Mittwoch, 25. Dezember 2013

Short takes

"Enough Said" has a script that's far from perfectly constructed but has a very human core as its central conceit. It also features several really well-written scenes that not only delight with their sparks of verbal wit but reveal interesting insights into the psychology of marriage and divorce. Julia Louis-Dreyfus nails the adorable tentativeness and vulnerability of a single mom bracing herself for the empty nest by welcoming in a new romance and proves extremely likeable despite the despicableness of her character's behavior. James Gandolfini is also solid, especially after the truth comes out, hearts get broken and time starts the healing. Writer/director Nicole Holofcener can't quite lift the movie above the contained neatness of a TV-production, but as it is, the relationship comedy's enjoyably quippy with a couple of tender moments.

"Les salauds (Bastards)" has pacing and editing problems, taking an unextraordinary revenge tale and telling it in an unreasonably slow, often confusing manner. Sure it wouldn't be a French film if everything is laid out according to common logic and even ends up explained, but this one is probably a little too cool for its own good, throwing out basic plot points so randomly and carelessly it advances no visible cause other than to provoke. How writer/director Claire Denis employs noirish elements in this film is not always successful. The leaden, largely underlit look is suffocating without being thrilling and while the cold, electronic notes of the film score are a nice touch, they are not used nearly enough nor as variedly as one'd like.  

"All Is Lost" is a one-man show (Robert Redford) set on a sinking boat with next to no dialogue. As far as ideas for movies go, it doesn't get much more art-house than this. But despite being handsomely photographed (that final shot!) and vividly scored, it's made with a curious lack of express artistic aspirations. J.C. Chandor's script and direction are instead characterized by a stubborn sense of practicality that renders the character's precarious situation very realistic for sure, but does nothing to alleviate the inherently unappetizing subject matter. So while it's an admirably daring untertaking skillfully realized, for those who are not fans of seafaring or handiwork it might be about as exciting as reading the survival manual.

"Much Ado About Nothing" revives the beloved play by Shakespeare in contemporary America to not quite satisfactory results. While the themes of love, deception and misunderstanding prove to be timelessly, universally relatable and fun, the decision to cling to the archaic, 500-year-old language sticks out like a sore thumb within the modern-day setting and the conspicuously American performance style. Writer/director Joss Whedon may well be chasing the theatrical incongruity caused by the cultural transplant, but in practice it makes everything look like oddly crude playacting and the whole piece comes across as incredibly dated. Visually and sonically the movie is irreproachable, the chilled jazzy soundtrack, also courtesy of Whedon, is particularly inspired.  

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