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Barkley Michaelson is in a deep life rut. He's struggling to finish his PhD thesis when his father, the learned Eli Michaelson, wins the Nobel Prize for Chemistry. Barkley and his mother, Sarah, a renowned forensic psychiatrist, now have the ill-fortune of living with a man-eating monster whose philandering ways have gotten less and less discrete. As if Barkley's world is not bad enough, on the eve of his father receiving the Nobel, Barkley is kidnapped and the requested ransom is the $2,000,000 in Nobel prize money. Needless to say, Eli refuses to pay it and so starts a venomous tale of familial dysfunction, lust, betrayal and ultimately revenge. In the words of Michel De Montaigne, the 16th century philosopher: "There is more barbarity in eating a man alive than in eating him dead." Written by
Randall Miller & Jody Savin
In the scene where Eli and Sarah are back in their house with the reporters on their lawn, the scene pans between the characters and the mantel. On the mantel is a black and white picture of a man with a mustache which actually happens to be younger Alan Rickman from a previous movie, probably around the time of his movie, Truly Madly Deeply. The picture can be seen multiple times in this scene. See more »
A studio boom mic is clearly visible when the reporter is giving a report from the families' front yard, even though the reporter is speaking into a microphone. See more »
The French essayist, Michel de Montaigne, once said, "I think there is more barbarity in eating a man alive than in eating him dead." The wisdom of it. When you were a kid with an open soul, they told the world consists of good guys and bad guys. I always liked the bad guys. Scar Face over Superman.
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"Nobel Son" is one of the more entertaining movies of the year. It is an intriguing, quirky mix of quick-cutting, edgy direction; an outstanding cast; and some unusually literate text and sophisticated in-jokes for the who-is-doing-it (rather than who-done-it) genre.
Randall Miller is the MTV director, Miller and Jody Savin - each with a rather meager resume as a writer - are responsible for the winning script.
It's rare and fortuitous these days to walk into a theater to see a movie whose plot you know, and still be engaged and surprised. Such is the case here.
With deliberate exaggeration and advance apologies, I'd compare "Nobel Son" to "Sleuth" both for its tit-for-tat, now-you-see-it/now-you-don't continuous cliff-hanger nature, and the sense of amusement and fun even through some rather harrowing action. "Son" is *like* "Sleuth" in the true sense of that grossly abused word: having some of the same characteristics.
Only a great English stage actor such as Alan Rickman could make the silly cartoon figure of Eli Michaelson believable - and he does, becoming sort of likable in his unfettered loathsomeness. Michaelson is rotten to the core, antisocial beyond the worst case of Asperger's, plus a miserable human being - and the winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Mary Steenburgen plays his long-suffering wife, a character with a vaguely delineated past as a storied criminal investigator. Never too far from her is Bill Pullman, a detective, former colleague, current shoulder to lean on. Bryan Greenberg is the son, who - as you must know from all the ads and buzz - is held for ransom, apparently by Shawn Hatosy, a young actor who more than holds his own against the veterans in the cast. Danny Devito and Ted Danson show up, unnecessarily but - in the case of Danson - not irritatingly. Eliza Dushku has a star-turn debut as City Hall (that's the name), a looney poet, painter, and fornicator (their word, not mine).
There is something inexplicable about the cinematography: everybody in the cast looks like hell, sans makeup, sans Vaseline-smeared lens, sans everything. Pullman wins the race to Showing All the Pores, pasty-white, as unattractive as possible, but the others - including the women - are not far behind. A new trend? Makeup crew on strike? Who knows? For sure it's distracting, but "Son" is too good to allow this stupid quirk to interfere.
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