Tuesday, February 21, 2012

French Flair

Declaration of War       WWW Score: 92%

It's one of the wonders of the moviegoing experience, to stumble upon a film that is utterly revelatory — far exceeding any expectations you carried into the theater. 'Declaration of War' is definitively just that, a story we've seen countless times before but never with the uniqueness of vision and verve that writer/director/actress Valérie Donzelli splashes across the screen.

Based on a true tale, a pair of twenty-somethings in Paris named Romeo and Juliet (yes it's trite but addressed with humor) meet at a house party and roughly nine months later find themselves parents to a boy named Adam. He's a baby who can't seem to settle himself down; constantly crying and soon vomiting uncontrollably. A battery of tests reveal that Adam has a cancerous brain tumor and Romeo (Jérémie Elkaim) and Juliet's (Donzelli with the hat trick) relentless battle begins in earnest. If all of this sounds like movie of the week material, it is, but in the hands of Donzelli things soar well above melodramatic drivel.

From a fantastically-filmed musical duet that comes straight out of left field to a narrator (both male and female voiced) popping up to push the proceedings along in perky fashion, Donzelli goes for it, choosing to sail away from the safe harbor rather than be anchored in it. The scene where she first learns her of her son's affliction is nothing short of hypnotizingly electrifying.

With a flair only a Frenchwoman could flaunt, 'Declaration of War' delivers an experience that is luminously life-affirming. While the proceedings bog down about three-quarters through, the film's swagger never sways — the soundtrack is mesmerizing.

Donzelli has provided the blueprint for smashing the conventional way of doing things in an ordinarily by-the-numbers type of script - this is a PowerPoint presentation in motion picture panache. Let's put it like this: think of 'Declaration of War' as the raddest Lifetime movie you'll ever see.