THE CAKE EATERS 2.5/4
7-57 Releasing (Unrated)
Countering the conventions of those sudsy disease-of-the-week weepies is a new trend of disability getting tough in movies. There’s Late Bloomer, a radically odd Japanese psycho thriller, in which a profoundly physically disabled, knife-wielding serial killer runs over his random victims with his motorized wheelchair. Not quite as peculiar but similarly strange is The Cake Eaters, in which Twilight’s Kristen Stewart stars as Georgia, a rural high schooler afflicted with a chronic terminal disease marked by extreme spastic muscular movements. And before she dies, Georgia wants desperately to experience sexuality, with or without love. So she corners a shy young kitchen worker (Aaron Stanford) at school for her sexual initiation. He’s the son of the town butcher (Bruce Dern), who happens to be having a longstanding extramarital affair with Georgia’s free-spirited grandmother (Elizabeth Ashley). Tragic and comic in equal measure, even if feeling somewhat like a half-baked work, The Cake Eaters celebrates these characters’ lives while frowning affectionately on their less-commendable behavior. Though there’s nothing discernible about cake to this tale, except perhaps for the tendency of these impulsive human beings to go for the metaphorical dessert behaviorally, and skip any life-sustaining foundation.
SEVERED WAYS 2/4
Magnolia Pictures (Unrated)
The loosely historically grounded, nearly wordless Severed Ways: The Norse Discovery of America, based on the failed accidental venture of the Vikings as they drifted to the coast of America 1,000 years ago, may be a mere 110 minutes long, but it plods through this ill-fated trek for what seems like an eternity. Fiore Tedesco and the filmmaker Tony Stone are two brutish young Viking warriors separated from their fleet, and forced to survive in the punishing wilderness. We observe the growling pair cutting down trees for shelter and killing chickens in the wild for dinner (harmed trees and chickens, we feel your pain more than theirs!). And that is followed by (audience alert!) close ups in real time of post-consumption human defecation in the woods. After they kill and/or threaten some stranded missionaries, the famished Viking with the long golden locks gets drugged on poisonous berries and dragged off by a Native woman warrior to her tepee where she, well, makes the dumb blonde her squaw in a startling act of raw man rape. A trying ordeal for both the actors and viewers, though with breathtaking landscapes and a moody metal soundtrack, incorporating Burzum, Morbid Angel, Judas Priest, Queens of the Stone Age and Dimmu Borgir.