If you are a 12-year-old girl who has never seen Harold and Maude, you may find yourself in some kind of heaven watching Restless.
In Gus Van Sant’s latest film, a morbid, well-heeled high-school dropout, Enoch (Henry Hopper), falls in love with a chipper cancer patient, Annabel (Mia Wasikowska), whom he meets while crashing a funeral.
Enoch and Annabel (dig those old-timey names) were made for each other: Enoch dresses like Wes Anderson and Annabel like Annie Hall (with Mia Farrow’s Rosemary’s Baby pixie cut), and when Enoch’s not playing Battleship with the ghost of a kamikaze pilot (Ryo Kase), the two lovebirds play badminton in immaculate Zelda and F Scott Fitzgerald drag, ice skate in vintage sport coats, fence or trick-or-treat. And have I mentioned Annabel’s dalmatian coat, red-leather gloves and white stockings, which are just too too?
You may be wondering what Gus Van Sant, the director of Good Will Hunting and most recently Milk, whose disaffected teens are more likely to be prostituting themselves (in My Own Private Idaho), shooting up their school (in Elephant) or hopping freight trains (in Paranoid Park), is doing with something this twee. First-time screenwriter Jason Lew went to NYU with the actress Bryce Dallas Howard, whose famous daddy produced this pastiche of indie movie quirk (Annabel memorizes facts about water fowl; her mother reads self-help books), which is where Van Sant came in. He gets to put his stamp on the movie by shooting in Portland and casting an inexperienced young buck in the lead, although Hopper is no “sk8er boi”; he is the son of the late Dennis Hopper (to whom the film is dedicated) and the godson of Julian Schnabel. He carries himself with an entitlement that, if it is not an act, must make him insufferable.
Van Sant also smuggles in the photographer William Eggleston as an X-ray technician and takes co-credit, with Danny Elfman, for the intrusive score; much better are the songs by Sufjan Stevens, which have a plaintive quality that recalls the Simon & Garfunkel soundtrack in The Graduate and are particularly arresting when the lyric “It’s not your fault” bounces from one speaker to another.
Longtime Van Sant cinematographer Harris Savides shoots in a similarly lulling style; like the stars and their many costume changes, his work is lovely to look at. Having recovered from her fractured, incoherent performance in Jane Eyre, Wasikowska is once more the marvel of economy she was in The Kids Are All Right, and has way more chemistry with Hopper than she had with Michael Fassbender’s Mr. Rochester.
Jane Adams and Schuyler Fisk (Sissy Spacek’s daughter), as Enoch’s aunt and Annabel’s big sister, do what they can with roles that are primarily there to delineate the class difference between poor-little-
rich-boy Enoch and working-class Annabel, an economic disparity grounded more in My Man Godfrey (or a John Hughes film) than in today’s less genteel reality. As for Hopper, he has the tousled hair of a CW star and a lanky frame suitable for vintage apparel, and perhaps that’s all that matters. We may yawn, but the little girls will understand.