Maybe It's Me, But I Found This Completely Uninvolving
Well, my late uncle was the fabulous "Sylvia Sidney," long the preeminent drag performer in Boston. I was certainly predisposed to like this movie. It ended up being just the second critically-acclaimed movie I've ever given up on in my life (out of 1000+), and the first that I gave up on because I thought it wasn't good. (The other was "Russian Ark," an obviously brilliant film which I simply couldn't make any sense of because I knew nothing of Russian or art history.) Rodriguez has a knack for conceiving arresting images (the back of the DVD case has a few such stills), but I found his sense of where to put the camera absolutely alien; I kept on saying to myself "I would never frame this shot that way." To my eyes and brain, it had the look and rhythm of a student film.
I know others have praised the performances, but I found them flat nearly to the point of amateurishness. There's nothing to like about any of the characters in the first 45 minutes (as far as I got), and I ordinarily have no problem with that; if the actors can communicate the inner pain that drives them to be so difficult, I readily empathize (see my review of Greenberg). If the actors just seem to be stating their lines, that's another story.
It's a shame, because (as the other reviewer notes) there's a good film here waiting to get out. I could imagine watching the same narrative and being entranced, if it were well-acted and shot by a director with talent, oops, I mean whose cinematic style resonated with me. I honestly can't say for certain that Rodriguez is barely competent behind the camera (and with actors) and has been given enormous slack by the critical community because of his subject matter. It's possible that his aesthetic is simply opposite mine. But I will note then when I watch Godard or Ozu, whose styles don't mesh well with my brain, I'm still aware that they're freakin' good: they're just not to my taste.
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