The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet
Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet
A 12-year-old cartographer secretly leaves his family's ranch in Montana where he lives with his cowboy father and scientist mother and travels across the country on board a freight train to receive an award at the Smithsonian Institute.
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★★★½ review by Rod Sedgwick on Letterboxd
''The amazing thing about water drops is that they always take the path of least resistance. For humans it's exactly the opposite.''
Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amelie, Delicatessen, Mic Macs) brings his trusty brand of whimsical adventure and magical realism to the Montana countryside (although most it the film was shot in Canada) for an adaptation of 'The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet', written by Reif Larsen.
Boasting some of the most luminous cinematography you could ever dream of seeing (courtesy of newly developed Arri Alexa camera's) we are introduced to a family in a rural setting where our young and prodigious protagonist is a 10 year old boy named T.S. who is focused on scientific experimentation and invention. His father is ''a cowboy born a hundred years too late'', his mother is obsessed with the study of beetles, his sister dreams of being Miss America and his younger brother is an odd duck, who in the early scenes dies in a mysterious shooting accident.
Whilst the plot in which T.S.'s invention of a perpetual motion machine lands him in the predicament of having to run away from home to accept his prestigious award plays out with the familiarity of a road movie, what Jeunet brings to the table as a point of difference is the way he paints his characters with adorable quirks and ticks and the way he fills every single frame with visual flourishes of wonder and delight. As expected everything is eye candy, and the films adventurous spirit is hard not to love, and while the positives far outweigh the negatives, I can't help but feel a little underwhelmed by the imbalance in tone and the way drama is sidelined for moments of humour. The story tries to deal with some complex family issues but never seems to explore them at any great depth especially with the wonderfully talented cast available to do such heavy lifting including Helena Bonham Carter. My first impulse in thinking this could easily be recommended as a film that a youngster could watch, was sadly discarded with the single use of the word ''Motherfucker" at a very unnecessary moment in the films climactic scenes, which forced me to question what audience the film is targeting.
If you are a fan of Jeunet, you will no doubt snap this up as soon as you possibly can, and whilst I can easily admit I was charmed and entertained throughout, I feel his work is becoming less fulfilling with each film he makes.
★★★½ review by Caty Alexandre on Letterboxd
The Young and Prodigious T. S. Spivet is from Jean-Pierre Jeunet the director of the absolutely amazing Amélie and that was the main reason that lead me to see this film. And I was also in a mood for an adventure film!
So The Young and Prodigioud T. S. Spivet tells us the story of T. S. Spivet, a super intelligent boy at the age of 10 that receives a call from Smithsonian an instution that wants to give him an award for a unique invention. He feels like he is the underdog of the family because he is so smart and has different interests than his mother, father, sister and twin brother. He made up a plan to go to Montana, where he lives with his family in a ranch, to Washington DC. And so his journey begins!
The characters are very peculiar and interesting in their own ways and are developed more deeply throughout the story. The performances are solid. The kid that plays T. S. is very cute and Helena Bonham Carter is always lovely to see in this kind of quirky characters. Judy Davis is also a bless to see everytime.
Overall, it's a sweet and touching film that will warm your heart.
★★★★½ review by Bob Hovey on Letterboxd
Second viewing with family and friend. Enjoyed it as much this time... had a chance to look more closely at some of the production details... still very impressive.
★★★★½ review by Bob Hovey on Letterboxd
All the qualities I've admired about Jean-Pierre Jeunet's work are present in his latest film... charming characters, fanciful story, meticulously-detailed production design, and striking compositions rendered in lush, saturated color.
The story follows a ten year old inventor who lives in Montana with his cowboy father, entomologist mother and aspiring beauty-queen sister. Also present in flashbacks is a younger brother who was killed in a gun accident. One day T.S. gets a phone call from the Smithsonian telling him that he is to be presented with a prestigious award for his design for a perpetual motion machine. Knowing his folks will never let him go, he packs a suitcase and hops a freight train to Washington DC.
The story combines familiar elements of Little Miss Sunshine and Tom Sawyer... there's humor, adventure, a loving but dysfunctional family, and a dreamy folklore quality that evokes the Pecos Bill and Paul Bunyan myths. Yet for all that, the film still feels like Jeunet... there's no mistaking the style of the person who made Amelie and Micmacs. His humor and magical realism are completely beguiling in the minimal and sober presentation of his actors. And of course there are Jeunet's amazing visuals.... epic grandeur in every long shot, a hyper-detailed intimacy in his closeups, and his grading is crisp and rich, each shot creating a reality that seems more vivid and enchanting than the one we live in. Taken all together it's a beautifully-crafted work, one that seems to justify Jeunet's typical four to five year production cycle... in some ways it seems less a film to watch than an alternate reality to visit.
★★★½ review by Owen on Letterboxd
Mourning his twin brother a ten year old invents a perpetual motion machine and crosses the country alone to attend a gala event at the Smithsonian.
Jeunet mixes his normal insanely detailed production design (and what looked like quite prominent 3d although we watched it in 2d) with some real sadness as the ripples of the central tragedy and Spivets loneliness work their way through the story. The final act goes a little too broad with some unsympathetic characters although they had the authentic feel of coming from a childrens books (they felt roald dahly to me) so could well be down to the source material but even if it loses some of the magic of the first two acts it didn't stop the film keeping a real emotional heft, helped immeasurably by a nicely odd central performance.
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