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In the interest of variety, I only picked one film per director, but some of those choices are interchangeable (I could have listed Fargo just as easily for the Coens, or Mars Attacks! for Tim Burton, or Magnolia for PT Anderson etc.). And I'm sure there's at least one decent film made between 1999 and 2005 that I could have included, but off the top of my head I can't think of any.
Don't Worry Darling (2022)
Slow moving, predictable, ultimately pointless.
Did you know that if you rearrange the letters of the title "Don't Worry Darling" you get "shaggy dog story"? No? Well, that's because it's not true. But it should be, because I can't think of a better way to define the meaning of that expression than watching this impeccably well-made but deadly boring misfire.
I suppose it's still possible to get a good laugh at a long, meandering joke even if you already know the punchline, but it takes a great comedian with a lot of panache and storytelling talent to pull that off. Unfortunately "Don't Worry Darling" lacks both (not to mention the the fact that it's not even a comedy: it tries to be a very serious thriller with some deep meaning behind it).
Unless you've been living under a rock for the past several months and managed not to see the trailer or read about all the behind-the-scenes drama that accompanied the film's release, you probably know that the film is about Alice, a homemaker living what seems to be a perfect life with her handsome husband Jack in the kind of suburban 1950s community that would make even Norman Rockwell gag because of how stereotypical and unrealistic it looks.
Of course, there's something lurking under the surface of this slice of idyllic of Americana. And therein likes the film's biggest problem: any audience member who hasn't suffered from brain damage or has lived in cryogenic stasis for the past 50 years will immediately realize that something is totally off. But the film goes on and on for what seems like an eternity trying to build tension by slowly giving hints that something is not quite right to an audience that became aware of it before the main credits were over.
Is this a Westworld-inspired remake of The Stepford Wives, where all the compliant and docile housewives have been replaced by robots? Or is it all a dream? Are there aliens involved? What's the deal with the mysterious factory where all the men go to work every day while the ladies stay home making pot roasts or go gossip around the pool? After about half an hour, you will be ready to yell at the screen a resounding "Who cares? Get on with the plot already!"
You get the impression that director Olivia Wilde feels like she has a big urgent message to deliver to audiences about the patriarchy and about how men long for women to be subservient to men just as they were supposed to be 70 years ago even though they are more sexually liberated/adventurous.
Unfortunately for her, the same message has already been driven home multiple times (and more effectively) by countless pop cultural specimens: any random joke in your average episode of The Simpsons has more cultural relevance and bite than the entirety of this muddled, slow-moving film. She is like Paul Revere, trying to warn that the English are coming but arriving a week too late because she walked instead of riding a horse.
Wilde shares the blame with a bloated self-important screenplay that might have had a chance of success it it had been adapted into a short Black Mirror episode instead of a 123 minutes feature film.
It's too bad, because the film looks great and the cast puts in a decent effort: Florence Pugh brings new meaning to the phrase "rising above the material" -- she's carries the film by herself and is the only reason why I kept watching the whole thing. Everyone else earns their paychecks, with varying degrees of success. Chris Pine is supposed to be this Svengali-like mysterious cult leader but he comes across more like the kind of platitude-spewing motivational speaker that your HR department might parade in front of your company once a year; Harry Styles is a pretty face who is only asked to look handsome.
It's probably unfair to compare a film with an idealized version of it, but it's impossible not to wonder what someone like David Lynch or John Waters would have done with the same story. We'll never know, but I'm pretty sure their take would not have been as pedestrian and unimaginative as the one we got from Olivia Wilde.
"Don't Worry Darling" is highly recommended only to fans of mid-century architecture and style: during the scene when Jack and Alice have a decidedly non-1950s sexual encounter in their dining room, my blood pressure went up only because I was lusting after their Scandinavian design table and chair set rather than because of what Harry Styles was doing to pleasure Florence Pugh.
That's a 'nope' from me, dawg!
The way most critics are raving about "Nope" makes me wonder if I've been the victim of an elaborate prank where I was shown a different film than what they have been watching.
Because "Nope" is, at best, adequate -- a watchable sci-fi action picture that, if it weren't for the fact that it's directed by an Oscar-winning red-hot director and has a budget of roughly $60 mil and stars an Oscar-winning actor, would not be out of place among the myriad of B-movies that litter the virtual shelves of Netflix or Prime Video.
First, the good stuff: the film looks gorgeous. Lots of beautiful shots of cloudy skies and spectacular night and day vistas. It was shot on Imax cameras by a master (Hoyte Van Hoytema, Christopher Nolan's regular cinematographer), and it shows. And the dark, foreboding imagery helps Jordan Peele build some effective tension during the first half of the film, when the audience (and the film's characters) still don't know exactly what's going on and what exactly is threatening them.
But then the film devolves into a mess where everyone (including the main antagonist) behaves illogically because that's what the plot requires them to do in order to hit all the subtextual marks that Jordan Peele wants them to deliver. And therein lies the biggest problem with the film: it's a very unsubtle 'message' movie, and Jordan Peele, really wants you to get what he's trying to say, to the point of driving the point home with a hammer, over and over.
Without going into spoiler territory, the film's plot is a not-so-veiled metaphor for the state of entertainment in our society. All the characters have some sort of connection to the entertainment industry in some form and/or are meant to symbolize a facet of it: the protagonists are two African American siblings, one of whom runs the family business, a ranch providing horses for Hollywood movies; the other is a wannabe performer/entertainer.
Their business is dying: animals are being supplanted by CGI, and horses can be unpredictable on set and hard to control, and therefore replaceable. Any parallel with the perception of people of color in the same industry is of course not accidental. Then you have the kid who works at (now defunct) Fry's Electronics and is all about digital videos and streaming content. His name is Angel, probably because calling him YouTube or TikTok would have been a tad too transparent. Then there's the the grizzled, obsessed old filmmaker (played by Michael Wincott, your go-to guy when you want someone who looks gruff and curmudgeonly, down to the 'I just swallowed drain cleaner' hoarse voice) who is disillusioned with the drivel he's forced to shoot nowadays and is ready to roll with his trusty hand-cranked non-digital film camera and to sacrifice everything to the altar of cinematic art.
We also have the Asian cowboy slash circus entertainer (Steven Yeun) who suffered a traumatic event as a child actor which left him with deep unhealed psychological scars simmering under the surface, which all stereotypical ex-child actors are supposed to have and which of course will lead him to make horribly wrong, life-changing decisions. And, in what is the most transparent cypher in film packed to the gills with them, you have a TMZ reporter that is not even given a name or a face: he just shows up at some point on an electric motorcycle wearing a reflective helmet (get it? He's just mirroring society's obsession with capturing celebrities' life! Hoo boy!) and expensive cameras. And of course we all know how Hollywood feels about paparazzi, so if you can't guess what's going to happen to him, you will love this film unironically.
Nobody in the film behaves the way a regular human being would. They do things because Jordan Peele needs them to deliver a message to the audience, logic and common sense be damned. I'm not even sure the film takes place in the real world, since all the events seem to involve only this microcosm of characters and nobody else. It's like a Beckett play, except that the stage is a vast valley in the California desert inhabited only by a handful of people and the outside world doesn't exist and is somehow unaware of the very visible and bizarre events taking place.
Imagine if Jaws took place in the California desert and the shark had a message against Hollywood and showbiz consumerism painted in bright neon letters on its side, and Brody, Quint and Hooper were replaced by much less competent characters whose purpose is not to kill the man-eating menace but to take pictures of it so they can sell it to Oprah and become rich, and you'll have a pretty good idea of the basic plot of "Nope" (and the Jaws comparisons don't end there -- you'll see what I mean at the end of the film).
As a scary movie, Nope is pretty devoid of actual scares (Peele has to resort to the oldest trick in the book, the 'jump scare', in a couple of occasions). It's also surprising tame in the blood and gore department (most of the carnage takes place offscreen).
The talented cast does what they can with the material. Daniel Kaluuya's OJ is nicely understated: a no-nonsense guy who seems to react to most of the craziness around him with a shrug or by saying "nope" (of course). Kiki Palmer is fine as his sister, though in typically cliched fashion, she suddenly switches from "shrieking, terrified woman" to "resourceful heroine" when the plot demands it. But they can't save the film because they have to go through the motions of a plot that becomes increasingly preposterous (the plan that they devise in the third act makes no sense the more you think about it) Nope continues the downward trajectory of Jordan Peele after Get Out and Us. The former, still a modern masterpiece, succeeded because the metaphorical subtext didn't get in the way of the plot: even if you completely ignored the clear references to slavery and race relationships, it still worked perfectly as a basic thriller.
Us was where we started getting hints Peele's ambition might exceed his grasp (it was deliciously creepy and well executed, but the basic concept of a race of "alternate" underground dwelling doppelgangers was too bonkers and forced to work) And now we have Nope, where nothing makes sense outside of its function as a delivery system for Peele's criticism of Hollywood, its treatment of minorities, and our society's total dependence on entertainment at all costs.
I've seen critics make favorable comparison between Jordan Peele and Steven Spielberg (mainly due to the very evident influence of Close Encounters of the Third Kind and the aforementioned "Jaws), but a more apt comparison would be with M. Night Shyamalan, another director who hit the jackpot early in his career with a terrific movie and then proceeded to squander his potential with increasingly ambitious and less effective muddled message films.
In many ways, Nope is Jordan Peele's "Signs". Still enjoyable in parts, but too self-conscious for its own good and a far cry from the promise shown with Get Out.
Gunpowder Milkshake (2021)
An incoherent, low-rent John Wick rip-off
If you want to find an example of how not to make a "woman empowerment movie", look no further than this sad, lifeless girl-power John Wick ripoff.
Take the hokiest elements of the John Wick franchise, cut the budget of the fight/stunt choreography department by 50%, switch the gender of the protagonists to female and you end up with "Gunpowder Milkshake", a boring, lifeless action film that makes a good case for creating an Academy Award category for "Best performance in editing a trailer that makes a mediocre film look exciting".
As the "Guardians of the Galaxy" and "Jumanji" films have demonstrated, Karen Gillan can be funny and believable as an action lead, but is neither in this limp hyper-stylized, neon-drenched turd of a movie which makes its Keanu Reeeves inspiration seem like a masterpiece of gritty realism by comparison.
"Gunpowder Milkshake" (a non-sensical title that has almost nothing to do with the plot) takes place in an even more absurd bizarro universe as the John Wick films: here, every single person on-screen is a criminal or has some connection with crime. There are no other living beings: no bystanders in the empty streets, no regular patrons in any of the various establishments seen in the film. You have to wonder whether these guys spend their time robbing each other, since there are seemingly no 'regular' activities. In lieu of the Continental hotel, we have a more budget-conscious diner which only serves criminals, and a hospital (more of a doctor's office, really) that only treats them. They seem to have good health insurance, at least, since nobody is asked to pay for medical services.
No need to bore you with the plot details, because the story is just the flimsiest of excuses to have Karen Gillam (who is supposed to be a super kick-ass hit-woman) confront wave after wave of mostly clumsy henchmen who are hell-bent on killing her. Something about retrieving stolen money, or revenge for having killed the son of a mob boss, or protecting a little orphan girl. The motives are interchangeable and irrelevant. At some point she teams up with her hit-woman mom who of course abandoned her when she was little, and her sisters (who are librarians but also trained killers: like I said, everyone in the film is some sort of super-hero killing machine).
It doesn't really matter: it's all an incoherent mess. Repetitive slow-motion sequences of relatively bloodless mayhem are interspersed with moments of attempted dialogue-heavy drama, showing the lead bonding with the little orphan girl, or reconnecting with her long lost mom, or having the mom argue with her librarian sisters. Who cares? The dialogue is stilted, and the bland attempts at characterization and woman-empowerment are as lame and cringe-worthy as you would expect from a film where the writers and every other single person behind the camera are men. The cast (Lena Headey, Angela Bassett, Carla Cugino and Michelle Yeoh) tries their best but the script doesn't give them much to do other than yell at each other and maim waves of faceless videogame-style enemies. Even the soundtrack is ridiculously overwrought and on the nose (one example: the closing scene, showing the triumphant female leads driving in a van on a sun-drenched highway, is scored with Mercury Rev's song "Goddess on a Highway").
This is Israeli director Navot Papushados' first English-language film debut, whose previos movie (2013's Hebrew-language excellent revenge thriller Big Bad Wolves) was as nasty and darkly funny as "Gunpowder Milkshake" is bland and unoriginal. What a letdown.
Avengers: Endgame (2019)
The zenith of the MCU franchise.
I feel like I'm wasting my time writing down my thoughts about Avengers: Endgame, because nothing I (or any critic) could say about it would ever dissuade a prospective viewer from seeing it. But after having had the chance to watch it at a preview screening, I can't help but say a few spoiler-free words.
I'm not your average fanboy -- most long-running franchises have bored me at this point, and I couldn't care less about the newest Star Wars episode or whether there will be another film set in the Harry Potter universe.
But Marvel films have been consistently watchable, with many solid entries and a few great ones (Winter Soldier, Ragnarok, the first Guardians of the Galaxy among others). And after Infinity War ended with a cliffhanger, I was looking forward to the conclusion. Boy, was I not disappointed!
Very few highly-anticipated movies live up to the hype, but Avengers: Endgame is one of them. It's the perfect follow up to Infinity War, and the absolute zenith of the Marvel franchise. It's hard to see how they'll be able to top this one.
It's surprisingly inventive (even when you know where the story is headed, the plot takes a few tangents getting there), emotionally engaging (a few people were crying in the theater) and surprisingly funny (this is probably the most I've laughed in a Marvel film since Thor: Ragnarok). Visually speaking, it's a true spectacle (topping Infinity War in the 'epic battle' stakes), and even though it's three hours long, it doesn't feel bloated. The only times I glanced at my watch was because I was hoping there would be more time before the end.
Yes, it's a superhero movie, but an immensely entertaining one (especially for fans who have seen all the pictures that came before it: there are tons of references and inside jokes to reward the faithful).
If "Return of the King" managed to win Best picture at the 2003 Oscars Avengers: Endgame deserves at least a nomination. It's as good (and in many ways better) a conclusion to a fantasy/genre series as the Peter Jackson film,.
Go see it.
Get Out (2017)
A surprisingly subtle and effective horror film for our times
Producer Jason Blum is the new Roger Corman: he's making a fortune producing smart low budget genre films that make a ton of money at the box office. Since his costs are low, he can afford to take chances on riskier edgy fare that studios wouldn't touch, and on relatively unproven talent.
There's no better example of this than Get Out, a truly surprising film by first time writer-director Jordan Peele. Better known as one half of comedy due Key & Peele, Jordan Peele isn't a name you would normally associate with horror/suspense films, which makes his effort all the more impressive. Get Out feels like the work of a very experienced craftsman who has seen a lot of classic horror films and truly wants to pay homage to them without slavishly copying or ripping them off.
If you've seen the trailer, you know the basic "Meet the Parents/Stepford Wives"-mashup storyline: rich white girl Rose (Alison Williams) brings black boyfriend Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) back home to meet her parents Dean and Missy Armitage (Bradford Whitford and Catherine Keener) for the first time. Although mom & dad (who were not told beforehand that Chris is black) seem friendly enough, things immediately look weird: the house is very isolated, the basement is off limits due to a 'black mold problem', and the only other black people are a maid and a caretaker whose robotic behavior doesn't seem to be noticed by anyone except Chris. It's clear something's off but is it just racial awkwardness or something more sinister? This being a horror film (with some comedy elements of very black comedy), the audience knows Chris' suspicions are likely correct, and the hints and strange events keep piling up (Dean is a brain surgeon and Missy is a psychiatrist whose expertise is hypnosis) but we don't find out exactly what's going until very late in the proceedings, and this guessing game (and its ultimate answer) are part of the film's power.
I mentioned "The Stepford Wives" earlier, but the film actually has more in common with Rosemary's Baby (not coincidentally, another Ira Levin adaptation): without going into spoiler territory, Chris's situation and his relationship with Rose's parents is clearly inspired by Rosemary's predicament and relationship with her new neighbors Roman and Minnie Castavet, who also appear to be caring and doting but turn out to have a very sinister agenda. Those who are familiar with Roman Polanski's masterpiece will notice how entire scenes in Get Out (particularly a party with a lot of oddball guests, almost all of whom are white and older than Chris) pay direct homage to the earlier film.
But whereas Rosemary's sense of alienation came from being a first time expectant mother (in itself a disconcerting experience) transplanted into a new environment (the Dakota building and its assortment of strange tenants), Chris' predicament has the added layer of racial conflict bubbling under the surface. He's the only black person in the entire place, save for the domestic help, and although everyone is nice and courteous, he (and the audience) can't help but feel that it's all the phony facade behind which something very unsettling is going on. Chris' suspicions are fueled by his occasional phone conversation with his friend Rod (LilRel Howery), a TSA agent who is house-sitting for Chris back in New York. Rod know something's up and keeps telling Chris to 'get out' of there because he's afraid the Armitages will turn him into a sex slave, but Chris is too polite (or intimidated by prospect of outright social/racial conflict) to take his advice.
Get Out's narrative is straightforward enough once you figure out where the story is going, but getting there is where the fun is. The cast is uniformly fantastic: like many actors turned directors, Jordan Peele gets great, nuanced performances by everyone, especially lead Daniel Kaluuya (in a star-making turn).
The racial aspects of the story are what makes Get Out so effective: without them, this would have been yet another installment in a long series of films where a seemingly nice family or close-knit suburban community turns out to harbor unpleasantness under the surface.. But the race conflict isn't an exploitative gimmick: Chris's race is an integral part of the story
In this day and age, it's safe to say a film featuring a black lead being victimized by a group of white folks could have been very incendiary, but the fact that Jordan Peele is black adds an extra layer of credibility to the film and helps deflects accusations of being exploitative. Rather than being brash and confrontational, the film is surprisingly apolitical and doesn't hit the viewer on the head with blunt racial allegories and heavy-handed caricatures.
Rose's parents are not the stereotypical racist old white folks: they are affluent, liberal intellectuals who (in her dad's own words) would have voted for Obama a third time if they could have. For most of the film, their courtesy and hospitality towards Chris feel unforced and genuine, if a bit stilted, which makes what happens in the third act a lot more believable and creepy.
The twist, if you can call it that, is effective because it's completely logical within the context of the film. The villains of the story have a very good (twisted) reason for their behavior, and are very civilized and professional about it. Not unlike the 'good Germans' during Hitler's regime, they think they're acting in pursuit of a greater good (listen to Dean's story at the beginning when he tells Chris of his admiration for Jesse Owens at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, where his own father also competed)
Get Out is the best kind of socially-conscious horror film: like Dawn of the Dead's anti-consumerism and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre pro-vegetarian stance, you don't need to notice the underlying message to enjoy the film, but it's there in plain sight, and surprisingly effective.
The Neon Demon (2016)
I wouldn't really recommend The Neon Demon unconditionally to my friends; not because it's a bad film (quite the opposite) but because it's the kind of movie that would inevitably lead some of them to think "he told me to watch it and said it was great. What kind of freak could possibly like that kind of stuff?"
To call it "not for all tastes" is the understatement of the year, since the majority of audiences probably won't really appreciate its very droll mix of violence, cannibalism, dark comedy, necrophilia and fetishism. In fact, I will be very surprised if there isn't any condemnation or manifestation of outrage from groups or individuals arguing that it's yet another shallow male-directed film that objectifies, stereotypes and vilifies women. I'd also be willing to bet that Nicolas Winding Refn, who, like his fellow countryman Lars Von Trier, has a reputation for being a provocateur par excellence, had exactly this type of reaction in mind when he made it. There is a semi-gratuitous maybe-it's-a-dream sequence where a female character is forced to fellate a knife blade that seems designed precisely to elicit that sort of response.
Deliberate excesses aside, The Neon Demon is possibly Nicolas Winding Refn's most straightforward narrative in a while (certainly more linear than Only God Forgives or Bronson). The film follows Jesse (Elle Fanning), a 16-year-old ingenue who moves to L.A. (or, to be exact, to a seedy motel in Pasadena, run by a sleazy and sinister manager played by a cast-against-type Keanu Reeves) hoping to become a model. Her naïveté and awkwardness notwithstanding, she first catches the eye of a powerful model agency head (Christina Hendrickson), then an influential photographer (Desmond Harrington) and finally a big fashion designer (Alessandro Nivola) who casts her as the centerpiece of his new show, much to the chagrin of established models Sarah (Abby Lee) and Gigi (Bella Heathcote), who don't take kindly to being laid by the wayside to make room for a fresh new face.
She is also befriended by Ruby (Jena Malone), a seemingly well- meaning fashion make-up artist who moonlights at the local mortuary by applying her skills to make cadavers more presentable, and by an impossibly nice young man named Dean (Karl Glusman) who would like to be Jesse's boyfriend and protector. This being a horror film, at least on the surface, things starts to get weird for Jesse when her new friend and rivals decide to do something about her rapid ascent to the rank of top model. To say more would stray into spoiler territory, so I'll stop here.
Like Quentin Tarantino, Nicolas Winding Refn is a master regurgitator of old genre films. "Drive" was the bastard son of Michael Mann's "Thief" and Walter Hill's "Driver", with a few other ingredients tossed in for good measure (the film also owed a huge debt to Jean-Pierre Melville's "Le Samourai"). "The Neon Demon" is his love song to Dario Argento (in particular "Suspiria", which is visually and thematically referenced multiple times) and to countless Euro-thrillers from the seventies, starting with the fantastic but little-seen (in the USA) Belgian lesbian vampire/Countess Bathory retelling "Daughters of Darkness".
Punctuated by a great electronic score by Cliff Martinez (which sounds like the best soundtrack that Goblin never wrote in the last 20 years), The Neon Demon is a visual feast that makes the neon- drenched "Drive" and "Only God Forgives" look almost drab by comparison. This is a gorgeous-looking film, set in beautiful locations, with a cast to match.
The women are all impossibly beautiful and incredibly shallow and repellent at the same time: they look and move like poisonous snakes whose skin you would really like to reach out and caress, knowing full well that you are likely to receive a painful bite. Male characters on the other hand are almost uniformly visually unpleasant and slimy or feral-looking (Desmond Harrington's photographer in particular looks gaunt and menacing like a wolf circling a wounded animal). Only Dean, the prospective boyfriend, seems like a good, decent human being, but this is a movie that seems hell-bent on confirming the old adage that "nice guys finish last".
Elle Fanning is good, especially at the beginning of the film where she is required to look shy and insecure -- in fact there are no weaklings in the whole cast. But the film belongs to Jena Malone, whose character undergoes the most startling transformation as the story progresses. Her performance is truly daring and committed and easily the most memorable in a film filled with weird and eye- catching characters. When you see the film, you'll know what I'm talking about.
Although The Neon Demon is ostensibly a horror film, underneath all the scary movie trappings lies a very black (and bleak) comedy about a superficial world where appearances are everything and the only way to survive is to embrace (quite literally) a dog-eat-dog attitude. It's most definitely not a movie for everyone (and the only film in recent memory where a scene involving an act of lesbian necrophilia doesn't feel gratuitous and out of place), but it's the product of a talented director who has completed a metamorphosis, which began with Bronson (2009), from "simple" genre filmmaker into full- blown auteur, with a personal and distinctive visual and narrative style. If you are at all interested in cinema beyond regular multiplex fare, it's definitely worth investing 2 hours of your time.
The Patriot (1998)
Mr. Seagal must be seriously out of touch with his audience. People who go see his movies expect action, violence, stunts and martial-arts combat: what they get here instead are a lot of boring speeches and sequences teaching us that oriental/traditional remedies are better than western medicine, that biological warfare is a bad thing, that militia members are a bunch of overweight or underage weirdos in camouflage outfits, that native americans (especially their elder) are always wise and peaceful and so on.
I thought "On Deadly Ground" and "The Glimmer Man" were bad, but compared to "The Patriot" they both look like serious contenders for an Oscar. There's more action in a Meg Ryan picture than in this film. No wonder this was released outside the USA first. I wouldn't be surprised if this sinks like a stone in USA theaters and then comes out quickly on video/cable.
I admire Seagal's honesty: he looks sincere and desperate to convey his positive message to the audience, but judging from the overall quality of "The Patriot", he'll manage to reach only a few hundreds people and further alienate his fans.
Maybe all the good bits were left on the cutting room floor: the trailers show a couple of scenes that are not in the theatrical release. But I don't think I'll be buying the Director's Cut, should it ever come out on video...
Incredibly boring and dull psychodrama.
When an abusive man's girlfriend ends up in a wheelchair and another one jumps in front of a car to end her misery, attorney William Hurt decides to bring him to trial. Emotionally-scarred Robin Wright is called to testify at a court hearing against her former lover.
Sounds like the beginning of a good courtroom drama, and with a cast that also includes Sean Penn, Joanna Cassidy and Amy Madigan, how can you go wrong?
A lot, actually. What we have here is a strong contender for the title of Most Boring Film of the Decade. I honestly can't recall seeing a duller, slower, more sophorific piece of filmmaking.
Does director/writer Erin Dignam think real people talk and act like these characters? I'm all for psychological dramas and introspective stories but they have to be somewhat interesting. Even depressing stories can be compelling, but compared to this, Ingmar Bergman's films look like Die Hard meets Rambo. This film is so sleep-inducing, it could be used by dentists as an anesthetic.
Don't take my word, see it and judge for yourself. But make sure you have plenty of coffee available, or you may never reach the end with your eyes open.
Good Will Hunting (1997)
Manipulative but well done.
How many handsome mathematical geniuses working as janitors and whose ambition in life is to get drunk and get into as many fistfights as possible have you ever met in your life?
The main problem with Good Will Hunting is that the main character is as believable as Godzilla or Forrest Gump: it takes a lot of suspension of disbelief to swallow Will Hunting's behaviour and motivations. At least Forrest Gump was a nice guy: Will Hunting's attitude, which is supposed to be the product of an abusive upbringing and therefore "not his fault", gets on your nerves after a while. Sure, it's satisfying seeing poor Will defy the establishment figures (judges, psychiatrists and snob rich college students) and getting away with it. For a while. Too bad this get boring after a while, with the viewer always ahead of the story until the predictable finale. But as long as you don't think too long about the implausibilities of the movie's setup, the story is convincingly acted and reasonably well-told, though director Gus Van Sant doesn't show any of the offbeat touches that marked his earlier efforts (the closer he gets here is a weird slow-motion courtyard fight).
Robin Williams is fine as always, and more restrained than usual; the rest of the cast is adequate, though I would have loved to see more of Stellan Skaarsgard's math professor, easily the most interesting character.