Friday, May 24, 2013

Capsule Film Reviews: Aquamarine

Daddy's little girl has run away from home. Daddy, you see, wants her to marry a man he has chosen for her but daddy's little girl wants to marry for love. So daddy's little girl has set off on her own in search of love and daddy is so unhappy that he has become the bringer of sea storms to a beach club in Baybridge Florida (played largely by the Gold Coast of Queensland, Australia).

Aquamarine (Sara Paxton), daddy's little girl who has run away from home, you see is a mermaid, something that brings a bit of novelty into this rather forumulaic Hollywood romantic comedy drama. She has made a deal with daddy that if she hasn't found love in three days she will return home to marry the man her father has chosen for her. Over the next three days Aqua, with the help of two new found human friends Hailey (JoJo Levesque) and Claire (Emma Roberts) try to help Raymond (Jake McDorman), who Aqua is in love with like every other girl on the beach, fall in love with Aqua. Hailey and Claire, who have their own problem you see, Hailey's mother is about to move her far away to the land of Australia, help Aqua because Aqua has told them that anyone who helps a mermaid gets a wish and they want the wish that they have already wished, that Hailey will never leave. So Hailey and Claire arrange for Aqua and Raymond to enjoy cotton candy at the local fair, pedal their boat at the local park, and dance at the local hangout. There are two problems, however. There's Cecilia (Arielle Kebbel), the spoiled I want everything to be my way princess who wants Raymond for her own boy toy, and who will do almost anything, including locking Aqua in a water tower, to get what she wants. And there's the fact that at film's end Raymond tells Aqua that he likes her a lot but that he doesn't love her.

When Cecilia pushes Aqua into the ocean finally revealing that the girl Raymond likes is a mermaid Hailey and Claire, Hailey who is mad at the world and Claire who is so scared of the water after both of her parents, who once upon a time taught Aqua that true love really does exist, have died at sea, no longer concerned about the wish, they want to give it to Aqua so she can stay in Baybridge, jump in to stormy ocean to rescue Aqua from her father's once again stormy wrath. At the buoy where earlier Aqua has sent Hailey to get her her starfish earrings, they are "suck-ups" who complement the wearer, truthful "suck-ups" nevertheless, Aqua, Hailey, and Claire proclaim their love for each other and, happy ending, the sea calms. Aqua has proven to her father that real love really does exist.

Aquamarine, adapted from Alice Hoffman's novel of the same name, is a coming of age buddy film with a few twists. It is a coming of age girl buddy film, still a rarity in Hollywood, it is a coming of age girl buddy film with a mermaid, and it is a coming of age girl buddy film with mermaid and a heart. Aquamarine takes us into the heart of the deep friendship between Hailey and Claire, their obsession with boys, particularly Raymond, and with the teen magazines from which they hope to learn how to get boys, and most importantly, into the friendship that helps each of them survive things that haunt them in their daily lives. Aquamarine takes us into the heart of how these two friends make friends with the new kid in town, the alien in their midst, the mermaid Aquamarine who because she is from the same yet a different planet, allows the film to poke light fun (most Hollywood films and television shows, 30 Rock for instance, do light parody rather than satire these days) at the silly rituals of humans including their dating rituals.

Aquamarine is a good film. I liked how the film had that shades of sun meets ocean look. I liked that it was a coming of age girl buddy film. I liked that the weird and scary guy who worked at the beach club turned out to be a great bloke. I liked its lessons taught and learned, namely, you don't have to be afraid of life, you can be comfortable in your own bodies, and romantic love doesn't always work out in real life but a loving friendship sometimes does. And I liked that the film says that it is this, the alchemy of friendship, that is the real magic of human life. Recommended in spite of Aquamarine's awful pop soundtrack which, as usual in Hollywood films these days, brings nothing to Aquamarine's narrative or character development except during the brief dance sequence, and its occasional camera and editing pyrotechnics, also far too formulaic in contemporary Hollywood, which too adds little if anything to the narrative or character development of the film.

Aquamarine, 2006, Fox 2000, directed by Elizabeth Allen, written by Jessica Bendinger and John Quaintance, 99 minutes, 1:85:1 (the UK DVD has the correct aspect ratio, the North American DVD, if the information Amazon is accurate and that is a big if, is apparently a 1:33:1 pan and scan. Postscript: Amazon is wrong once again. The US release of Aquamarine is a two sided DVD with a 1:33:1 pan and scan on one side and the oar of 1:85:1 on the other)

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