Saturday, February 20, 2010

Free on Hulu: "The Discovery of Heaven"

I've decided to begin a new project. This project is essentially the written form of something I do often in real life, which is suggest movies and television shows to my friends, provided that they are free to watch on "It's free on Hulu" is a phrase that comes out of my mouth so disgustingly often that NBC should seriously cut me a paycheck.

That said, here is the first of my reviews of things that are free on Hulu, a movie called "The Discovery of Heaven".

"The Discovery of Heaven" is a four-part, two-hour movie I found by looking at the 'you might also like' section under "Ink", which will probably be the subject of my next review. It's an adaptation of a novel by some Dutch guy. I decided to watch it because I didn't realize it was two hours long, and the premise of 'Angels create a human for the purpose of reclaiming the Ten Commandments because God is pissed' is always enough for me to at least watch thirty minutes.

Contrary to the sort of silly plot synopsis, the movie is quite good, quite serious, and quite coherent. Starring Stephen Fry and some other dude whose name I can't remember, the movie is neatly divided into two halves. The first half chronicles the attempts of the angels to engineer a situation in which their special envoy, who will recover the Commandments, can be born. Incapable of travelling to Earth, the angels are forced to play the deus ex machina game throughout the entire movie. The second half of the movie chronicles the life and mission of that special envoy, whose name is Quinten.

While words like 'deus ex machina' might suggest that the movie's literary devices are hamfisted, one of the most surprising things about it is that it's not. The plan that the movie is essentially composed of is both artful and clever, which is a difficult piece of writing to pull off. A key factor in pulling it all together may well be the quality of the acting. Stephen Fry is magnificent, of course, playing Stephen Fry the classical linguist, and the wide-eyed Greg Wise as his cosmic twin/best friend Max the sex maniac astronomer gives the whole movie a really nice feel of... this is just a series of lives, playing out naturally, except for when divine influence intervenes.

I wouldn't call this movie funny, or awe-inducing, or particularly filled with ideas that make me want to go run off and immediately start writing something off the inspiration high, but it is enjoyable, and it feels smooth. It doesn't feel like a two-hour movie, and there is little in the movie that is jarring or disruptive to the plot line, which is so uncommon these days (or maybe just in my trashy movie selection).

If you feel like a gently rambling, clever piece of contemplation on life and humans' relationship with the divine and the church, then "The Discovery of Heaven" might be a good afternoon's movie for you. If you love Stephen Fry, then you definitely won't be disappointed!