Clouds of Sils Maria is a movie that I had been interested in getting around to for some time now. It's just sorta funny how timing works out sometimes, and almost more fitting that I only just now got around to it, seeing how so much of this movie focuses on an actress rehearsing for a part in a play.
The main story here sees Juliette Binoche's character get offered the role of an older character in a play, 20 years after she had previously played the younger character in that same play during its initial run. And this was just a really intriguing story to watch play out, as there are several clever parallels between the play in question and our main cast's personal lives that come to the forefront throughout, in addition to some really interesting conversations looking at the deeper meaning behind their characters' motivations.
I especially loved this aspect of the movie, particularly as their conversations expand into other mediums, such as superhero movies, and the different takes one can take away from it. One character sees a world of character depth, while the other laughs it off as just a silly superhero flick. It just feels so true, because I've been in those kinds of conversations myself when defending the deeper meanings and symbolism in some of my favorite not so well received films, the likes of which include Spider-Man 3 and Sucker Punch. The writing in this thing was just a delight, in some ways even inspiring, and one that I especially took quite a bit away from as a writer myself.
But as I mentioned in the beginning, a lot of this movie does revolve around our main characters practicing for their part in this upcoming play, and seeing as I've just come off a month straight of rehearsing non-stop for my own first play, the timing of seeing this movie couldn't be more fitting. I honestly went into this movie completely blind, which made this especially satisfying a discovery. But it was just interesting to see this aspect play out, and what I loved so much about these scenes was, as they were rehearsing, there became moments where you almost couldn't tell if they had dropped out of character to continue their personal discussions in the middle of things, which just goes to show just how immersed a lot of those aforementioned parallels really were.
Now, it's not an entirely perfect movie, mind you, as there were a few minor discrepancies that irked me a bit. For one, in regards to editing, the film decides to end a number of scenes by needlessly fading to black, which just felt awkward and choppy, and sorta pulled me out of the movie every time. This sort of editing just kind of gives the movie a cheap feel, like it was made for TV and we were fading to a commercial break or something, when really, they could have just as easily cut instantly to the next scene and avoided this jarring effect. That may seem overly nitpicky of me, but it's something that happened enough throughout that I feel warrants pointing out as an issue that could have very easily been avoided outright.
The movie also feels like it reaches a natural conclusion, only to continue on into one last act that sorta feels to drag on a little too long as a result. But there's a specific reason for that, which I won't get into here, and otherwise, those issues aside, I really quite enjoyed this movie. It was gorgeously shot (though the hokey superhero film that they go see coulda been shot in a more sincere manner), and as I keep gushing over, I loved the writing here, which I just absolutely ate up.
And the movie was also very well acted as well, with a seriously great cast. Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart were both phenomenal and played off one another fantastically. And then one of my favorites, Chloë Moretz, showed up, which was a nice little surprise, and she unsurprisingly held her own and put on yet another solid outing, playing the trainwreck young actress taking on the role of the younger character Binoche had originally played, and those two have a number of interactions that only grow more gripping as the movie goes along and Moretz's character's true intentions come more to the forefront.
And as for Kristen Stewart, this was her performance for which she became the first American actress to win the Cesar award, which is essentially the French version of the Oscars, and damn did she earn it. She gives an absolutely captivating, commanding performance here, so much so that you instantly and genuinely miss her presence anytime she's not on screen. Seriously, this girl can act, and she's damn good at it, and anyone who still wants to write her off due to her outings in those Twilight flicks needs to see her in this movie and promptly proceed to shut the hell up on the matter once and for all.
So yeah, I had heard a lot of nice things about this movie, and had been interested in checking it out for a little while now. I didn't know entirely what I was getting into, but once I found out, the timing of my finally getting to it was just sort of awesome, and the overall content within certainly delivered on all of those nice things I had heard about it. The performances were great, the writing was great, and this is definitely the kind of film I can see myself returning to at some point and taking more and more away from it. Clouds of Sils Maria is a delightful film worth checking out.