Sunday, September 14th, 2008
Sunday Cleaning – Volume 98
While not working or sleeping, I spent most of the past week hitting things up at the Toronto International Film Festival. Not the best batch of films I’ve seen at the festival, but the crapshoot is part of the fun, n’est-ce pas?
|Mark Aselton / Gigantic
For his directorial debut, Mark Aselton manages to wrangle together a dream cast including Paul Dano, Zooey Deschanel, John Goodman and Ed Asner and it’s the strength of these players that manages to elevate Gigantic from being just a fair first effort to something decent. It has a somewhat vague plot relating to commitment, adoption and mattress sales and engaging individual sequences that don’t always tie into a coherent whole. The dialogue is less precious and quirky but still very much post-Wes Anderson and it’s to the credit of the two leads that Deschanel and Dano are able to turn their rather boilerplate characters – manic pixie dream girl and stoically zoned out guy, respectively – into real people. It’s not an overall success – in the post-film Q&A the director admitted that some of the more curious stuff, like Zach Galifianakis’ homicidal homeless man were in there just because – but it certainly augers well for his future works. Especially if he can keep getting ensembles like this to work with.
|Vicente Amorim / Good
I wish I’d know that Good was a play before it was a film because it would have explained away a number of my complaints about the adaptation. It would have explained why it was so static and monologue-ish and heavy-handed in its look at how normal citizens of 1930s Germany stood idly by or even signed up to participate in the rise of Nazism. It”s really a question that’s far too complex to ever move out of the realm of rhetoric and attempts to address it in a 90-minute film are futile and overly simplistic. While Viggo Mortensen gets top billing, his befuddled professor character is a disappointment but Jason Isaacs as his Jewish best friend fares far better. As far as acting goes – not so much in regards to plot.
|Guy Ritchie / RocknRolla
I had initially been only moderately enthused about this as I thought the Guy Ritchie English Gangster Film genre was played out. As it turns out, it’s only the Guy Ritchie wannabes that should be avoided – the original still has the goods. Though it’s another ensemble crime/comedy caper in the vein of Snatch and Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels, it’s still got loads of style and wit. There’s Russian mobsters, English hard men, junkies, poofs, Stringer Bell, a femme fatale and a painting of a MacGuffin. Only the titular rock star doesn’t really seem to have any particular purpose, but he’s good for a laugh. Ritchie is obviously in his comfort zone and complaining about that is like going to a Bond film and saying, “what, another spy film?”. It is what it is.
|Richard Eyre / The Other Man
I spent the first third of The Other Man convinced that the projector had skipped a reel. Though it was obvious that the time-jumping narrative was deliberate, I couldn’t believe that it was being executed in such a graceless manner. I mean, I can appreciate the necessity of the device to keep the viewer off balance, but when you’re doing so with scenes that are staged identically and you can’t tell if a day/month/year has elapsed or even what country the characters are in, well that’s just shoddy storytelling. And it’s a bit of a waste of what could have been an interesting story, with Neeson as a husband obsessed with finding the man he suspects his wife of having an affair with – that’s Banderas, and that’s not a spoiler because you see as much before the opening credits are done. Neither is at their best (I personally think Banderas is a better actor than he generally gets credit for) and I’m fairly certain that the moments of laugh out loud humour were wholly unintentional.