Thursday, March 31, 2011


Actor Paddy Considine writes and directs his first full length feature, based on a short he made a few years ago. He gathers together a first rate cast with Peter Mullen, Olivia Cole, and Eddie Marsan in the lead roles. Mr. Mullen plays Joseph, a man full of anger that he wears on his sleeve. When he meets Hanna (Ms. Cole), he ever so slowly awakens new emotions to replace his rage. Their relationship is not what you expect, evident enough when we meet Hanna's husband, James (Mr. Marsan). Hanna has problems of her own, hidden below the surface and her marriage is not what it seems.

This is a serious drama with moments of raw violence against people and animals (two dogs do not fare well in the film) but it is also powerfully acted in an arc towards redemption and optimism. Mr. Considine's camera loves Mr. Mullen. He has always done fine work but this may be his best role and the way the camera lingers on his subtle expressions can be breathtaking.

The story is not complicated. It is character driven and well paced. Mr. Considine looks to have a long career behind the camera. I saw this at the New Director's/New Films Festival at Lincoln Center so don't look for it in theaters just yet. I'm not sure of it's release date but once it's released, it's worth a look, especially if you are a fan of gritty British drama.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Win Win

Writer/Director Tom McCarthy hits the trifecta. It started with "The Station Agent", followed by "The Visitor" and now "Win Win'. He is a master at telling small stories filled with memorable characters and rewarding moments. Not to mention, always finding the perfect cast.

This is the story of Mike Flaherty, a small town lawyer who also coaches the local high school wrestling team. Mike is played by Paul Giamatti, who notches another wonderful performance as a loving but flawed "everyman". Amy Ryan disappears once again into a role as his wife, Jackie, with a perfect New Jersey accent.

As his business falters and needing money, Mike becomes the guardian to one of his elderly clients, played with his usual gruff exterior, by Burt Young. Along with the job comes a monthly stipend that Mike desperately needs. Of course, things don't go quite as planned and get complicated in an unexpected way.

Co-starring as Mike's best friend is Bobby Cannavale, who is the source of much humor especially in his scenes with Mr. Giamatti and Jeffrey Tambor, the assistant wrestling coach. The three of them are truly funny together. Between the "laugh out loud" scenes are some terrific dramatic and tender moments from a rich script delivered by fine actors. I predict big things for Alex Shaffer.

You expect the story to be predictable and it's not. It's low key but thoroughly enjoyable. You can't lose with "Win Win".

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Adjustment Bureau

Take a little "Wings of Desire", "City of Angels" and add in some "Monsters Inc." and you've got "The Adjustment Bureau". You anticipate a Sci-fi type thriller based on the trailer but what you really get is a love story layered with spiritual arguments of free will vs. pre-destiny.

Matt Damon stars as a man who "sees behind the curtain" and finds out his life is not really his own. He meets and falls in love with Emily Blunt but is told by his "adjusters", their life together is not meant to be. Defying God (The Chairman), he refuses to give up on their future together. This, in turn, angers John Slattery and Terrence Stamp, "adjusters" trying to keep Mr. Damon on his pre-destined course.

Mr. Damon and Ms. Blunt have genuine chemistry and you believe in their love. It's the only thing that keeps you interested as not much happens and the actions of the adjusters are just ridiculous. You'll leave the theater debating whether or not your own "book" has been written which may prompt more lively discussion than the film does. What holds your attention are the New York City locations and Mr. Damon's likable "everyman" acting. The premise is a good one but it's laughably executed.