened.

The story is that of a real British-Irani journalist who, because of a joke correspondence he did with the Daily Show, got thrown in jail for treason and espionage for close to 120 days.  This is a real story, though dramatized.  Gael Garcia Bernal plays our lead, and he does a goodjob.  He is the best part of this movie.  He, and the little bits, little flashes of interesting things that Jon Stewart does in the director's chair.

That is ultimately the problems with the film, it only really excels in tiny flashes.  It is mostly a good film, with very few problems, though there are some like a little sound mixing problems and a few distracting visuals.  But it doesn't quite excel in anyway beyond those brief flashes.  It is a good film, I'll go so far as to say a pretty good one, but I found myself getting bored a little every now and again, and the film becomes a little repetitive throughout Act 2 and 3.  That was purposeful, but it was also ... amateurish.  There are better ways to show the isolation and desperation in the language of film: wider camera angles, smaller spaces, smarter editing so that the hallucinations actually feel like they are not there instead of just being there in certain shots.

Ultimately, as bad as this is, part of the point of the film and the real world circumstance is that worse stuff happens.  And while the film does a great job of letting us know stuff like this happens, it is also small potatoes compared to other things going on, and again, that is part of the film.  It makes the film feel small and not quite necessary because the stakes are just not that high.  Our protagonist is constantly told that he really isn't being tortured that badly, and we watch that be the case.  I'm not saying what he went through isn't bad.  The film just needed to make its stakes higher for us, the audience.  Which it couldn't, because its hands were tied by a new director and a story that is about how everything our lead went through isn't all that bad comparitively.

The movie is a good one.  And there is some symbolism used very early that is beautiful.  But Stewart is a new director who isn't quite ready for "greatness."  He is perfectly fine.  And the film is perfectly fine, and it strives for great.  Doesn't make it there, but it does a good job.

Grade: B

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