The Souvenir

Do you want to know the stupidest thing I’ve done in years? I missed the first half of the NBA Finals (when the Warriors lost) to catch this movie at the Angelika Film Center. That’s because I love that theatre, love Tilda Swinton, and I missed the press screening of this movie. Perhaps the only thing this was good for, was it gave me the #1 movie on my list of the “worst films of the year.”

Writer/director Joanna Hogg (Exhibition, Archipelago) supposedly made this film about her life. Well, then she’s perhaps the biggest idiot on the planet. Not just for making such self-indulgent art house garbage, but for having a relationship with such a loser.

Tilda Swinton plays a rich mother in Knightsbridge, and her real life daughter (Honor Swinton-Byrne), plays daughter Julie, who’s attending a film school. We see her starting to make a movie about a boy who is attached to his mother. When she has dinner with Anthony (Tom Burke), he’s so boring and snobbish, we just assume it’s a guy she’s hoping will finance her film. It turns out, he becomes her lover. My wife, who is a lot smarter than me, was surprisingly just as confused as I was. So many times I had to ask her what the hell was going on, and she didn’t have a clue either. For example, one scene shows the boyfriend had left a series of post-it notes on the stairs, with arrows pointing up. She keeps walking up, to see another note, and she soldiers on up those stairs. She finally gets to the upstairs, and there are a few knocked over books, and it points to the window. She looks out, and we hear an explosion. It’s never explained what that was all about, although it’s supposed to be the ‘80s (although they never tell us that, we just figure it out with the cars, the electric typewriters, and the landlines).

Julie might be the dumbest woman around because…when she sees track marks from heroin on his arm, she asks, “What is this? Are you injured?”

She also never asks why he needs to keep borrowing money from her, or having her pick up the check (which for some reason, they keep paying for meals with checks). He claims to have a job at the “foreign office” and he dresses snazzy. It’s also hard to figure out why she’d be into a guy that constantly knocks her ideas about film and being a director. Not a single positive thing ever comes out of his mouth, just put downs. There was literally, only one scene where he showed a humorous and charming side. They got into bed early in the relationship, and he was claiming she took too much room. He even set up stuffed animals to make a border so she’d stay on her side.

And she continued to stay with him when the things he does got crazier and crazier. Now, you might think that could make for some exciting (if not overdone) cinema. Well, no. The movie is so slow, and they stay on many of the scenes way too long. At the showing we were at, there were three people. The couple walked out after 40 minutes. An old lady walked out after an hour. My wife and I (against my better judgement) finished this slog of a film. The only two left in the theatre.

Perhaps the critics praising this like the fact that you don’t see the usual drug addict tropes. The only one they had was her questioning if he scored, and him getting slightly perturbed by the accusation. Oh, we also had a scene of him going through withdrawls. That added to the melancholy that was already filling our heads from watching such a boring story with such uninteresting and unlikable characters. The only person in the entire movie I liked, was a young man in her class, that sits with her in a car on a rainy day asking why she hasn’t been to class.

Some of the cinematography was nice. The Newcastle countryside, and a gorgeous shot of Venice. The naturalistic lighting really created a solid vibe for this story.

It was also cool to hear a soundtrack that gave us Elvis Costello, The Specials, Psychedelic Furs, and one of my all time favorites — Joe Jackson. And boy what I wouldn’t give to hang out in a kitchen while Tilda Swinton gets into Glenn Miller’s Moonlight Serenade.

This movie might be the first time I can recall watching a film, that is showing other movies being made, that was boring. Usually on screen, I get a kick out of seeing it all being done. The person holding the boom mic, make-up being put on, and a director (or actor) panicking about something. It was a blast seeing that in The Disaster Artist, Boogie Nights, and a hundred other films. In this movie — those scenes were just as dull as everything else. Probably because Julie is an utter bore as a person. And a dope. Her aloof demeanor doesn’t convey something deeper.

I was wondering what she could see in a rude drug addict, but I also thought… what could he see in her? Other than a sap he can easily manipulate.

There was a boring dinner scene with the parents, but I had hope when a dinner scene with friends occured. Especially seeing Richard Ayoade (who made one of the best movies of 2010 — Submarine) as one of the guests. But he’s a smug character that adds nothing, except for alerting Julie to her boyfriend’s heroin use. Of course, she doesn’t say anything to him about it. It’s not until he steals stuff from her that it becomes a problem. And even then, it’s not that much of a problem for her.

Often times, the fragmented storytelling meant we’d be thrust into the middle of a conversation, that had no relevance to anything and wasn’t the least bit interesting. I suppose that’s supposed to be artistic filmmaking.

Perhaps Honor Swinton Byrne will become a huge star, but this movie gives no reason to see why that might be. She and Tilda…are a lot like Meryl Streep and her daughter. We’re not going to shower the kid with love just because the mom is a tremendous talent.

This movie is getting 93% on Rotten Tomatoes, because a lot of critics are pretentious wind bags. The audience score for the movie was in the 40% and…any audience going to see this is one that likes art house films.

Martin Scorsese was the executive producer. Perhaps he felt he needed to get behind a movie that would be more boring than his Silence.

This movie gets 0 stars, and if you follow a critic that liked it, you should probably reconsider what critic you pick your films from.


Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.