Lasse Hallström

Swedish director of My Life as a Dog, What's Eating Gilbert Grape?, and almost every ABBA music video.

ABBA: The Movie (1977) -- A concert movie, but not enough of one.  The premise of this movie is that a radio DJ is trying to get an interview with ABBA while following them on their tour of Australia.  This allows for lots of footage of them on stage from the tour, but the "plot" is a little distracting and stupid most of the time.  By the end, he does get his interview (in an elevator), so at least we get some close-up of the guys.  A Hard Days Night type of movie might have been better, or an all-out concert film, but this hybrid that doesn't star ABBA doesn't exactly work.  Still, the music is wonderful, and it's a chance to see ABBA at their height. C

My Life as a Dog (1985) -- It's got some good little moments, but in the end this movie doesn't add up to much.  The movie suffers from repetitions that are only there to insist some kind of meaning on the viewer, though the meanings themselves are faint or could have been grasped the first time.  So we get to see the kid fall on his back five times, get to hear about his infatuation with the Russian space dog twenty times, and get to see under-aged boobs at least twice.  With some time shaved down, the movie would have been better, but things are still vague (like what the hell's wrong with the kid--there's no reason for him to do that screwy thing with his drink) and there's no story to speak of.  Hallström makes things pretty (though sentimental), he has an arty touch, and I can see how someone might get caught up in this different world, but in spite of all of this, the movie rings sort of plain. C

What's Eating Gilbert Grape? (1993) -- A goofy short story-ish movie that only works because of the cast members who make this really fun to watch.  Number one is Leonardo DiCaprio who is probably the only actor playing a mentally disabled person who was worthy of an Oscar nomination.  Where Forrest Gump, Rain Man, and others were exaggerated caricatures, Leo plays a real person--and he also happens to be really funny.  Everyone else acts appropriately and keeps the movie lively, the exception being Johnny Depp himself who is kind of dull throughout.  We understand within the first five minutes that he's depressed by his family, and that's about all we know about him by the end of the movie too.  Lots of things don't work: it's sentimental even while pretending to be "harsh" (as is the soundtrack), there are too many refrains (everyone chasing DiCaprio around town, etc.), the "turning points" don't do anything (like the mother leaving the house or going upstairs), some of the setups don't pay off (like the failing floors), and much of the story relies on little tricks that might work in (bad) short stories but not in movies.  But in your memory none of this matters since the movie magically wins you over in spite of itself. B

Copyright (c) Nov 2005 - Aug 2006 by Rusty Likes Movies