Restless aka Pointless aka Lifeless is supposed to be a romantic drama flick that offers neither romance nor any kind of empathy for the main characters. Annabel (Mia Wasikowska) is dying of cancer, likes reading about birds, and takes pleasure sorting Halloween candy. Enoch (Henry Hopper) is obsessed with death, is addicted to crashing funeral homes, has an imaginary Japanese soldier friend, and he likes to throw rocks at trains. Welcome to pretentious land. The two hook up together at a funeral home and have three months to enjoy their love for each other until the predictable outcome happens. The story certainly follows the movie poster tagline, “Who do you live for?” Yes, they live for each other, but director Gus Van Sant and writer Jason Lew forgot to make the character’s journey an interesting and entertaining one for the audience. When I found out I was watching a cancer-themed movie, I expected to be moved or even depressed. For a movie to focus on the characters’ different views about death, Restless should have a heartbeat throughout the duration of the film. But if we don’t care about any of these characters, the movie is neither emotional nor even depressing. In turn, Restless is dead on arrival. Why did this short 90-minute film drag on endlessly with its uninspired direction by Van Sant, boring predictable story, flat acting, no chemistry with the two lovebirds, and an irritating score by the usually reliable Danny Elfman? It’s because Restless is just an experiment.
The creation of Restless is much more interesting than the actual film itself. After watching the movie and Blu-ray extras, as well as researching online, Restless is some kind of experiment. 2011 was a bizarre year for the Howard family. Besides Ron Howard producing Restless in 2011, he also produced and directed The Dilemma, which was the worst film of last year and possibly this past decade. He also let his daughter Bryce Dallas get her first producer credit on Restless as well. Why? Well, it turns out that Bryce Dallas is good friends with writer Jason Lew. They were both classmates at NYU and Jason Lew had first created Restless as a play. With Restless, Bryce Dallas got her first break as a producer and hooked up Jason Lew to get his first break in Hollywood as a screenwriter. Another coincidence is that Henry Hopper got his first starring role in this movie. Henry is Dennis Hopper’s son. The actress that plays Annabel’s sister, Schuyler Fisk, is also a child of a movie star – daughter of Sissy Spacek. Everyone got their chance to be involved in this movie! Restless is basically like a trial-run movie for all the youngsters involved.
The only redeeming aspect of Restless is that the movie was filmed in Portland, Oregon. While the cinematography by Harris Savides is neither amazing nor bad, there are some great shots of Portland which make me want to go visit this city and bike everywhere, especially in their parks.
At least the video quality is not disappointing. Restless features a very good-looking 1080p 1.85:1 transfer. The image is slightly soft (probably intentional by the director), but it does not hurt the video presentation at all. The faces of the actors have healthy natural colors and great detail. Portland’s nature really stands out with lush greens and autumn browns. Contrast is solid as well – black levels come across as crisp and well-balanced.
The DTS-HD 5.1 sound mix here is equally respectable. For a dialogue-heavy film, dialogue is clear without any distortions. Surround use is primarily reserved for the film’s subtle musical score by Danny Elfman, and I mean very subtle. This movie is very quiet so don’t expect to be wowed by the audio, but the offering here is excellent for what it is. French DTS-HD 5.1, Portuguese DTS-HD 5.1 and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mixes are also included, as are English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles.
The extras available on this Blu-ray are decent. For anyone that decides to watch this Restless Blu-ray, the extras will give insight to why anyone cared to invest their time and money into this movie. From the few clips of Gus Van Sant barely seen in the extras, there’s definitely that feeling that Van Sant was just doing the Howards a favor by offering his directing services. All the other “behind the scenes” clips mainly focus on the actors buttering up the writer Jason Lew as the next big Hollywood writer. The most interesting extra worth a peak is the “Gus Van Sant’s Silent Version of Restless.” Van Sant used different takes of original scenes to create a feature-length silent film version of Restless with old-timey intertitles added. If Restless was filmed in the actual style of an old silent film (such as with The Artist), maybe the movie could have been original. But this silent film version is just another experiment that Van Sant lazily slopped together for the Blu-ray. I was hoping that the silent film version was a director’s cut that he originally wanted to release in the theaters, but both versions are equally bland.
– Gus Van Sant’s Silent Version of Restless
– Enoch & Annabel: One Love
– Enoch & Hiroshi: The Best of Friends
– Gus Van Sant: Independent Voice
– Being Restless
– Coming to Life: This is Restless
– Deleted Scenes
Gus Van Sant is one of my favorite bipolar directors. He can do great films like Milk, Drugstore Cowboy, To Die For, and Good Will Hunting. And then just out of the blue, he throws in these forgettable duds such as Psycho, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, Elephant, and Gerry. I’m not a fan of Finding Forrester, but at least that movie produced one of Sean Connery’s best quotes, “You’re the man now, dog!” Good Will Hunting was such an emotional movie with well-developed characters, memorable music, and incredible performances from Matt Damon and Robin Williams. Restless is the complete opposite – apathetic characters, irritating score, and bland performances from Mia Wasikowska and Henry Hopper. Is this the same director? Had Restless played on television and had I not known of all the talent involved (Van Sant, Elfman, Ron and Bryce Dallas Howard), I would have mistaken this film for a made-for-tv Lifetime movie.
If you want to see one cancer-themed 2011 movie involving Bryce Dallas Howard, watch 50/50 instead and skip Restless.