Let’s get the ridiculout plot of “Restless” right out of the way. Enoch, played by Henry Hopper, a newcomer (also Dennis Hopper’s son), has recently lost his parents, dropped out of school, found an obsession with death and started hanging out at strangers’ funerals. He also now has an invisible friend named Hiroshi who is the ghost of a Japanese Kamikaze pilot from World War II. He is the very definition of indie movie quirk. At one of these funerals, he meets the terminally ill Annabel, played by Mia Wasikowska, better known as Alice in last year’s “Alice in Wonderland.” The film is directed by well-known auteur Gus Van Sant (“Good Will Hunting,” “Milk”) who won the Palme d’Or in 2003 for “Elephant.”
If you haven’t heard the term before, Annabel is Enoch’s manic-pixie dream girl — the girl who has her own set of undeniable quirks all under an unfailingly positive attitude, who falls in love with the troubled male lead and, through the powers of love, cures his depression. The movie never takes any dramatic or unexpected turns; it ends just how it has to end, and you are left wondering most of the time why the ghost is a Japanese fighter pilot — so consider that plotline spoiled.
Fortunately, the movie is saved in the style category. It’s a pretty movie made with pretty people. Everyone’s clothing looks like it came right out of a Calvin Klein ad as they run through the forest and discover run-down, vintage houses. The two leads are breathtakingly attractive even though Wasikowska sports a masculine haircut. The music is probably the most distinct aspect of the film, as its indie guitar melodies carry the whole movie in this twee dream-like space where the leads’ relationship seems destined to work.
The majority of the movie, however, is simply comprised of pretty people doing nothing. They play games with each other and with dead people, they trace their outlines in chalk as if they have died, and the parallels between her dying and his dying inside are made all too obvious. Van Sant’s film hovers far too much on the clean and polished surface to incite any real emotions at all. And then, of course, there’s the kamikaze pilot. What’s he doing there?
The promise of this movie is that Wasikowska elevates her given material into something almost real. She delivers a finely nuanced performance and makes her screen partner seem a thousand times better, which still isn’t saying much for Henry Hopper. Sadly, one good performance cannot save this movie from its vintage-painted emptiness.