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Overall Rating
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Alps
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by Jay Seaver

"Does not tower over much."
1 stars

It's not crippling for a movie to have a peculiar, almost preposterous premise; the weird ones are often the best kind. It helps a lot if that premise is realized in an exciting manner, though, and "Alps" sucks any possible thrill from the telling that it can.

The story follows four people in Athens - a gymnast (Ariane Labed), her coach (Johnny Verkis), a nurse (Aggeliki Papoulia), and a paramedic (Aris Servetalis) - who form a group called "Alps" (the paramedic calls himself "Mont Blanc" as the leader) that offers a service in which they impersonate a dead loved one for a few hours every week. Of course, there are already existing tensions within the group, and sometimes it can be easy to lose oneself within this sort of role-playing.

It might be easier for the audience to lose itself if director Girogos Lanthimos didn't play everything so completely straight, though. The aliases acknowledge that this arrangement is peculiar, and there is naturally a point where things start to fall apart, but for most of the film, the characters go about their business as if this was perfectly ordinary, with the audience observing how they go about it but never seeing how it bumps up against more traditional means of mourning a loss. Sometimes, treating the outré as ordinary allows an audience to connect it to an absurdity in ordinary life, but the closest this movie comes is letting the audience compare the Alps' drilling with how the coach torments the gymnast, but that sort of student-coach relationship is hardly the sort of thing that requires an unusual metaphor. Instead, not letting the strange thing be strange just means there's little to do but watch the details.

And the details of Alps are just boring. The sheer repetition of it makes the point that this sort of stasis and clinging to the past is not healthy, but a person can only watch people repeat the various types of lighting product available in a hardware store so many times before he or she starts begging for them to open up or break down just so that things can mix up a little. Rote memorization and regurgitation is just not exciting cinema, and that makes it harder to appreciate the moments when something interesting does happen and the audience gets a look inside these characters' heads. It doesn't particularly help that Lanthimos and co-writer Efthymis Filippou take an almost extreme less-is-more approach with dialogue at times, often communicating ideas less with words than glances and movements that were rather difficult to see (at least, on the dark streaming video I watched).

It's hard to fault the cast; they actually do a pretty good job of investing their characters with more personality that their words. Labed & Verkis tread familiar territory but with good execution, and Servetalis & Papoulia track them nicely as a taskmaster and trainee whose relationship is less formal but perhaps all the more harsh for it. Most of the mourners fade into the background, but Efthimis Filippou is memorable as the lighting shop owner.

For all that there is good acting, the occasional amusing moment, and an ending that may inspire a "hey, do you think..." conversation afterward, "Alps" is mostly a chore to watch. For this viewer, at least, it has a hard time passing the test of being better than staring at a blank wall for too long, and the good bits aren't nearly good enough to make up for that.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=22978&reviewer=371
originally posted: 03/16/13 21:47:36
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USA
  13-Jul-2012 (NR)
  DVD: 04-Dec-2012

UK
  N/A

Australia
  13-Jul-2012
  DVD: 04-Dec-2012




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