15th Feb2014

The Monuments Men – Film

by timbaros
images-102The Monuments Men was originally scheduled for release in December, 2013 in order to qualify for the awards season, but due to problems in the post-production (editing) process, the release was pushed back to February in both the UK and the U.S.
What were the problems? Trying to balance the dramatic element of the film with the comedic element. Did it work? In my opinion (and in the opinions of other film critics), it did not.
The Monuments Men, with the tag line of ‘based on a true story,’ is about a group of men during World War 2 who set about saving valuable works of art form the hands of the nazis towards the end of WW2.
George Clooney, star, director, co-screenwriter and co-producer, plays the head savoir of the art team, and got together his posse of friends to be in HIS movie. These friends include Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett and John Goodman. Other actors drafted to be in this film include Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban and English actor Hugh Bonneville. The men play the team enlisted to find the works of art –¬†some of older men were drafted because they were historians and architects and thus were drafted for their expertise.
The dramatic element of the film works fine: Men in the middle of a very dangerous war in occupied countries are tasked to retrieve stolen art. Deaths happen, scenes of fighting all around them, and the realistic looking art and set direction would’ve made for a good movie. It’s the comedic element that just does not work.
What you have onscreen is a mish mash of actors of different ages who are playing characters, but its the older ones who are the brunt of many jokes. Goodman has a hard time in basic training and just generally getting around due to his weight. Dujardin has a thick French accent this is made fun of, but is it funny? No. And Balaban is completely blind when he doesn’t have his spectacles. There is one strange scene where Balaban’s character has a standoff with a German soldier – nothing really happens in that scene but we are supposed to find it funny that both Balaban and the soldier don’t know what the other is thinking or going to do, until the soldier goes away, happy with the cigarette that was given to him. Huh?
Also, there seems to be a separate movie going on between Damon’s character, who is tasked with actually delivering the art to the rightful owners, and Blanchett’s character – lonely and vulnerable Claire Simone – a curator who is forced to allow the Nazi’s to steal valuable art. Simone pines for Damon, but he’s a married man, and his duty is to deliver art, and nothing more. Damon’s character pops back to the team from time to time to remind us that he is in that part of the film as well, in a way to connect his and Simone’s storyline to the rest of the men’s storyline.
The problem with The Monuments Men is that the film just does not work. Even at the end, when a very valuable and sentimental piece of art work that was stolen is found hidden away in a cave, there really is no emotional impact for the viewer. And in the final final scene, Clooney employs his father to play him as an older man to try to tweak some kind of final wrung of emotion, but it fails.
The Monuments Men was made for a whopping $75,000,000. It has so far grossed a paltry $30,000,000 in the U.S. It has just opened up in the UK. Clooney, in acting as the film’s driver, needs a wakeup call in that everything he does does not turn into gold. In this case, The Monuments Men turns to dust. No team will ever be able to save this piece of art.