Battle of the accents


Last weekend I watched Don Jon. This week I watched American Hustle and The Wolf Of Wall Street.

My first reaction when I saw the first two movies was the same. It was: “OH NO MY EARS! WHAT IS THIS ACCENT!”

I’m talking about the kind of New York/New Jersey accent that sounds nasally, and annoying, that becomes even more so when the actors playing the characters are so convincing in their roles. Because then you are reminded of those people from Jersey Shore and OH NO! OUR EARS!

To be fair, that Scarlett Johansson sounds utterly convincing in that accent is a testament to her acting ability in Don Jon. I’ve always doubted her as an actress because I never saw her as anything brilliant in her movies. She was usually just plain solid, but not really good or great in my opinion, and I rather thought she was the weakest part in one of my favorite movies of all time (The Prestige). But she was quite stellar as Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s girlfriend in Don Jon, especially because she managed to thoroughly sell that accent to me. So even if my ears were hurting, I still had to applaud her for it.

On the other hand, Jennifer Lawrence attempting a similar accent and portraying a crazy controlling wife of a conman while using that accent in American Hustle didn’t quite work for me. I don’t know if it’s because she doesn’t fit the role or if it’s because her accent comes and goes mid-dialogue. What I do know is that she wasn’t portraying the same level of brilliance that she showed in her previous movie, so whatever award she’s nominated or won for this role might not be entirely deserving. I was relieved when the movie was finally over and I didn’t have to listen to her anymore. This makes me quite sad because I like Miss Lawrence. Just not in this movie and not in this role – definitely not with this accent.

Out of the three movies about modern America, The Wolf Of Wall Street is the most impressive. Leonardo DiCaprio is stellar in there and his co-star Margot Robbie, playing his character’s sexy blonde second wife Naomi, keeps up well enough with Leo. Naomi, too, has an accent and in her case, she’s more consistent in it than Rosalyn was. As a blonde wife giving her husband hell? Ms. Robbie does it more convincingly than J.Law too. Not because she’s the better actress but because her accent doesn’t come and go like J.Law did, which is even more impressive because she’s Australian.

My question is now: do people really talk like that in real life?

Some of my American friends convince me that they do, particularly people in New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts. So I guess these movies are not too far off from real life when portraying Americans.

I guess I needed to be told by these friends about the realness of the accent. Don Jon, American Hustle and The Wolf Of Wall Street seem to be filled with American cultural stereotypes that I only get to see from movies and TV shows, never in real life. I don’t know any Americans that I’ve met in real life who speak like that. Even the one guy from the southern part of America that I met (a publisher rep) didn’t sound ‘Southern’ at all. Usually when people meet me and hear me speak English they go like “your accent is very American” and while I take that as a compliment (because this means all those years of learning English had definitely paid off!) I also sure as hope that they don’t mean “your accent reminds me of ridiculous girls from New York in movies”.

Thanks to all of these movies, though, I am now ready to leave USA in the movies behind. Three ‘accented’ movies are enough to make me want to cross the Atlantic and find my entertainment in Great Britain and the rest of Europe and the world. Studying culture from movies is great, but not when your ears are hurting. So, here’s to English/Italian/French/German/Japanese movies in my immediate future.

The Hunger Games: Film Review

The Hunger Games

Deadly entertaining and brutally fascinating.

THE HUNGER GAMES is not ‘the new Twilight’. Gary Ross’ adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ bestselling novel may have elicited the same shrieking reaction from the fans as the one often heard at a screening of the movie about glittery vamps, but The Hunger Games, a much bloodier feast than its fanged counterpart, is more likely to make people scream from pain and misery than Jacob Black’s state of shirtlessness.

That is why it is perhaps appropriate that The Hunger Games was kicked off by an agonized scream – this one belonging to Willow Shields’ Primrose Everdeen, the sister of leading lady Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) as she wakes up from a nightmare. Her older sister hugs her for a while, soothes her with a lullaby and then makes for the woods, to hunt food for her family. Seeing this opening sequence it is easy to assume that Lawrence, who nabbed an Oscar nod through a similar role of a young girl providing for her poor mom and siblings in the indie flick Winter’s Bone (2010), has been caught in the typecasting trap Hollywood laid out for her. However, as the story of Hunger Games proceeds, she proves her worth as the best actress of her generation.

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