The Grapes of Daft
Starring: Henry Hopper, Mia Wasikowska
Review written by Robert Patrick
This is the best picture Alan Smithee never directed. “Restless” is so bad that the mascara wearing elk in Hot Topic wouldn’t dare screenprint their minds with Gus Van Sant’s scurrilous picture about two morose teens in search of young love. Henry Hopper, the son of the mercurial thespian Dennis, plays Enoch, a teenager who looks like a cross between a Jhonen Vasquez character and a model from a Sears catalog. Enoch falls in love with Annabel (Mia Wasikowska), whose name is no doubt a nod to the Edgar Allen Poe poem Annabelle Lee. The two teenagers skulk around graveyards, talk about the life cycles of birds, and have conversations with a dead kamikaze pilot who loves to play Battleship. “Restless”, with Henry Hopper’s lifeless posture and desperately frazzled hair, reminds me of what Tim Burton’s teen life would have been like. Gothic attire and kitschy scarves are worn, so that you know our characters are in the Autumn of their youth, and that you understand the desensitized and earthy inner-workings of the characters. Uh-huh. Gus Van Sant, who has made a career out of making airy and minimalist pictures about young adults, has, with the exception of one or two movies, been mostly effective. “Elephant” was tense and confined, appropriately vacuous at times and yet feverishly endearing and intelligent. “Paranoid Park” was a biopsy of a teenager’s moral compass, swept together by steely grays and yellowed whites. It could be said that Van Sant is the grandfather of the mumblecore movement. In “Restless”, Van Sant seems to almost lampoon his previous works by creating a picture so vapid and unaware that he seems to have forgotten the wheels to his own vehicle.
“Restless” is a corrosive piece of art that is held together by patchwork dialogue and ineffective acting. Henry Hopper looks more stilted than his character wants him to be, and Mia Wasikowska, despite her best efforts, cant keep the movie from drowning. I imagine Gus Van Sant wanted his movie to be part saccharine and part cyanide, a whimsical duality of life and death, set to the breezy sounds of indie-folk music. Whatever. When watching “Restless” you sense that movies like “Harold and Maude” and even “Donnie Darko”, where forlorn kids are shoehorned into situations beyond their control, were lazily borrowed from. Everything from the acting to the dialogue seems insipid. Henry Hopper deserves a life-size Razzie for his work in this film. Sadly, Mia Wasikowska deserved better than this screenplay. The movie requires her to dress like Diane Keaton in “Annie Hall” and look like Mia Farrow in “Rosemary’s Baby”. I suppose this sort of frumpy, outdated look was supposed to supplement her precocious and yet underdeveloped sense of style. Again. Whatever.
“Restless” will appeal to a demographic that have never seen a movie before. Perhaps feral children or marine life. As it is to everyone else, Gus Van Sant’s movie is not only the worst of the year but the worst of his career – next to the abysmal “Psycho” remake. The plodding, downtrodden, serially disappointing “Restless” is a watermark for underachievement. Perhaps Gus Van Sant has lost his connection to a youth that he once captured with thorny relevancy. Here, the camera isn’t focused on the haze of confused adolescents but instead the haze of a confused director whose artisan work has taken a backseat to muddy, wince-inducing plot developments and jerky acting.