Wednesday, 28 September 2016
My First Mister (5 Stars)
"I think being happy is overrated".
This is the tenth film starring Leelee Sobieski, made in 2001 when she was 17. This was a prolific period in her career. She made six films within 18 months, and it's difficult for me to know in which order she actually filmed them. I have to rely on the order of the cinema release dates.
"My first Mister" has special significance to me because it was the first film I saw starring Leelee. It must have been late 2002 when I saw it on television. Before I bought my first DVD player in 2003 I often watched films at random on television. I remember sitting there and thinking to myself, "Wow! Who's that actress? She's brilliant!"
In a way, this is a very untypical role for Leelee. Usually she's a pretty blonde girl. In this film her hair is dyed black, with purple streaks, and her body is covered with tattoos and piercings. She has cuts on her arms and hands where she's made herself bleed. The tattoos are all fake, but the cuts were genuine. Rather than rely on special effects she really cut her hand with a safety pin for the sake of realism. Many of the body piercings were genuine. She wanted to try it out to be able to feel what it was like, but she was glad to remove them when the film was over. Or rather, before the film was over. In the course of the film she removes her piercings, leaving only a metal stud in her nose.
Even though the film's subject matter may seem scandalous on paper -- a romance between a 17-year-old girl and a 49-year-old man -- it's handled very delicately. The only time we see them in bed together is when Leelee sneaks under the covers while he's asleep. It's a film about two lonely people in a big city (Los Angeles, although it could be any other city). So many people, and nobody to talk to. The two characters are the exact opposite of one another. She's young and rebellious. He's old and conservative. The only thing they have in common is their loneliness, and that's what draws them together. It's impossible to point a finger and criticise them. This is one of the major love stories of the 20th Century.
Here's a link to Roger Ebert's review. Like me, he was a big fan of her films. He knew talent when he saw it. The only thing that puzzles me is that he got her age wrong in repeated reviews. She was born on June 10th, 1983, as he could have found out with only a little research.