Thursday, 15 November 2018

Movie Review: Beautiful Boy (2018)

A biographical drama, Beautiful Boy descends into the abyss of damage caused by drug addiction.

Writer David Sheff (Steve Carell) is investigating crystal meth, because his teenaged son Nic (Timothée Chalamet) is hopelessly addicted. In flashbacks, their history is revealed. David divorced Nic's mother Vicki (Amy Ryan) and remarried Karen (Maura Tierney), and as a young kid Nic was shuttled back and forth between parents. He also felt he never measured up to his father's expectations, despite David's attempts to be a loving and supportive parent.

Nevertheless Nic was a star student, a budding writer and had his pick of colleges, but his drug use starting with marijuana and graduating to harder drugs rendered him aimless. A stint in rehab did not help and was followed by an attempt at college life that only exposed Nic to more drug use. Vicki tries her hand at helping her son, and for a while his prospects improve but more trouble lies ahead for the exasperated father and damaged son.

Based on a true story, Beautiful Boy is directed by Felix Van Groeningen and adapted from the two books by David and Nic Sheff. The film is an unyielding journey into the agony of addiction, and while there is plenty of genuine and heart-warming affection on display between father and son, the overall mood is one of despair. Controlled by the iron grip of drugs, Nic pushes ever harder into self-destructive behaviour and David runs out of options on how to help, creating a bleak emotional trajectory.

Despite all the grief and desperation, the film remains non-judgemental in tone, recounting a family's trauma without lecturing. Nic's bad decisions receive a light touch and he is otherwise portrayed as a victim. David is never less than well meaning, his flashes of rage generated by frustration and disappointment, mostly directed at himself for being unable to come up with answers and solutions to his son's nightmare.

The film demands strong navigators through all the darkness, and the two lead performances deliver. Steve Carell is the entry point into the world of anguished parenthood, and he conveys the range of reactions from anger to despondency, passing through a willingness to try almost anything to help. Timothée Chalamet is heartbreaking as the teenager at the mercy of a brain craving ever higher doses of crystal meth, the interludes of normalcy adding poignancy to his next chapter of surrender to substance abuse.

The film is overlong at 120 minutes, and Nic's repetitive ups and downs threaten to meld into each other. As well, large parts Beautiful Boy unfold in flashback, and Van Groeningen overplays his hand in assembling the film's structure. Many stretches have successive scenes that jump all over the timeline from the present to various points in the past, as if intent on undermining cohesion and shaking off sustained interest.

Despite the choppiness, the strength of the material is undeniable. Beautiful Boy registers a forceful impact through a candid portrayal of a once promising life wasting away.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Movie Review: The Wife (2017)

A drama about the secrets hidden behind success, The Wife focuses on the patient woman behind the celebrated man, and finds an intriguing story that goes well beyond moral support.

It's 1992, and celebrated author Professor Joe Castleman (Jonathan Pryce) is announced as the Nobel Prize winner for literature. Along with his wife Joan (Glenn Close), Joe is ecstatic, although their brooding son and fledgling writer David (Max Irons) remains grumpy. They travel to Stockholm for the award ceremony and associated galas and press events. Also attending is journalist Nathaniel (Christian Slater), who is constantly rebuffed in his attempts to write Joe's biography.

The trip starts to expose cracks in the relationship between Joe and Joan, and in flashback their history is revealed. In 1956 he was an already married young college professor and she was his student and a budding writer. Once they married she supported him despite a series of infidelities. Back in the present, communication between David and Joe all but ruptures, Joe is distracted by young event photographer Linnea (Karin Franz Körlof), and Nathaniel keeps probing, looking for the real story behind the famous writer and his outwardly supportive but tight-lipped wife.

Directed by Björn Runge, The Wife is an adaptation of the Meg Wolitzer book, written for the screen by Jane Anderson. The film is a multi-layered dual character study, peeling away the years on a complex relationship to finally reveal its core. With an exhilarating Glenn Close performance full of controlled nuance, The Wife offers delicious intrusion into the life of a seemingly perfect established couple.

Relevant themes abound, and the changing expectations embedded in the dutiful wife's role is the dominant thread running through the film. During her student days Joan meets author Elaine Mozell (Elizabeth McGovern), and her disheartening comments about the prospects of a female author getting any respect or attention carry a heavy influence. Joan grew up accepting her function as the winds beneath his wings, but close to 40 years later her self-esteem demands something different and society expects no less.

Also prevalent throughout the narrative is Joe's evolving treatment of Joan, from early entrancement to taking her for granted and airily belittling her role in his success. Throughout, she does nothing except maintain her poise, despite his serial cheating. It's only once the award festivities get into full swing and Joe's hubris registers new levels that she decides to take a stand, prompted in no small measure by Nathaniel's interference. It is one challenge for Joan and Joe to maintain the delicate balance of their relationship as a professor and his wife; quite another for a Nobel Prize winner to maintain composure while caught in the glare of the spotlight.

The treatment of the interaction between David and Joe does not work as well. David's sullen mood is inconsistent with joining his parents on a celebratory trip, and for an intelligent couple, both Joe and Joan appear inept at communicating with their son about his writing. Runge and Anderson also short-change the subplot with photographer Linnea, who is treated more as a convenient device than a person.

The Wife is a pointed exploration of the power behind the pen, and the inevitable expiry date of every compromise built on duplicity.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Movie Review: Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)

A biographical drama, Can You Ever Forgive Me? offers a slight story enlivened by a strong Melissa McCarthy performance.

It's 1991 in New York City, and Lee Israel (McCarthy) is a once-famous author specializing in biographies. Her books no longer sell, her latest project, a biography of Fanny Brice, generates no interest, and her agent has stopped returning her calls. It does not help that Lee is anti-social, grumpy, filthy and a hard drinker. Other than her elderly cat, her one friend and drinking buddy is Jack Hock (Richard E. Grant), an even less famous pretend author who is now practically homeless but maintains a joie de vivre.

Facing severe writer's block, and unable to pay the rent or look after her sick cat, Lee resorts to selling her memorabilia, then stumbles across an original Noël Coward letter stuffed in a library book. Discovering an active collectors' market for original letters by famous people, she invests in old typewriters and starts forging letters, selling them for cash to various bookstores and traders. Meanwhile, bookstore owner Anna (Dolly Wells) attempts to start a friendship with Lee, who finds it difficult to welcome anyone into her life.

Directed by Marielle Heller and based on Israel's book, Can You Ever Forgive Me? is a small story about a desperate woman tapping into an unregulated market feeding collectors' hunger for celebrity memorabilia. Israel's crimes are mundane, and so the film is not so much about her misdeeds as a character study of a distinctly unlikeable person.

And Melissa McCarthy's comprehensive shift to drama is an impressive success. The only reason to care about Israel is through the performance, and McCarthy finds the sad and lonely soul turned bitter against a literary world that has moved on and dumped her by the wayside. The Nicole Holofcener script could have benefitted from a bigger investment in the events leading to Lee's career downfall, but McCarthy does the most with the material on offer.

The subplot featuring the friendship between Israel and Hock carries echoes of Midnight Cowboy's companionship through squalor. The openly gay Hock is both a cohort and a polar opposite, maintaining a smile, a positive attitude and a glint in the eye despite rapidly dimming life prospects.

The film highlights delicious irony in Lee finding a creative outlet and taking pride in her forgeries. Recognizing she never had the talent or willingness to write in her own voice, she puts on the cloak of deception and mimics the flourish of celebrities. The few hundred dollars paid for each counterfeit letter serve as recognition of her talent, at least as far as she is concerned.

At around 10 minutes under two hours the film stretches its meager material, and the pacing is distinctly slow. But thanks to McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me? earns clemency.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

Monday, 12 November 2018

Movie Review: Boy Erased (2018)

A social drama, Boy Erased exposes the insidious horrors of conversion therapy hiding behind archaic religious dogma.

In the suburban American heartland, teenager Jarred Eamons (Lucas Hedges) is the son of Baptist preacher Marshall (Russell Crowe) and his wife Nancy (Nicole Kidman). Jarred is awakening to his sexuality and is no longer aroused by his long-time girlfriend Chloe (Madelyn Cline). He finally admits to his parents he is gay.

The shocked Marshall turns to church elders for advice, and with Jarred's acquiescence he is admitted to a conversion therapy centre run by Victor Sykes (Joel Edgerton). The group sessions consist of shaming, labelling family members as sinners and generating anger at parents. Jarred is unconvinced by the pressure tactics and starts resenting the sessions, while recalling his first gay sexual experiences with college student Henry (Joe Alwyn) and art aficionado Xavier (Théodore Pellerin).

Based on the true story of Garrard Conley as documented in his book, Boy Erased lifts the cover on the bogus practice of trying to "heal" homosexuals, a pseudoscience not backed by any evidence. Directed by Edgerton, the film is quietly enraging as it explores the vulnerability of teenagers not conforming to societal expectations, and unwilling to rupture bonds with parents.

Jarred's journey provides a sturdy and disquieting punch, as he makes progress towards self-empowerment and breaking away from the thick blanket of darkness imposed by blind fallacies.While Sykes and his attendants may stay just on the right side of avoiding outright physical violence, the psychological trauma inflicted on the patients is disturbing in the extreme, designed to undermine self esteem, damage trust in families and surrender to controlling doctrinal fallacies.

At just five minutes under two hours the film is longer than it needs to be, and the majority of the patients going through the therapy with Jarred don't graduate past superficial introductions. But Lucas Hedges maintains a steady presence to pull the story through some of its repetitive scenes. His performance avoids theatrics and finds the fine line between curious victim and courageous protagonist.

Boy Erased is helped immeasurably by characterizing Nancy and Marshall in human terms, as parents who genuinely care but who only know what they have been programmed to know. As Jarred starts to define himself and assert his identity, he forces his family to shift, possibly pointing towards a path of optimism. Nancy will need to confront her acquiescence, and Marshall will search for the common ground between his devout religious beliefs and fatherhood. Nicole Kidman and Russell Kidman each get scenes to shine, and contribute to the film's impact.

Boy Erased is what happens when ignorance and fear provide fuel for charlatans to dispense travesties that have no place in modern society.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Movie Review: Looper (2012)

A science fiction thriller with a riotous premise, Looper delivers mind bending and intelligent excitement.

In Kansas of the year 2044, Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is employed by gangster boss Abe (Jeff Daniels) as an assassin to kill mob targets sent back from 30 years in the future, when time travel is invented but outlawed. Abe's assassins, known as loopers, also include the high-strung Kid Blue (Noah Segan) and the more laid back Seth (Paul Dano) who is among the humans evolved to possess a low level of gimmicky telekinesis. Joe maintains a rocky relationship of sorts with exotic dancer Suzie (Piper Perabo).

The loopers all know that eventually they will kill their future self, live out 30 years in retirement before looping back to their death. When Seth fails to kill his future self, he pays a high price, but Joe learns than a vicious new mob boss known only as the Rainmaker has taken control of the future and is terminating all looper contracts.

When the future old version of Joe (Bruce Willis) loops back he evades death, and both versions of Joe incur Abe's wrath. Old Joe is on a mission to find the young Rainmaker and kill him, a quest that will involve single mother Sara (Emily Blunt), who is living on an isolated farm with her young son Cid.

Written and directed by Rian Johnson, Looper blends in elements from The Terminator 2 with traditional gun-for-hire and destiny-versus-fate narratives. The result is a refreshingly original science fiction time travel action movie, with a focus on characters rather than mechanics. Joe and Old Joe admit to each other that it is best not to try and understand the mental convolutions of co-existing in the same time zone, and Johnson wisely hustles the action along towards a tidy resolution.

With a quite complicated and creative hypothesis, Johnson astutely invests almost the entire first half of the film to build a sturdy foundation. Joe's profession, employers, co-workers, sexual partner, weaponry, and the consequences of botching a job are introduced sequentially to normalize the mobster world of Kansas in the year 2044, before Willis as Old Joe and Blunt as the woman to bring them together make their appearance.

The second half then gallops forth as a smart character-driven action movie, with Johnson reserving a couple of science evolution surprises for maximum impact when needed most. And for all the innovative thinking on display, Looper starts to converge on universal human themes as it hurtles towards its climax. Motherhood, sacrifice and the power of dedicated nurturing rise to the fore.

The Kansas setting gives the film a distinctive flavour. Wide open spaces surrounded by cornfields capable of obscuring everything from vagrants to assassins create unique opportunities, and help to demystify the relatively near future.

The cast is capable, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis and Emily Blunt adding plenty of quality without getting in the way of the imaginative story. Gordon-Levitt and Willis succeed in mirroring two sides of the same damaged person, while Blunt injects the most nuance with a tough exterior hiding both vulnerability and steely determination. Looper is filled with macho guys twirling futuristic guns, but not surprisingly it's a woman who knows how best to influence the future.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Movie Review: Greenberg (2010)

A drama and romance with some comic elements, Greenberg focuses on quirkiness caused by mental issues but is hampered by a lack of cohesion and an unconvincing romance.

Phillip Greenberg (Chris Messina) and his family use twentysomething and single Florence (Greta Gerwig) as a personal assistant, nanny and sitter to their dog Mahler. The Greenbergs depart to a multi-week vacation in Vietnam, leaving Florence in charge, although Phillip's undependable brother Roger (Ben Stiller) arrives from New York to stay at the empty house. Roger has just been released from hospital after suffering a nervous breakdown, and is intent on doing nothing for a while.

Roger and Florence are both lonely, meet at the house, and start exploring a relationship. Roger also reconnects with his old bandmate Ivan (Rhys Ifans), who is going through as trial separation from his wife, and Ruth (Jennifer Jason Leigh), an ex-girlfriend. Eric (Mark Duplass), another former bandmate, is still angry at Roger for botching a record deal 15 years prior. The dog Mahler suffers a serious illness, forcing Roger and Florence to spend more time together, but his erratic behaviour and mood swings are difficult to tolerate.

Written and directed by Noah Baumbach, Greenberg is a choppy experience. The initial focus on Florence works well, but Baumbach wants to tell the story of Roger, and the film quickly runs into trouble when the focus shifts. Whether due to his nervous breakdown or just his foul personality, Roger is shiftless, aimless, undependable, and temperamental, and it's difficult to see what Florence or anyone else would see in him to prompt a desire to have a relationship.

In the absence of a rational romance Greenberg offers precious little else. Roger's strained relationship with his former bandmates is promising context but the same conversation is repeated three times, and the health issues of the dog Mahler consume inordinate screen time as an excuse for Roger, who does not drive, to keep on calling Florence. Her excessive helpfulness and inability to ever stand up for herself is frustrating, but also the one explanation offered as to why she keeps accommodating his mood swings.

Greta Gerwig is far and away the the best thing in the movie as a free spirited woman starting to wonder if the prime of her life is slipping away, and Greenberg suffers most in its second half when Florence is absent for long stretches. Ben Stiller does little other than push moody button.

Greenberg aims for idiosyncratic, but stumbles into obnoxious.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

Movie Review: Cowboys And Aliens (2011)

A wild blend of western and science fiction, Cowboys And Aliens successfully pays homage to both genres with an engrossing story and plenty of spirited characters.

A man later identified to be outlaw Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) wakes up in the middle of the desert, wounded, with total memory loss and a strange metal gauntlet affixed to his wrist. He makes his way to the town of Absolution, where he meets the preacher Meacham (Clancy Brown), Doc (Sam Rockwell) and his wife Maria (Ana de la Reguera).

Jake also tangles with the no-good Percy Dolarhyde (Paul Dano), attracting the attention of Sheriff John Taggart (Keith Carradine) and Percy's father Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford), a powerful cattleman who control the town. Also hanging around Absolution is the mysterious Ella (Olivia Wilde), who seems to take a special interest in Jake and his gauntlet.

Just as Taggart is bundling off Jake and Percy into a prisoner wagon, Absolution is attacked by alien spacecraft that bomb the town and snaggle victims, with Taggart, Maria and Percy among those abducted. Jake's gauntlet turns into an energy weapon and he is able to shoot down one of the jets. The alien pilot escapes on foot, prompting Jake, Woodrow, Doc and Ella to set off in pursuit. Meanwhile Jake starts to have flashbacks to his story, involving stolen gold, the love of his life Alice (Abigail Spencer), and being tortured by the aliens.

An adaptation of the graphic novel by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg directed by Jon Favreau, Cowboys And Aliens delivers exactly what the title promises: a raucous adventure featuring all the traditional elements of both old-school westerns and invaders-from-space sci-fi movies. Mushing the two genres was never going to be easy, and with the premise defined and limited by the title and an army of five screenwriters involved in conjuring up a script, the potential for a disaster was high.

But Favreau gets most things right. While the plot is creaky in some areas, particularly in confining the aliens to pure evil and barely explaining their motives, there is more than enough story depth to maintain interest. The film plays with some eternal western themes including greed, atonement, new starts and the individual search for salvation, and starting with the loner-on-a-mission ethos, builds up momentum towards a stronger-together human stand against the invaders.

The film is rich with characters, and a blend of stars and characters actors (many with western pedigrees) help bring the story to life. Daniel Craig effortlessly slips into the mysterious and dangerous quiet stranger persona, and holds the centre of the film together. Harrison Ford is surprisingly effective as the morally suspect cattle baron with a lot to learn. Olivia Wilde's Ella is initially out of place until she proves to exceptionally out of place, stitching the story together.

Favreau captures traditional western vistas in gorgeous colours, and the alien effects are generally good and seamlessly integrated, despite some choppiness creeping in during the more frantic action scenes. The tone is straight-faced and largely serious. For all the temptations to play Cowboys And Aliens as an irony-infused self-aware semi-comedy, the film offers only the slightest undercurrent of humour, mainly derived from the strength of the characters. The respectful attitude is on target: Cowboys And Aliens is a surprisingly straight shooter.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Movie Review: Away From Her (2006)

A drama about dealing with life-changing dementia, Away From Her explores the emotional pain and unexpected adjustments triggered by loss of mental capacity.

In rural Ontario, Grant Anderson (Gordon Pinsent) pays an unexpected visit to a woman called Marian (Olympia Dukakis). In flashback, his story is revealed.

Grant and his wife Fiona (Julie Christie) are a retired couple married for more than forty years, and dealing with the reality of her worsening Alzheimer's disease. He is still struggling with feelings of guilt over his long-ago episode of infidelity. Together they reluctantly make the difficult decision to admit Fiona into the Meadowlake Care home, run by administrator Madeleine Montpellier (Wendy Crewson) and head nurse Kristy (Kristen Thomson).

Fiona quickly adapts to life at the care home, and to Grant's deep chagrin strikes up a close friendship with another resident, the fragile and non-talkative Aubrey (Michael Murphy). Fiona starts to regard Grant's visits as intrusions, and when her condition worsens, he has to find a way to keep her happy and maintain his own balance.

An adaptation of an Alice Munro short story adapted and directed by Sarah Polley, Away From Her is an unblinking view of the trauma caused by mental attrition. Infused with the chilly cold of rural Ontario and the subdued tones of hardy characters used to dealing with harsh elements, the film tackles the slow memory fade that steals precious memories and destroys lifelong bonds.

While it would have been easy for the film to wallow in tragedy, after setting the context Polley chooses a different track: Away From Her sparkles with pragmatism. As much as Grant and Fiona are suffering through the heartache of her disappearing ability to remember life, both deal with the situation in a matter-of-fact manner driven by their circumstance.

As dictated by her decaying brain, once Fiona settles at the care home the here and now of Aubrey's companionship becomes much more important than the fading comfort provided by the mostly forgotten past represented by Grant. And for him, finding solutions that preserve Fiona's comfort and his sanity become a primary preoccupation, superseding unhelpful feelings of guilt and abandonment. The film rises well above moping and evolves into a story of resilient coping, the self-preservation of the human spirit rising to the fore.

Both Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent are excellent. Christie is haunting as a woman aware of her decline, her moments of lucidity becoming more rare as the merciless sinkholes in her mind expand. Pinsent is a victim, support and problem solver rolled into one, his anger and frustration palpable beneath a sturdy exterior.

Away From Her is an imposed rather than chosen condition, and both Grant and Fiona will respond with unexpected yet ultimately natural actions.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Movie Review: Annihilation (2018)

A science fiction horror film, Annihilation offers plenty of original material without quite reaching the profound heights it aims for.

Lena (Natalie Portman), a cellular biology professor and former army soldier, is in quarantine and being debriefed as the only survivor of a treacherous mission. In flashback, she recounts her story. She was grieving the disappearance of her husband Kane (Oscar Isaac), a Special Forces soldier missing for 12 months, when he suddenly reappears at home in a daze and suffering severe internal injuries. They are both whisked away to a secret military and scientific base in a large isolated natural reserve.

With Kane sedated and under treatment, psychologist Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh) explains to Lena that they are on an edge of an ever-growing area occupied by "the Shimmer", an alien phenomenon that crash landed onto Earth. All previous missions into the area have been annihilated, and Kane is the first survivor to ever walk out. Lena joins Ventress and four other women scientists preparing to enter the Shimmer, including Thorensen (Gina Rodriguez), Radek (Tessa Thompson) and Sheppard (Tuva Novotny).

Written and directed by Alex Garland, Annihilation is a beautifully photographed, glossy and innovative film. Capably blending human psychology with science and no shortage of horror and gore, Garland introduces plenty of thought-provoking material. The emphasis on a group of women scientists is refreshing, as is the premise of women scientists deployed to fulfill a mission where military men have previously failed. The fantastical imagery is seamlessly produced, and the monsters contribute moments of effective horror.

However, the film does suffer from an unfortunate inattention to important details, including an almost total disregard for basic scientific and military discipline. Garland decides to bypass some seemingly critical explanations, such as how a group of scientists are equipped with military rifles, why they proceed to touch and take samples within the Shimmer without any protective equipment, and according to what logic are guards posted on vulnerable open ground instead of on a readily available watchtower..

Garland does better on the more intellectual elements. One fundamental question emerging within the Shimmer is the reconstruction of nature, including humans, according to new cellular compositions, and the film asks whether markedly reimagined natural rules could possibly be a good thing. And the in-built human propensity to deconstruct as an escape and coping mechanism becomes a common thread in the lives of the women on the expedition.

While Garland does try to give each of the scientists a backstory, other than Lena and Ventress, they remain relatively featureless.

The final climactic resolution weaves together threads of renewal emerging from the pre-existing condition, and contains beauty, potential and mystery. Garland leaves most of the interpretation up for discussion, and while Annihilation is far from perfect, the Shimmer offers plenty of wonders to ponder.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Movie Review: Third Person (2013)

A multi-story drama and romance, Third Person explores themes of loss and trust. While enjoying a spectacular cast in fine form, the pacing is lackadaisical and the narrative commonalities emerge too late.

The film presents three seemingly unrelated stories set in three different cities. At a Paris hotel, Michael (Liam Neeson) is a Pulitzer Award winning writer working on his latest book. He is separated from his wife Elaine (Kim Basinger) as they both deal with a family tragedy. Michael is joined in Paris by his lover Anna (Olivia Wilde), a vivacious aspiring writer. The relationship between Michael and Anna is passionate and tumultuous as she deals with a secret of her own.

In Rome, Scott (Adrien Brody) is an underhanded garment businessman, specializing in stealing and copying haute couture designs. Scott is still grieving a personal loss, and at bar he meets single mom Monika (Moran Atias). She needs money to rescue her daughter from human smugglers, and Scott finds himself irresistibly drawn to her plight.

In New York, Julia (Mila Kunis) is a perpetually late mother desperately working with her lawyer Theresa (Maria Bello) to win back the right to visit her young son. Julia was accused of harming her child, a charge she denies, but her artist husband Richard (James Franco) now has sole custody. Julia accepts a job as a hotel maid to make ends meet and to prove to a court psychologist that she deserves a chance to spend time with her son.

Written and directed by Paul Haggis, Third Person is tantalizingly close to being a good film, but unfortunately lands on the wrong side of emotionally static. The exploration of loss, yearning and the search for healing is worthwhile and handled with sensitivity. But all three stories start saddled with the heavy baggage of guilt, misfortune and grief, and that is where they stay. A few revelations work their way into the narratives, but the overarching cloud of gloom settles in early and never yields.

Given the prevailing lack of forward progression, at 137 minutes the film is too long. Haggis labours towards a final twist knotting the three stories together, but this is a case of genuinely bad timing. The final revelations tumble forth a few minutes before the end credits, and while the resolution is decent, it arrives well past the point of rescue.

Michael's fierce relationship with Anna is the central story, and works its way to the film's one startling moment. Scott's descent into Monika's world is more of a slow burn and a protracted case of who is playing who, and suffers from too much repetition. With more dedicated exposition, both chapters could be imagined as the basis for fine stand-alone films. In contrast Julia's struggle to prove herself worthy of visiting her son is remarkably slight and a relative mismatch in depth and quality.

The cast almost rescues the film, and the one benefit of the long running time is that many of the stars get to sink their teeth into the characters. Neeson and Wilde are most prominent, but Brody, Atias and Kunis all grab the substantive opportunities to shine.

Third Person looks for balms to help heal open wounds of guilt and regain lost trust. Regrettably, the long-winded routes to salvation prove to be tortuously dour.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...