Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Nine Lives - Absolutely one of the best films of the year, which was a shock to me, since I really didn't think much of director Rodrigo Garcia's previous film, Things You Can Tell Just By Looking at Her. Both are essentially collections of linked short films. There are some sensational performances in the film, esp. Robin Wright Penn and Jason Isaacs, who burn up the screen in their few minutes. My favorite scene, however, is "Samantha," in which Amanda Seyfried plays a young woman played like a ping pong ball between parents on opposite sides of her house. It's a character I've never seen before on the big screen, one who is personally ready to leave the nest but who is receiving heavily mixed messages about whether she should go. Incredible work. I was also thorougly moved and entertained by Lorna, the story of a woman (the lively Amy Brenneman) who is attending the funeral of her ex's wife, an awkward situation that takes an unexpected turn into raw emotion. It made a couple of the more uptight members of my audience cluck disapprovingly, but I thought it was another fresh and juicy portrait. At least one scene (Camille, about a woman preparing for a mastectomy) had the stock, pink-ribbon quality too common his previous feature, but even here the depth of character was surprising. Weakest is Ruth, about a motel tryst, in which the brittle scenario cracks under the weight of what it's asked to accomplish. Yet overall, this film is a knock-out, making me wish more filmmakers would try their hand at this form. A bit of trivia: the director's father is famed author Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Separate Lies - Pretty good psychological thriller that serves as a decent vehicle for Tom Wilkinson, one of the very best actors around. Emily Watson is a talented actor herself, and she's in fine form here, a little more reserved and understated than she usually is or than you'd expect from an adultery thriller. Rupert Everett isn't bad, but he doesn't exactly stretch in a supporting performance as the jaded and narcissistic British blue blood. A fairly fresh mix of whodunit and adultery-drama elements, but for some reason it doesn't quite hit the bull's eye.

The Weather Man - Just how sorry are you willing to feel for a handsome young guy who makes a ton of money as a weather man on tv (Nicolas Cage)? This film made me feel more sympathy than I would have expected to, with relationship troubles that are fairly simple yet potent: trouble connecting to his daughter, ignorance about the dangers being faced by his teenage son, separation from his wife, a nagging feeling of inadequacy in filling the shoes of his father (a Pulitzer Prize winner or something, played by Michael Caine). Director Verbinski, quickly developing an eclectic track record of success, aims for something deeper than your typical Hollywood family drama and pulls off the job fairly well. He expends a lot of effort to convince us that Spritz is basically a regular guy, mixed up and confused but trying his best. He's just not that bright, and though I felt his real spiritual problem was obviously the emptiness of his job and the blindness that comes with his privilege, the script seems to imply that what he really needs to do is accept himself for who he is, limitations and all, and stop living for his father's approval (which he finally gets a small taste of). That solution won't fully resolve the melancholy tension of the film, but it is an ending. And the archery imagery is strange enough and organic enough, that the film lands on its feet. Another stirring performance from Cage--not his best, but I was impressed with a sequence in which he heads out to pick up dinner for his family, intent of remembering the one special request from his wife (tartar sauce), but then loses it in a hilarious stream-of-conscious monologue as he walks round trip.

Song: "White Daisy Passing" by Rocky Votolato



Post a Comment

<< Home