RRR

NOTE: THIS ARTICLE MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS FOR RRR, A 10 MONTH OLD MOVIE!

It’s January 19th. I’ve just watched the best movie I’m going to see in 2023. I don’t know if this makes me happy or sad.

It’s a shame I didn’t watch RRR last year proper when it came out. It would have pushed basically EVERYTHING back one spot on my Top 30 List I published right after the new year. It’s THAT good.

RRR is a Tollywood feature, and the best explanation for how that differs from Bollywood that I can find is based on the language and possibly the region in India in which it was made. RRR was filmed in the Telugu language, not Hindi, and apparently that has caused some consternation because Netflix bought the rights to air it in the United States, but they do not provide a Telugu option for language. The writer/director, S.S. Rajamouli, is allegedly unhappy with this, and it’s easy to know why: if you create something, you have to want people to see it in he format in which you made it.

Realizing that no matter what language in which I watched it, the words weren’t going to match the lips, I opted for English. If Telugu had been an option, I’d have chosen that, but… well, it’s the same reason I didn’t watch Prey last year in the Comanche option they gave. If I’m going to be distracted by the actors’ mouths, I might as well do it in English.

Based on my first few paragraphs and my score, clearly the dubbing did not bother me that much.

The story of RRR is a fictionalized and highly mythological tale of the meeting of two real life Indian revolutionaries, Komaram Bheem and Alluri Sitarama Raju. During England’s control of the country, the two meet–one an officer working for the British and seeking to rise in the ranks, the other a member of a tribe looking to save his stolen younger sister from the British governor–and forge a powerful friendship with neither knowing who the other really is.

As the movie unfolds, we get Raja’s tragic backstory that put him on the path to becoming involved with the colonizers of his country, and the friendship of the two is tested as they find out each other’s true identity. And along the way, we get some absolutely bonkers action sequences to go with some delightfully fun dance numbers and humorous character development bits.

TWO UPS AND TWO DOWNS FOR RRR

+I do not know where to even start on the Ups for this movie. Let’s go with this: everything is HUGE. The fight scenes are brutal and intense and wildly over-the-top. The music/dance scenes are hilarious and brilliantly choreographed. The emotional beats are powerful because they work so damn well (more on that in the next up). Nothing about RRR is subdued. Rajamouli made a picture where every scene, every moment, is a swing for a fences. This flick intends to either hit hard or go down in flames trying.

And for me, it connects virtually every single time. The first hour of this movie is so bombastic and silly and joyful that I just couldn’t stop chuckling and smiling. Raju tearing through a crowd of THOUSAND of protesters to arrest one man is absurd, but the filmmaking forces you to get on board. Bheem overpowering and trapping a tiger is only somewhat more believable, but no less fantastical. And a party dance scene where the two put a group of wealthy Brits to shame with their fanciful moves? Hot damn.

After establishing their friendship, the second act sets up the “What Will Happen?” story and forces their identities into the open. This gives us an emotionally powerful third act where they reconcile their friendship against their duties and have some more ludicrous battles. Everything about R-R-R is B-I-G.

+The late second and early third acts only work because the first hour-plus of RRR does such a marvelous job developing the friendship of Bheem (N.T. Rama Rao) and Raju (Ram Charan), and the actors just feel like they’ve been working together for ages to get their chemistry perfect. I was INVESTED in these two men as they grew together, and because of that, a later scene where Raju has captured Bheem and has to torture him is as gutting as it needs to be. When Raju defies his life’s work to free Bheem, it’s a potently bittersweet moment. That isn’t the case if the early building fails.

-I also don’t know where to start on the Downs, but for an entirely different reason. They are hard to find. So I’ll say this: A three-plus hour movie is a three-plus hour movie. And if you can’t find it in your heart to get on board with the zaniness of the first hour, you are going to be in for a LONG ride. By the time things start to get more serious, you’ll likely be well past the point of caring. Even if you embrace everything going on, three hours can be a tough sit for anyone.

-Both Bheem and Raju have love interests, and both side stories are little more than plot points to get the two men together. Raja’s fiancee Seetha in particular is really only here to give Bheem a third act revelation. She is wholly unnecessary besides that. Bheem’s affections for Jenny are much more plot-forward, but she vanishes for vast swaths of the flick after the first act when her purpose (showing what the two men men to each other) isn’t needed anymore. To those ends, both Jenny and Seetha feel more like story contrivances than fleshed out characters. And in a three hour movie, you would think Rajamouli would have had time to round them out.

OVERALL

I turned this off, went to Letterboxd, and kicked a movie out of my list of my twenty-five favorite films of all time to make room for this. I was floored by RRR. Stunned. It’s a blast from beginning to end. It embraces its silliness early and then just nonchalantly flips the switch to get dire and serious late. It does everything so, so well. I can’t say it’s for everyone, I guess, but it sure as heck was for me.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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