Fellow Movie Lovers
This is a well acted but not quite successful film. It is based on the 2004 movie Brodre by Danish director Susanne Bier (After the Wedding, Things We Lost in the Fire). The film’s success or failure rests with director Jim Sheridan. The subject matter, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and its victims is indeed timely and worthy of consideration. The Cahill family Sam, Tommy and Grace represent ordinary people living in extraordinary times.
Sam (Toby Maguire) is the flawless son of a military family; Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) the ne’er-do well son, an ex con, the perfect black sheep; Grace (Natalie Portman) the exquisite, ideal wife of soldier Sam. The plot revolves around Sam’s return to Afghanistan, being shot down, captured and tortured by the Taliban. Meanwhile back home Sam is presumed dead, buried and his grief ridden family struggles with the aftermath of eviscerating loss.
The patness and predictability of the story; the stereotypical Taliban; the metamorphosis of the characters all flowed downstream into a pool of mediocrity.
The movie is saved by the actors who are still young enough that their off screen personas have yet to transcend their screen roles (Fates suffered by Barbra Streisand and Oprah Winfrey). Jake Gyllenhaal (Brokeback Mountain) is gifted at portraying the vulnerable wounded soul and is mesmerizing as Tommy. Natalie Portman (Closer and The Other Boleyn Girl) elevated the act of crying to the Olympic level and remains ethereal with each tear. Toby Maguire (better known as Peter Parker, Spider Man) does the Hyde to Jekyll transformation too convincingly for my taste; but is a talent still evolving.
See, if you have two free hours and enjoy watching three actors in the embryonic stage of their film careers.
TWO AND 1/2 STARS!
UP IN THE AIR
A week ago I saw and reviewed The Messenger. The protagonist in Up in the Air, directed by Jason Reitman (Juno), is Ryan Bingham played with unwavering charm by George Clooney, a messenger in an unusual category. He flies with limited baggage around the country firing employees of companies that management lacks the courage to terminate personally. He tries, with great skill and aplomb, to spin a positive side to their trauma. These interviews played primarily by real individuals who have been euphemistically “down sized” are the focal point, and most successful aspect of the film.
Mr. Clooney whose countenance has improved with age gives a credible performance; Ryan Bingham blissfully accepts his flaws but is not intransigent to change. The catalyst for his development rests in the powers of two women. Alex (Vera Farmiga) sexually provocative and just as savvy in negotiating the elite lane of frequent fliers. Ryan’s goal is to achieve the ten million mile stratosphere, where the air is purified and shared by a privileged few. And Natalie (played with comedic brilliance by Anna Kendrick) the precocious twenty three year old hired to ground the “Ryan’s” of the corporation by firing folks via video conferencing. Natalie’s epiphany is profound.
The movie is entertaining but both Reitman and Clooney have reached higher professional peaks. Reitman’s Thank You for Smoking should be at the pinnacle of your Netflix list. Clooney’s Intolerable Cruelty exhibits his comedic flair and adroitness to perfection.
There are many contemplative messages in Up in the Air but unfortunately for the viewer it never maximizes its cruising altitude.