A stand-up comedian and his opera singer wife have a two-year-old daughter with a surprising gift.A stand-up comedian and his opera singer wife have a two-year-old daughter with a surprising gift.A stand-up comedian and his opera singer wife have a two-year-old daughter with a surprising gift.
The Rise of Adam Driver
I went to a premiere in Prague and halfway in, people were leaving the theater in droves. That's not necessarily the sign of a bad film to me - not everything is for everyone. I still wanted to like it: I like stylized films. I enjoy the surreal. I'm here for the modern musical, genre-melding, society critique. But I had to fight the growing urge to leave myself.
The positives first: you can see the budget at work, the set design and photography are fabulous. Even the 4th wall breaking beginning with the director himself kicking off the film was kind of cheekily confident and got me excited. The pacing is intense and there's a lot of energy. The leads are obviously fantastic actors.
None of that saves the film, however. For being so tightly paced and filled with intensity and musical numbers - it's actually really boring. All the songs follow the same lazy pattern and so while you enjoy the first couple, eventually you find out it's really just people singing one sentence over and over to a rock/opera backdrop.
Adam Driver's performance, especially on stage as a comedian, is powerful - but he kind of stays in just one gloomy tortured emo cry baby position and you don't get to see much of his redeeming qualities (like you did in, say, A Star is Born). Marion Cotillard's characters is essentially just a figure head for kindness and purity who doesn't get much real space to act.
The film is long but the story basic and utterly predictable. There is a lot of emotional manipulation. You're shown a lot of "gasp" shots like Adam Driver performing oral sex on his pregnant wife, her wiping herself on the toilet, and the story overall develops into more and more troubling areas. This comes with a growing visceral gut punch: the general reception of the film where I saw it was people were feeling kind of anxious and sick to their stomach. That could be a good thing, some of the most powerful cinema is very visceral and art doesn't have to be pretty - if only there were some real substance to justify that. But if you just show the inevitable tragic decline of a family and tightly pack increasingly disquieting sights and atmosphere - but don't really show any real development to your characters or give the audience a proper chance to care about them because everything is delivered just as a singing chapter title - well what you get is 2.5hrs or visually stunning emotional manipulation that is hollow at its core.
The whole thing left me feeling like an artist who is so preoccupied with being artsy that he forgot what's beautiful about art in the first place. If anyone finds its heart, please point me to it.
- Jul 7, 2021