Having completely forgotten about the screening of Cloud Atlas, coincidentally I happened watch outtakes of Lana Wachowski’s poignant speech from the Human Rights Campaign dinner and was struck by her story. It was not the fact of Lana’s transition but the sensitivity and tenderness when she spoke of her life and the challenges of realizing that you are not in the body you are supposed to be in that touched me so deeply. You see, I posted the Lana Wachowski HRC Dinner speech on Facebook then Tweeted it because we all need to hear Lana Wachowski. We may not all need to see her film, but we surely do need to witness such raw honesty and to know, for one minute, what it might feel like to walk in her shoes. That’s how compelling the speech was so please watch it (below). Attention all the Republicans running for office this year: You can click away as this will be of no interest to you. Surely if Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan had their druthers, brilliant people and even not so brilliant people like Lana Wachowski would never get a fair shake in this country because of their differences. But enough about politics for a minute, I want to talk about Cloud Atlas.
Ask anyone that knows me, I think every film on Earth is too long and Cloud Atlas is no exception. In trying to be faithful to the book–no I did not read it, but any money bet I am right–the complexity of the many interwoven story-lines forces you to do a lot of concentrating. Not that there is anything wrong with it, but I take pride in my mind and even I was a bit confused…a lot. The stunningness of this film takes the experience of film making to a whole new level. The various time periods in which the stories take place are so specific and beautiful that your eyes feast like at a dinner hosted by Marie Antoinette at Versailles. The details of the costumes in a scene from the 1800′s was so astonishing that I thought, “Steven Spielberg better get a load of this before he releases Lincoln because this is the height of period perfection”. The clothes, the wall paper, the hair styles, the facial hair, I was besides myself, breathless. And by the way that scene is not even that long, but it is a testament to brilliant directing and set decorating leaving a huge mark and one of the reasons why I loved this film. Every period is spot on. CUT TO: San Fransisco 1970′s to a Cleopatra Jones meets Shaft moment. CUT TO: Neo Seoul wherever in the future that makes Minority Report look like an Amish hamlet. CUT TO: A Scottish Highlands castle in 1930′s with rich tapestries and well, you will see what I mean… stunning.
On the other side of this tale is that there are several elements of the film that were annoying like the Nell (yes, Jodie Foster Nell) dialect that Tom Hanks and Halle Berry speak in what is gajilion years into the future. So what, Ebonics becomes the language of choice after the world ends or something confusing like that? But I feel guilty saying too many bad things about Cloud Atlas because I am a huge fan of the Wachowksis and want this film to do well, especially after sobbing through Lana’s HRC speech. If you are a film buff, you must see this film. What made me look beyond the flaws, and there’s several of them, was when I stopped looking at the film as a movie but rather an elaborate comic book come to life. From there on I relaxed into the experience as everything fit more comfortably together, which increased my enjoyment level. I cared less about knowing every plot point and understanding every word (Nell + Ebonics) and let the experience wash over me. When it is cute, it was very cute, when it is touching, it is very touching and where there is action, man oh man, is there action.
I loved the cast, though some of the make-up was way too overdone. I like Tom Hanks but he has become one of those actors that will always be Tom Hanks no matter how many teeth and wigs and scars and tattoos and earrings and scars, oh I said scars, and teeth, oh I said teeth, that you put on him, he will always be Tom Hanks. It is almost the same thing with Halle Berry. The rest of the cast is delicious. The lead gay storyline was unexpected because these kinds of sweeping Hollywood films are rarely centered around homos, unless it is a homo movie, and we all know how few and far between those films are, especially good ones. This movie has very little to do with homosexuality or transgenderism, but we see all sides of the human condition through the many characters and for that it is a sight to behold.
The biggest reason why I enjoyed this film is because I happen to believe in the theme: afterlife, one door opens another door closes, love concurs all. Great big juicy ideas to sink your teeth into that let you believe in immortality or mortality or both. The music score is beautiful but what confused me was that the movie is all about a piece of music called Cloud Atlas Sextet HOWEVER I am not sure if the score of the film was the piece of music that was woven throughout the many stories. My friend couldn’t figure it out either.
Why, you ask, did I title this review, Cloud Atlas Shrugged? Since the movie is all about big ideas and compelling or thought-provoking philosophies, it made me think of the book Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. Both works demand that you think deeply about your core beliefs. Objectivism is the concept of humans as heroic beings, with their own happiness as the moral purpose of life, with productive achievement as the noblest activity. Cloud Atlas on the other hand has you wondering if déjà vu is really what you always thought it was–that you have been here on Earth time and time again–and are having a memory flashback. Hence, making you wonder that you had better live the best possible life while you are in this form so you don’t come back to Earth as a cockroach. Speaking of cockroaches, followers of Ayn Rand such as Paul Ryan will not go to see Cloud Atlas because they probably fear that they might catch something.