Movie Review: The Surprise

The Surprise (2016)

Rated PG: For Some Sensitive Themes

Running Time: 1 hour and 42 minutes (122 minutes)

Genre/s: Adaptation, Comedy, Drama, Romance

Released on May 11, 2016 (PH Release Date, Limited Release Only)

Presented by Solar Pictures

Writers: Mike Van Diem and Karin Van Holst

Director: Mike Van Diem

  • Jeroen van Koningsbrugge as Jacob Van Zuylen de With
  • Georgina Verbaan as Anne De Koning
  • Jan Decleir as Cornald Muller
  • Henry Goodman as Mr. Jones

'Til death do we part. I'm pretty sure that most of our audience here are getting a little tired of the huge amount of superhero-related posts that we are filling the this blog with (Well don't be mad. It is the Year of The Superhero after all.). I myself wanted to distance from the capes and masks for a while. Okay, not really, because those cancelled superhero movies won't blog themselves, you know. But to stretch my keyboard-glued fingertips from the super-powered scene, here's a romantic comedy about love, death, and trust, thanks to Solar Pictures for giving me and my family some passes to see the flick. The title says it all actually, it's a surprising film. Also, since the movie is still being viewed in limited screenings, be forewarned that there are some spoilers in Dateline Movies' review of The Surprise.

What is the movie about?

Suicidal millionaire Jacob Van Zuylen de With, played by Koningsbrugge (Left) attempts to kill himself in a variety of ways, thinking that he has nothing left to live for, especially now that he will sell his estate after the death of his mother. After a moment of soul-searching and consoling from one of his trusted gardeners Cornald Muller, played by Decleir (The Barons), he stumbles upon a mysterious place known as Elysium, where he can go on a journey for him to rest in peace. The place is run by the enigmatic Mr. Jones, played by Goodman (Avengers: Age of Ultron).

While he searches for a proper coffin for himself, he meets another client named Anne De Koning, played by Verbaan (Blind Date), who is also looking for a coffin. Jacob then finds himself attracted of sorts to Anne, in spite of his usual unemotional self. He finds himself asking her to go dancing in a local restaurant where Jacob's mother used to take him. Before he knew it, Jacob started thinking to himself that maybe, just maybe, there is something worth living for after all.

What we think of the movie?

Acting = (4/5)

I'll be honest, I have never heard of Jeroen van Koningsbrugge before watching The Surprise. I was completely unfamiliar with any of the actors' faces. I decided to research more on Jeroen's background through Wikipedia's Dutch corner, and boy he has loads of talent to showcase. He is a comedian, an actor, a director and a singer. On his performance as The Surprise's leading man, Koningbrugge's skill translated very well to the big screen portraying a quirky and lonely billionaire. In another actor's hands, Jacob would just be a regular stereotype in a romantic movie. In this actor's care however, it didn't end up an unmemorable role, although his character does fall sometimes under familiarity. Koningbrugge makes this his sharpest, funniest, and probably most memorable role he has done so far. I might have to check on his other films soon, but for now, I'll give him a pass.

Fun fact on Georgina Verbaan's role as Anne De Koning, according to my dad. Did you know that Mike Van Diem originally planned to have actress Scarlett Johansson play the leading lady's shoes because of her popularity? If you're going to ask me if I would've loved Johansson in the role, I would say a little bit of yes and a mild pinch of no. Yes, because for one thing, Scarlett Johansson is a very great actress, and besides, she can sing. However, I would also say no because I doubt I would be convinced that Johansson is playing a Dutch character. In addition, Georgina Verbaan is very perfect for the role of Anne. She gives the character heart and energy without coming out forced. It is  the typical kind you would expect from a romantic comedy throughout the course of history plus more. Verdaan deserves her Golden Calf Award for her amazing performance as the lovable Anne. A Golden Calf Award, by the way, and which I also just figured-out, is like the Netherlands version of the Oscars.

It might be an insult to some for calling Jan Decleir's role as an almost copycat of DC Comics' Alfred Pennyworth or Marvel Comics' Edwin Jarvis, but I believe it is more of a compliment. Muller in the movie represents the father Jacob always wanted to grow-up with, but ended up not having since his father disappeared at sea. He is the Yin to Jacob's Yang. Decleir's performance is truly something that warmed my heart. He added depth to the character, and he even gave the film some needed emotional moments. I would be glad to say that Decleir as Cornald Muller was the standout of the film.

The actor I am most excited for was Henry Goodman, because I would always remember him as HYDRA head Doctor List in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (see, I couldn't even resist making a connection to the superhero movies).For those who don't know, he was the scientist who accompanied Wolfgang Von Strucker, played by Thomas Kretschmann (Downfall), in the creation of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, respectively played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass) and Elizabeth Olsen (Captain America: Civil War) in the mid-credits scene for Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Sadly, Marvel killed-off his character at the very beginning of Avengers: Age of Ultron. It's too bad since Goodman seems to be a very good actor, as proven here in this movie. While it is certainly nothing special, Henry Goodman makes the best out of his somewhat cliched role as a villain with appeal and charm. What also makes his role a little different is his character's moral compass, which I rarely see in most of movie villains these days. Hopefully Marvel could give him another role in Netflix, since that area of Marvel is notable for recasting actors from previous movies for their shows, to give him more recognition and get him some more roles.

Production Value and Cinematography = (4/5)

There's only one thing that me and my dad could say about the film's setting. Netherlands is really, really clean and a place so great to line in. I enjoy its production value despite its limited budget, and that is something to be truly admired. The set pieces are beautiful, and it really does reflect the moody and emotion the movie is attempting to portray. The best scene so far that made me laugh was when Jacob retreated to a beach in the middle of rainfall, only to witness a man in a wheelchair have himself killed. For some reason, I found it funny, and I could not help myself to chuckle one or twice when I get to see Jacob's reaction to what he just beheld. The timing on that scene was undeniably perfect.

The one thing I somehow can't get over in The Surprise is that in some scenes, the shot takes too long to move to the next scene. It makes my eyes tired, very tired to the point of almost hitting the hay. For instance, when Jacob attempts to commit suicide by flooding one of his sports car with smoke from the car's exhaust while he is in the said car, he is interrupted by Muller, who wanted to talk to him. After the chat, what followed was a long scene of him staring at the window, as in it is just one shot for a span of a few seconds. Yeah, I understand that he was having a brief time of reflection, but couldn't they change the shot at least?

Story, Dialogue and Flow = (3/5)

The story on the other hand is not that much unique. Personally, I do not expect too much great and quotable lines or thought-provoking and relatable themes in a romantic comedy. I have seen enough films of the same genre to tell myself that these kind of movies are becoming more and more familiar. The Surprise is no stranger to falling into cliche territory, but the movie still does a fine job in making the entire experience worthwhile.

Like I said, I wouldn't expect too much memorable lines from films of this genre, but actually, there are some lines here that are close to the heart. One line from the movie was when Muller and Jacob talked about life and death, and how much Muller missed his now-deceased wife was a very heartfelt exchange. It also shows how much Muller loved Jacob like his own son, considering that Jacob lost his own father as said before. Jacob, in that scene as well, also showed some emotion when he realized how much he wasted the remainder of his life not showing a hint of emotion.

On the flow of the movie, there are some moments where it a little clear that it is starting to drag. These are clearly seen in the very long-still shots as explained earlier, but given its one hour and forty-two minute mark, The Surprise takes its sweet time to give each character some needed development, especially its main cast. There are some characters that are underdeveloped or did not entirely stand out because of their character's cliched nature, such as Vermeer, played by Ronald Top (Kristen), who's just there to be the jerk best friend, no more no less.

Ending, Originality and Story Fulfillment = (4/5)

By the time we reach to the movie's conclusion, we get to see some moments of action when Jacob asks for a delay on his original suicide attempt, but Mr. Jones and company thinks its a huge no-no to their plans. I actually enjoyed that moment, but not as much as I liked the plot twist that Anne was the daughter of Mr. Jones. It was a good twist that I did not notice, but was only hinted at with just one line coming from Anne, which says that she was adopted and has four brothers. Subtle hints really are subtle to the point that you need to pay close attention to what they are saying.

The twist was a good one though, and it gave the movie some more emotional depth, but that's not the scene that really tugged at my heartstrings. It wasn't about Anne and Jacob fighting and then making-up, but it was again with Jacob and Muller having a talk at the movie's penultimate scene. When Mr. Jones accepts Jacob being in love with Anne, he is given a task to prove himself, kill a person, and that person is apparently none other than Muller, who wants to reunite with his beloved in the afterlife. After Jacob admits he found a new purpose in life, Muller smiles and drinks a glass of poisoned wine after asking Jacob to get some celebratory cigars. I initially thought that Muller wanted Jacob to kill him, it was eventually revealed that Muller wants to die with a loved one. It's a sad and a very good scene that's worth more than remembering.

As I said, the movie is not entirely original. The protagonist is just like any other down-on-his-luck gentleman in other movies. His beloved is the energetic and cool type. His trusted colleague is like a family to him. His trusted associate is willing to betray him, and so on and so forth. This might make some viewers think that this is just a rehash of any other romantic comedy, given the many tropes encountered, but the dialogue and the acting gave this movie a shining chance.

Overall Evaluation = (4/5)

It's nothing special, but the movie benefits from exceptional talent from the director and its amazing cast.

TOTAL = 19/25 (Pleasant Entertainment)

The Surprise, despite being overly done with cliches and familiarity, is still an entertaining romantic comedy while juggling with a pretty risky topic, and a good comeback for award-winning director Mike Van Diem.

I'll be honest, I'll take this movie over any other romantic comedy rehash that I often hear from my classmates, because this is certainly a good one, compared to other movies in the same genre. So what are you waiting for? Go watch The Surprise and understand the meaning of life and death.


Post a Comment