Wasikowska, Hopper star
Mia Wasikowska (The Kids Are All Right; Jane Eyre) and Henry Hopper (Dennis Hopper’s son) star.
The opening is intriguing. Enoch (Hopper) is a glum high school dropout who wears black and crashes funerals. He grieves vicariously for his mom and dad who died in a car accident.
Enoch reminds others that he was “dead for three minutes” and awoke from a coma.
Annabel accepts the end
Annabel (Mia Wasikowska) is an optimist who talks to her hero Charlie Darwin. A winsome sprite with a brain tumor, she has three months to live. Annabel admires birds and beetles, and dubs herself a naturalist. She has transcended anger, living in acceptance and humor.
The two meet at a memorial service. Enoch rebuffs her, but Annabel persists. She recognizes a kindred soul. “Seen any good funerals lately?” is a conversation starter for these two.
Sentimental and trite
I like odd movies, and really wanted to like Restless. Sentimental and trite, it tries too hard with swells of loud music and distracting flourishes. (Annabel’s vintage wardrobe is endless).
Talented Wasikowska has her moments, but Hopper struggles as morose Enoch. The movie lingers in a graveyard of clever banter.
Bucket list action
The action falls flat even with a flurry of bucket list antics. Annabel accepts death as a friend, making light of the inevitable. Enoch is more obsessive.
They must race to fall in love. Their relationship is believable and painfully finite. With no future, they must live in the moment. Death is their silent partner.
Henry helps Annabel make the most of her last days. Scene after scene is artfully framed. Annabel looks healthy and radiant throughout.
A valuable dramatic experiment, Restless is a felt experience that falls flat with one note whimsy.
See the ghost
The ghost fascinates. Enoch’s friend Hiroshi (Ryo Kase) was a kamikaze pilot in World War II. Still dressed in his jacket and flight cap, he pops by for witty conversation or a game of Battleship.
Hiroshi lends playful quasi-fantasy and comic relief to the film. Life and death are one, he suggests, an ongoing adventure.
As Enoch’s mentor, Hiroshi isn’t afraid to talk sense to him. They get into a fist fight, providing welcome conflict. Something keeps the pilot hanging around, which is revealed at the movie’s end.
Restless lacks the nuance and power of Van Sant’s Elephant, Paranoid Park and Milk. This film explores the trappings of death while avoiding its mystery and meaning.
Life is not a bowl of candy. A chalk-on-asphalt drawing of two fallen teens holding hands is the tip-off. Restless draws a happy face on death. (2.5 out of 5 stars)
Restless 2011 / PG-13 / 1 hour, 33 min
Cast Overview: Henry Hopper, Mia Wasikowska, Ryo Kase, Schuyler Fisk, Jane Adams, Chin Han, Lusia Strus
Director: Gus Van Sant
Genre: Drama, Fantasy