Sunday, April 11th, 2004
Pictures Of Matchstick Men
Ridley Scott is one of those sacred cow directors I have a good time picking on. While much of it is just to get his fans riled up, I do have genuine reservations about his work. He’s an amazing technical and visual director, but I find his storytelling average and his attention to character generally weak – they function alright within the larger context of the film, but don’t have a whole lot of depth on their own. So his decision to make Matchstick Men, ostensibly a character-driven comedy, had me intrigued. I didn’t want to see a train wreck of a film to prove me right, but did want to see if my knee-jerk opinions were accurate.
I found Matchstick Men to be an interesting film, muchly because of Scott’s hand. Like most of his work, it looks amazing – it’s very stylishly shot and the artiness of the camerawork is somewhat incongruous with the story, giving the whole thing a slightly surreal feel. Nicolas Cage and Sam Rockwell do well as a pair of small-time grifters. Cage walks the line of overacting as Roy, the lead con artist with an encyclopedia of neuroses and tics – his quirkiness seems a little overdone, particularly the obsessive-compulsiveness, but that’s the sort of territory in which Cage excels, so it turns out alright. Rockwell isn’t developed nearly as much and remains the smooth-talking smart-ass wingman for most of the film. Alison Lohman is impressive as Cage’s long-lost wanna-be con-artist daughter, and not just because she’s a 24-year old convincingly playing a 14-year old. While she doesn’t quite look 14 (at least as I remember 14-year old girls looking), she more than compensates through Angela’s personality.
The story is charming and moves along well, and while the big picture may not hold up scrutiny (not even twelve hours on and I’m finding fairly large problems with it even though while watching it I bought it wholesale), it does remain entertaining and compelling throughout. I think a lot of that is due to Ridley Scott being out of his element and having to do things differently than he would in a large-scale sci-fi epic. It feels a little like a career tuba player taking a swing at the trumpet. Matchstick Men is recommended if you promise not to think too heavily on it.
So there was no further Neko Case this weekend as I confirmed what I’d always suspected – I am an old man. No way was I going out at 2AM and staying out till 5 or 6 in the morning or however late they played. It is some consolation to me that I hear the set lists were near identical to the shows at Lee’s last week, so since I had such a good time at that show, this one couldn’t possibly have been better. Or at least that’s what I’ll tell myself. Getting loads of sleep is a perfectly fine consolation prize, though.
np – Galaxie 500 / On Fire