Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Not Today

Vitally important theme unstrung by shaky direction, writing and acting and a major flaw in subtitling.

April 11, 2013

-By David Noh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1375428-Not_Today_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Happy-go-lucky party animal Caden Welles (Cody Longo) gets smacked upside the head with reality when he and his crew go to Hyderabad, India, seeking fun. He encounters a desperately poor father and daughter, Kiran (Walid Amini) and Annika (Persis Karen), of the Dalit or “untouchable” caste, whose pleas for help he rejects. Conscience-ridden, he seeks them out again, only to discover that Kiran has sold Annika into child slavery. Suddenly, chasing booze and sex fades in importance as he goes on rescue alert.

Human trafficking is, of course, one of the modern world’s greatest tragedies and horrors, with some 27 million souls caught up in it, and any film exposing it must be commended. However, while there is no doubting the intentions of the makers of Not Today, the result, awkward and often ineptly acted, is far less laudable.

Writer-director Jon Van Dyke has a tin ear for dialogue, and his film is not helped by winsome, distracting subtitles which he splashes across the screen rather than in their usual position at the bottom of the frame. Far from being helpfully innovative, with different fonts signifying the words of different characters and even arrows pointing when a character says, “We’ll sleep here,” they have the unwanted effect of trivializing the story, adding an always disconcerting touch of whimsical precocity which must have been the last thing Van Dyke wanted.

“This is so jacked up!” wails Caden at one particularly dire moment, and while Longo gives it everything he’s got, he cannot overcome the abysmal script and an innate personal lack of depth that keeps you from fully identifying with his noble character transformation. (Although, really, who in the world could deliver a line like “There is something to that saying, ‘I once was lost and now I’m found”?) Little Karen is, of course, meant to break your heart, but her forced, untrained line readings—more recitations, really—also keep you at arm’s length.

I confess to feeling guilty myself over this pan of so much worthy intention in the service of an important cause. However, just the fact that it ends with a variety of random people facing the screen and beseeching us to do something about this problem unfortunately suggests both a PSA and the inescapable fact that Van Dyke should have just made a straight documentary to get the word out properly.


Film Review: Not Today

Vitally important theme unstrung by shaky direction, writing and acting and a major flaw in subtitling.

April 11, 2013

-By David Noh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1375428-Not_Today_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Happy-go-lucky party animal Caden Welles (Cody Longo) gets smacked upside the head with reality when he and his crew go to Hyderabad, India, seeking fun. He encounters a desperately poor father and daughter, Kiran (Walid Amini) and Annika (Persis Karen), of the Dalit or “untouchable” caste, whose pleas for help he rejects. Conscience-ridden, he seeks them out again, only to discover that Kiran has sold Annika into child slavery. Suddenly, chasing booze and sex fades in importance as he goes on rescue alert.

Human trafficking is, of course, one of the modern world’s greatest tragedies and horrors, with some 27 million souls caught up in it, and any film exposing it must be commended. However, while there is no doubting the intentions of the makers of Not Today, the result, awkward and often ineptly acted, is far less laudable.

Writer-director Jon Van Dyke has a tin ear for dialogue, and his film is not helped by winsome, distracting subtitles which he splashes across the screen rather than in their usual position at the bottom of the frame. Far from being helpfully innovative, with different fonts signifying the words of different characters and even arrows pointing when a character says, “We’ll sleep here,” they have the unwanted effect of trivializing the story, adding an always disconcerting touch of whimsical precocity which must have been the last thing Van Dyke wanted.

“This is so jacked up!” wails Caden at one particularly dire moment, and while Longo gives it everything he’s got, he cannot overcome the abysmal script and an innate personal lack of depth that keeps you from fully identifying with his noble character transformation. (Although, really, who in the world could deliver a line like “There is something to that saying, ‘I once was lost and now I’m found”?) Little Karen is, of course, meant to break your heart, but her forced, untrained line readings—more recitations, really—also keep you at arm’s length.

I confess to feeling guilty myself over this pan of so much worthy intention in the service of an important cause. However, just the fact that it ends with a variety of random people facing the screen and beseeching us to do something about this problem unfortunately suggests both a PSA and the inescapable fact that Van Dyke should have just made a straight documentary to get the word out properly.
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

Laggies
Film Review: Laggies

Disappointing comedic entry about a late-20s slacker who won’t grow up is writer/filmmaker Lynn Shelton’s first outing directing someone else’s material. Points here for strong cast and an occasional chuckle, but otherwise there’s just no point. More »

Rudderless
Film Review: Rudderless

Well-done indie drama about a lost-soul house painter reborn through rock ’n’ roll is a nice actor’s showcase for star Billy Crudup and an impressive directorial debut for actor William H. Macy. But in spite of some good work onscreen, both hero and story lack the edge and originality to carry this drama beyond respectability. More »

Camp X-Ray
Film Review: Camp X-Ray

Army guard and Guantanamo detainee form a grudging relationship in a thoughtful but far-fetched drama. More »

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
Film Review: The Tale of The Princess Kaguya

As charming as it is delicate, this unusually low-key, if a tad overlong, animated feature brings yet more prestige to the famed Ghibli output. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Fury Review
Film Review: Fury

American tanks fight superior German forces in the closing days of World War II. More »

Birdman
Film Review: Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Virtuosic camerawork and a stellar ensemble of actors more than make up for the occasional moment of portentous twaddle in Alejandro G. Iñárritu's latest—and maybe his best—film. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here