Letter From The Editor - Issue 59 - October 2017

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Writing Fantasy

  
At The Picture Show
May 2008

Home alone

A family adventure story goes awry, and not even Jodie Foster can save it

Nim's Island
20th Century Fox
Director: Jennifer Flackett and Mark Levin
Screenplay: Joseph Kwong, Paula Mazur, Jennifer Flackett and Mark Levin, based on the novel by Wendy Orr
Starring: Abigail Breslin, Jodie Foster, Gerard Butler, Michael Carman and Maddison Joyce
Rated PG / 1 hour, 35 minutes
(out of four)

A young girl named Nim and her greatest hero are in a similar predicament. Both are trapped and alone and forced to face their biggest fears. For Nim (Abigail Breslin), that fear is the possibility that people may come and take residence on the private island where she and her dad have made their home, all by themselves, her whole life.

For Alexandra Rover (Jodie Foster), a novelist living in San Francisco, it might be even worse: Not only has she had writer's block for the last three months, but now thanks to Nim, she's got to face up to her crippling agoraphobia and travel across the globe to try to save Nim from the insidious vacationers who threaten her very livelihood.

Of course, Nim doesn't know that Alex Rover is a 40-ish woman who can barely leave her own house - no, the hero she envisions is the heroic, never-say-die Alex Rover of the adventure novels. (Living alone and getting home-schooled on an isolated island can't help but affect one's logic and common sense.)

But for the sake of a little girl, Alex will prove more than heroic, facing all of her worst fears (and nearly dying) along the way. Nim is all alone on the island because her father, Jack Rusoe (Gerard Butler), is lost at sea in search of a new kind of protozoa.

Nim's Island goes back and forth between the three subplots, with all three characters on their own. The problem the film suffers from - and it's not an uncommon one for movies that take this kind of structural approach - is that one of the three story threads dominates the other two, and the other two never garner nearly enough interest to keep us involved.

Jack is in the middle of the ocean, his sailboat having gotten ravaged by a storm, and he spends the bulk of the film trying to figure out which direction he's facing while keeping his boat from sinking. Very interesting.

Alex's subplot is more of the farcical variety, as she braves such daunting adventures as airplanes, helicopters, cab rides, swimming and, of course, airport security. These sequences are especially disappointing given Foster's talents. The filmmakers seem to think it was enough just to put her in awkward situations again and again and hope she could make just the right face for the occasion. Needless to say, the proceedings get fairly old.

Nim's own adventures on the island are what keeps the movie afloat. She goes off on her own, even to the most treacherous parts of the island, in search of her own adventures. She has the house to herself. Odd and surprising characters show up on the island . . . at which point she goes Home Alone on them, torturing them with tricks and booby traps until they go away.

But Nim can't save the movie all by herself. In the end, Nim's Island is too uneven and poorly focused to work as the light adventure story it aspires to be.

And without blatantly spoiling anything, can't they think of any better way to resolve these three characters than what they come up with at the end? I mean, it's telegraphed from the very beginning, so you can see it coming and expect it . . . and still, it leaves you disappointed. Is there no other way than the most obvious one? Isn't that too easy?

Read more by Chris Bellamy


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