A Beautiful Movie: 'The Diving Bell and the Butterfly'

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Reviews of the weekend's big movies with Metro critic Daniel Holloway.


Okay, so if you're heading to the movie theaters this weekend, here are some options: You can delve deep into sibling relationships, experience the fortitude of the human spirit, or imagine what it's like to be trapped in your body fully conscious as someone operates on your heart. Can't say I didn't give you diversity, everybody.


Hey, I was married for five years; I know all about that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BURBANK: Thanks, I'll be here all night.

STEWART: Daniel Holloway is movie critic for the daily newspaper, Metro. Hi, how are you?

Mr. DANIEL HOLLOWAY (Movie Critic, Metro): I'm good. How are you doing?

STEWART: Doing okay.

So, "The Savages" - written and directed by Tamara Jenkins - Tamara, Tamara? One of the…

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Tamara - I'm not sure. I saw her the other night, so I - Tamara -Tamara.

STEWART: Oh, let's call the whole thing off. I love "Slums of Beverly Hills"; that was sort of her…


STEWART: …last big movie that she made.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: It's Natasha Lyonne's last big movie, too.

STEWART: Yeah. That's just a whole other sad story.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Unfortunate.

STEWART: But this film - two great stars; I don't think they'll have any of the issues that Natasha Lyonne has.

STEWART: Tell us who's in it, and what's their relationship in the film?

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Two of the best actors working in film today - Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney. Laura - they play older brother, younger sister. Laura Linney is sort of the lead, but they both get about equal screen time.

The movie is about them going to both kind of - they're both NPR listeners, actually, which is pointed out in the movie, and I'll get to that in a second. But they're kind of, you know, very educated, very well-read people who are completely estranged from their father. Their father wakes up one day, takes some of his own feces and writes a word on the bathroom mirror at the home he lives in, in Arizona.

So his kids, who haven't seen him in years, have to come collect him and put him in a nursing home in Buffalo, New York.

STEWART: Ah, let's taka a listen - it's a little bit of the clip from the film.

(Soundbite of movie, "The Savages")

Mr. PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN (Actor): (As Jon Savage) Wendy, I need you to spent Thanksgiving with dad.

Ms. LAURA LINNEY (Actor): (As Wendy Savage) We're not doing it together?

Mr. HOFFMAN: (As Jon Savage) It's the only time I can get away for research.

Ms. LINNEY: (As Wendy Savage) Well, I have things to do too.

Mr. HOFFMAN: (As Jon Savage) Like what?

Ms. LINNEY: (As Wendy Savage) Like my life for instance in New York City.

Mr. HOFFMAN: (As Jon Savage) Well, maybe it's time to stop being so self-involved and figure what someone else's life for change.

Ms. LINNEY: (As Wendy Savage) Yeah, like you can put this book aside for a minute while dad dies.

Mr. HOFFMAN: (As Jon Savage) I've got to get this thing finished, Wendy. My editor thinks it's a good time for it.

Ms. LINNEY: (As Wendy Savage) Yeah, everyone's really itching for a book about (unintelligible) breakfast on holiday season.

STEWART: Okay, so…

BURBANK: Does it mean he has to finish that ham-hawk (unintelligible)?

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Whatever they're eating in those…

Mr. HOLLOWAY: How long is in their mouth?

STEWART: So it sounds like a sort of sad premise, but that's really funny, pity dialogue. Are there laughs in this movie?

Mr. HOLLOWAY: There are laughs in this movie. They come from Hoffman and Linney, and unfortunately, the name of the actor who plays the father just escaped me, but he's wonderful and…

BURBANK: We're going to look it up right now.

STEWART: We're going to IMDb it. Philip Bosco.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Philip Bosco.

STEWART: There you go.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Yes. And he's fantastic in this movie. He's starting to be gripped by dementia. So some of the laughs - but most of the laughs aren't coming from that, which is good they're not picking on the character for…


Mr. HOLLOWAY: …being crazy. But it's basically the sibling dynamic between Hoffman's character and Linney's character, and the last mainly come from that. He does things like grab paperwork out of doctor's hands before she can reach for it, and she is constantly seeking attention. She lies to him about getting to Guggenheim to go work on her play. And these things are kind of funny in their own sort of bobo way.

STEWART: We actually have a clip about the Guggenheim incident. Let's play that.

(Soundbite of movie, "The Savages")

Mr. HOFFMAN: (As Jon Savage) A friend of mine does some consulting for the Guggenheim Foundation. He looked your name up in the computer. You've been rejected eight times.

Ms. LINNEY: (As Wendy Savage) So? How many times have you been rejected?

Mr. HOFFMAN: (As Jon Savage) That's not the point. Six.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Is it a small talky indie film?

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Yeah, it is a small talky indie film. And it's a pretty good one. The stuff like the (unintelligible) references and the NPR references and…

BURBANK: What did it say about NPR besides the fact that THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT is awesome?

Mr. HOLLOWAY: They actually - they don't - the mistake is that they don't refer to THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT. They refer to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

BURBANK: That old chestnut?

Mr. HOLLOWAY: It's a lovely chestnut, but they actually have - it's a weird reference in the sense that the one character in the entire movie who shouldn't be listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED is the guy that's listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED who is the married - the slutty married neighbor that Laura Linney is fooling around with.

STEWART: Our next film, I think, is interesting because the film's subject is quite fascinating, and in the way it got made is really fascinating - "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly." Now, the film is in French, right? But Julian Schnabel didn't speak French when he originally decided to tackle the subject matter, right?

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Right, right. The film is in French, and that is a bold move on his part. You know, Schnabel is - has directed - he's a fine artist. He has directed only two films. They've both been about artist - "Basquiat and - goodness - "Before Night Falls." "Before Night Falls" is about a writer -"Basquiat" was about the artist Basquiat. This is also about a writer. It's the editor of French Elle magazine, Jean…

STEWART: I can't pronounce it because I don't speak French.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: They call him Jean-Do in the movie.

STEWART: Jean-Dominique.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Jean-Dominique Bauby, yes. And he was the editor of French Elle magazine who one day suffers a horrible stroke and wakes up with locked - what is doctors call locked-in syndrome. Meaning he can't move anything except for one of his eyeballs and both of his eyelids. They eventually shut - sew the bad eyelid shut. And he writes a book about his experience living with this syndrome through his eyelid. You see the system of blinks to signal to an assistant working with him each letter of the book. And he dies 10 days after the book was published.

STEWART: Extraordinary premise, right? Let's take a quick listen to a clip from the film.

(Soundbite of movie, "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly")

Unidentified Woman: (As an Assistant) O, S, R, F, E, N, T, E, L, O, N

STEWART: So this is someone writing down all the letters as he is blinking them out to her.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: She is reading the alphabet to him, and he blinks when he wants her to stop. And she is reading the - an alphabet that was especially arranged so that the first letter she says - it doesn't go A, B, C, D, E. It goes - I believe the first letter is E because that's the most used letter in the alphabet.

(Soundbite of movie, "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly")

Unidentified Woman: (As an Assistant) L, O, M…

STEWART: It just sounds like it's a really…

BURBANK: I can't write a book, like, just, you know, with something…

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Fingers.

STEWART: Fingers.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BURBANK: I can't even imagine. I'm sorry, Ali. You were saying.

STEWART: No, I just wonder, you know, is it a movie that you leave feeling good, feeling elated afterwards or is it depressing or…

Mr. HOLLOWAY: The genius of this film is that Schnabel realizes it's adapted from the book that Jean-Do wrote. The genius of the film is that Schnabel realizes that there's a lot of pain in it, but there's also a lot of redemption in this extraordinary act of art, and Schnabel doesn't try to oversell you on that in any way. But the other genius thing is that he shoots the first half of the movie from the perspective of Jean-Do. So he's actually got actors leaning over the camera and talking to it.

STEWART: Oh so it's like his eye looking out, projecting out.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Yeah. Yeah.

STEWART: Oh, wow.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: And that stops about halfway through the film when Jean-Do kind of declares to himself in his own internal monologue, I've decided to stop pitying myself. At that point, the camera comes out, you start seeing him interacting as best he can but still having an enormous effect on the people around him with the other actors. And it's just - it's an extraordinary movie.

STEWART: We'll take one more minute to talk about the last film.

BURBANK: Let's do it. I need to hear about this.

STEWART: Okay. This movie "Awake," we did a whole segment about it with an anesthesiologist. It's about a man who's on the operating table. He has anesthetic awareness. He knows they're cutting into him, but he can't say anything because he is paralyzed. You didn't get to see the movie, though…


STEWART: …as a reviewer.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: I wasn't allowed.

STEWART: Why not?

Mr. HOLLOWAY: I'm assuming because, you know, you had to assume it's because it's really bad. (Unintelligible) movies, you know, "Resident Evil," you know, crazy town or whatever the last one was (unintelligible) screened.

BURBANK: Why don't you take me to crazy town?

Mr. HOLLOWAY: I will after we're done here.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HOLLOWAY: We - but, yeah, you have to assume it's bad. The movie is about Darth Vader is like Donald Trump, like, in a 28-year-old…

STEWART: Meaning it's Hayden Christensen is the lead.


BURBANK: Hayden Christensen is the lead. Apparently, he's a really rich guy, and they cut him open and he doesn't go to sleep and Terrence Howard is talking about killing him. But all of this is gleamed from a two-minute preview.

STEWART: All right. We're going to play a clip. We actually talked to an anesthesiologist who saw the movie and gave his review. Let's play it.

Oh, do you guys still have it? And they're looking for it.

(Soundbite of archived recording)

Unidentified Man: The film comes off superbly. It's a - I mean, you know, I was - I looked around the premiere and everyone was riveted in their seats. Even the four or five of us doctors I knew who were there were riveted by the film. So we didn't mind the technical - if you will - errors. It was a great film, you know. It would get a four-star in a 0-5 rating. At least, a four star for me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: What do you think reviewer?

Mr. HOLLOWAY: That's enough for me. I've giving it a four star in a 0-5 rating.

BURBANK: Like, the anesthesiologist is like they finally made a movie about us.

STEWART: What I do. Daniel Holloway is a movie critic for Metro, a daily newspaper that you read on your way to work and other places as well.

Daniel, thanks for coming on.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Hey, thanks.

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