Wednesday, May 21, 2014

How to become a writer the easy/hard way: Alain Gsponer's LILA LILA opens in New York

The adorable German actor Daniel Brühl (from Good Bye Lenin! to last year's Rush) has such a youthful countenance that even after more than a decade of film-making he barely seems to have aged. Even so, in what is his latest movie to open here in New York City, LILA LILA, he appears to be suddenly aging backwards. Never fear: this is because, though Lila Lila opens this Friday, it is already five years old, having been released in Germany back in 2009. This is not the only oddity about the movie. While watching it, I kept thinking of another film -- The Words -- released in 2012 that appears to have been "inspired" by its German counterpart. Both films deal with a young man who comes upon a manuscript -- that he then pretends to have written -- of what turns out to be, once published, a critically acclaimed and extremely popular novel.

While The Words treated this whole thing uber-seriously and thus became utterly silly, Lila Lila uses the idea for its rom-com potential and thus gives in to the silliness, allowing us to have some fun. Directed by Alain Gsponer, with a screenplay by Alex Buresch, adapted from the novel by Martin Suter, the movie is lightweight in the extreme, with characters doing things that often don't ring true to who they are. Or maybe who they want to be. But this does not prove a deal-breaker, as the glossy trappings and attractive leads -- Herr Brühl, playing a character named David Kern, pairs with the spunky, attractive young actress Hannah Herzsprung, below -- make the viewing pleasurable and nearly swift enough to keep us watching. (The running time of 107 minutes might have been shortened by about ten for maximum effect and to avoid needless repetition.)

Having a hero who claims credit for something he didn't actually do can be tricky, but Lila Lila finesses this by having Ms Herzsrpung's character, Marie, send the manuscript to the publisher unbeknownst to David, who then spends the remainder of the movie feeling guilty but trying to enjoy the perks that sudden fame has bestowed upon him.

Brühl (above) is by now a past master at playing sweet and naive, and he does so again here with proper relish and just the right amount of diffidence. (The actor is much more versatile than this, however, as his appearances in Rush and The Fifth Estate will attest.)

The movie is helped (for awhile, at least) by the introduction of a new character, Jacky (played by the funny Henry Hübchen, above and below, left). Who he is and what he wants add to the near-screwball comedy that the movie would like to -- and sometime nearly does -- achieve.

Also on tap is a publisher's assistant hoping to become David's agent (a very nice job by Kirsten Block, below, left). There's romance, a little comedy, and a look at how German publishing works (it's not that different from most Western countries). But mostly, the film will please fans of the ubiquitous Mr. Brühl.

Lila Lila -- the rare theatrical release from Corinth Releasing (the very interesting catalog of which you ought takea look at) -- opens this Friday, May 23, in New York City at the Quad Cinema.

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