IN "RESTLESS," a troubled loner crashes funerals in Edwardian mourning garb set off by a watch fob, an indie-rocker haircut and Converse sneakers.
He is, in other words, instantly and completely loathsome, and though he is regularly denounced as a childish and selfish, I felt I needed more denunciation.
This despite that Gus Van Sant's "Restless" gives you ample reason to feel sorry for the guy (Henry Hopper), whose sobby backstory gives us an understanding of his self-pity and memorials obsession.
On the other hand, he's also incredibly lucky - in the midst of his self-regarding funk, he meets a lovely girl (Mia Wasikowska of "Jane Eyre") who changes his life. This she does by strength of personality and compassion, and by virtue of a condition that forces her new boyfriend to edge closer to something like humanity.
The way one character balances another feels a little schematic, and the movie is full of gestures and flourishes that distance us from the subjects in play - grief, death, healing.
First the characters' antique, portentous names. He's Enoch and she's Annabelle, the latter lifted from one of Poe's famous verses linking death and love.
Screenwriter Jason Lew also gives Enoch a magical realist companion, a World War II kamikaze pilot (Enoch and the pilot play Battleship, which is the movie's idea of a joke).
And Van Sant dresses everybody in a collection of hipster garb so cute, so twee and so vast one wonders if wardrobe expenses exceeded the "Transformers" effects budget.
And yet it comes all close to working, as would any two-hander featuring Wasikowska. It's just her partner in this two-hander, young Mr. Hopper (Dennis' son) is not yet in her class as an actor. Not nearly. And he certainly doesn't have his dad's kooky hold on the camera.
He's asked to find an intuitive way to bring the viewer close to his character, and he's not yet up to the job.