Gimme Some Oven

{in theatres} Life of Pi

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You could say that Life of Pi makes a compelling argument for faith. You could say that Life of Pi celebrates the triumph of the human (and animal) spirit. You could say that Life of Pi gives 3D an artistic reason to be. You could say a lot of things about this film, but the one thing it says loud and clear for itself is this: Beauty matters.

Every frame was carefully considered and crafted by director Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Sense and Sensibility) and cinematographer Claudio Miranda (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, TRON: Legacy). From the opening scenes detailing young Pi’s life in the “French Riviera of India” to later scenes like the stunning sea-sky-scape above, I wanted to press pause, so I could take more time to appreciate the images.

The use of 3D was genuinely immersive. I felt drenched, I felt abandoned, I felt alone. I felt attacked. You know there’s a tiger in this movie, right? There’s  a tiger. His name is Richard Parker, and Lee doesn’t resort to cheap gotcha! jumps to make him scary…but I did scramble back in my seat more times than I’d like to admit. (Once right in front of my poor in-theatre-dining server. Embarrassing.) The use of 3D was so effective that I forgot to take notes during some key action sequences. Me. Forgetting to take notes.

It’s been a few years since I read the original book by Yann Martel. So I can’t give you an in-depth analysis of the screenplay adaptation by David Magee (Finding Neverland, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. But I can tell you this: It works as a story on screen, and it left me with the same exultant feeling the book did. For me, those are the two main requirements for any adaptation: Tell a story successfully in the new medium and retain the emotional core of the old. Life of Pi did both.

Along with Lee, Miranda and Magee, first-time actor Suraj Sharma should share credit in the film’s engrossing qualities. I believed his performance, even during what must have been a difficult, never-ending shot: One long, slow zoom in on Pi’s face as he relates an emotional monologue. It’s a (or the) pivotal moment in the movie, and Sharma carries it like a vet.

As to the film’s meaning…to quote the older Pi, “Why should it have to mean something?” When a film is this beautiful, I’m not sure it should have to. But Pi also says, “The story is yours now.” I’m curious what meaning you’ll give to it after you leave the theatre.

gimme five

Good for: Fans of beauty and engrossing story-spinning

Invite your: book club friends and/or big-cat-loving friends.

Snack on: Sushi. Pi does. Or bananas, for vegans and primates.

Bring your: Life jacket!

Skip if: You have a water phobia…there’s lots of it in this film.

What does Life of Pi mean to you?

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Sarah Magill

Sarah Magill has a full-time movie habit made possible by a day-time greeting card writing gig. She blogs at Gimme Some Film and is learning to write scripts and direct. She tries to balance her screen obsession with trail running, jazz singing, book clubbing, and hanging out with The Best Golden Retriever Ever, Copa.

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11 comments on “{in theatres} Life of Pi”

  1. I’ve been tracking this one for quite a few years. Initially, M. Night Shyamalan was taking a crack at writing the adaptation. I was excited about his tightly wound, slowly drawn suspense and sincere character work – of course capped-off with the canon ball twist this book has built in. Once I saw the creative team switched, I got less excited. I like Ang Lee, but in the end his movies are much more about sadness, loneliness, and the inability to obtain what fate has deemed forbidden to you (almost always unrequited love). His movies are also soft. That’s not a criticism but an observation. Anyway, I haven’t seen this yet, but it sounds like I need to prepare myself for a beautiful yarn rather than a powerful story that kicks you in the chest (which is what the book did to me).

    • I tried to reply to this yesterday, but failed. Yep, Pi is more jellyfish than cannonballs, but its got more joy than other Lee films. The twist is handled in a very understated way, which made it more powerful to me…let me know what you think after you see it!

    • Ok. So I finally saw this tonight. It won’t sound like it at first, but I did like it.

      I’ll split hairs with you and say that it has more hope than other Lee movies, but I wouldn’t agree with more joy. Like I said, I know I’m splitting hairs. It does have a happy ending, so I’ll give you that. (Though Lee insists that you understand the sadness that lingers in not being able to say goodbye, by highlighting it 3 or 4 times in about 15 mins.)

      And boy, did he ever water down the twist. (Yes, pun intended.) It would’ve worked more for me had the punchline been more effective. “So it goes with God” landed a bit flat in my opinion.

      Regardless, it is a stunning film with wonderful acting, music, cinematography and CGI. I just found the beginning a bit too drawn out and the end a bit flat.

    • Hope vs. Joy is fair. I think I got the joy more from the joy the filmmakers had in making those gorgeous visuals…hope is a better description of the story’s emotion. Valid points on the beginning and ending. I do remember thinking sometime in the opening…ok, ok…but when are you going to be On A Boat??

  2. Can’t wait to go see this.. Also that tiger stuffed animal would be my childhood dream come true.

    • Liz, if you’re referring to the link to my blog (which I am humbled that Sarah posted), I have to inform you that those are no stuffed animals. Those are real tiger cubs. Straight up.

  3. I feel like I’m clinging onto every word of this review. Cannot WAIT to see the film! Thank goodness that beauty does matter.

  4. Oh man I had a feeling clicking through to “big-cat loving friends” might take me somewhere familiar. aww shucks. :) Reading this made me wish I had seen it in 3D. I don’t know why I sway away from 3D if there’s another option, however after seeing it in 2D I can say that it was made FOR 3D in a way that the 2D almost didn’t work visually. But otherwise I was really pleased with the adaptation as a lover of the book…and that part about “Why should it have to mean something” is one of the greatest definitions of art. Nice review.

    • i have a friend who once said, “Give me a flat movie.” i personally love 3D, but i thought that was hilarious.

    • Ha! Most of time, I’d agree. But once in a while it’s done well and right and for storytelling reasons. Think this is one of those times.

    • I tried to reply to you days ago, but it didn’t go through : ( There was no way I was not going to link to your pic! I do think you should re-see this in 3D if you have a spare afternoon! Glad someone who remembers the book liked the adaptation!