Big Screen Ballyhoo – “Life Of Pi”

So, what to say about “Life of Pi”?

Well, this is yet another film based on a book that I’ve never read. As time goes on, I find myself able to read fewer and fewer books, which is quite annoying and, if I think long enough, pretty devastating. One day, I’ll have the time and presence of mind to just sit down with books and read them. As is, I listen to too many audiobooks for my job to pull off anything extra.

Anyway, while the trailer doesn’t give anything away and frankly gave me no desire to see the movie, it’s been nominated for Best Picture at the Golden Globes and will likely see the same at the Oscars, so I figured I should see it.

The story is essentially a biography about the life of an Indian man named Piscine Molitor “Pi” Patel (Irrfan Khan as an adult, Suraj Sharma for the main segment of the movie). The movie’s foundation is set by a young writer struggling to write his next novel being told to visit Patel and hear his story. Patel tells it, telling the origin of his odd name Piscine Molitor, his odd nickname Pi, and events in his life leading up to the rather extraordinary moment in his life, the focus of the film, wherein Patel survives 227 days stranded at sea with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker as his companion.

That is literally the entire story. There’s nothing to really tell, no plot twists to discuss or anything like that. It’s a boy in a boat with a Bengal tiger. That arrangement causes problems, of course, but the moments during their attempts to survive are best seen on the film, not described by me. I suppose I could add in the fact that Patel was raised in a zoo with animals his father owned. They ended up deciding to leave India for Canada, taking the animals with them to sell, and the ship sank. And that’s how he ended up in a boat with Richard Parker the tiger. But, honestly, that’s all I can really tell.

The movie is extremely visually striking, using some extremely life-like CGI for the animals. It had, particularly in the beginning of the film, several moments that seemed quite reminiscent of the popular French film “Amélie” to me due to their vibrancy and quirky nature. The story has, initially, some interesting thoughts about religion and god/God/gods, though I suspect the book may delve further into that aspect than the movie does. But a Hindu Catholic Muslim is, at the very least, an interesting combination of thoughts, wouldn’t you say?

Once the main crux of the movie, the shipwreck and survival, starts, some of the more beautiful and striking imagery takes place. There was also a constant thought in the back of my head that I was waiting for something to happen, but it never really became something at the forefront of my mind. This is not a movie about action. I suspect it may be similar to “127 Hours,” though I never saw that movie. It’s a movie about a journey, but not one where the traveler has any control. He is a passive character actively fighting to live.

I’m not really certain if it’s a movie people will enjoy en masse. It’s hard to put the movie in any categories. If you enjoy artistry of film making, beauty and picturesque craftsmanship, then you’ll probably really like the movie. Ang Lee, the director, has done an amazing job with that. As I’ve said, it’s very striking, very pretty. I suspect it will at the very least give “Cloud Atlas” a run for its money in the technical Oscars, if not outright win several. I know nominations haven’t happened yet, but I can’t really see how they won’t get nominated. And Sharma, the kid, has some strong moments. The movie doesn’t really have the emotional power I tend to enjoy (at least, it didn’t for me), but I’d say maybe at least give it a matinee viewing. I don’t think it’ll be a waste of your money.

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