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Movie Reviews: Miss March, Race to Witch Mountain, Sunshine Cleaning 

Also, The Cake Eaters, The Secrets and more

Wednesday, Mar 11 2009
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THE CAKE EATERS There’s no kind of wonderful in Mary Stuart Masterson’s directorial debut, yet however slight her ensemble drama — about two distressed families in the Rockwellian framings of time-forgotten rural America — it’s at least convincing in its genuine sweetness. When wandering musician Guy Kimbrough (screenwriter Jayce Bartok) learns that his ailing mother has finally died, he stumbles back home to the passive aggressiveness of his awkward younger brother, Beagle (Aaron Stanford), who hasn’t forgiven him for abandoning the clan. Grieving patriarch Easy (Bruce Dern) has been secretly schtupping the mildly kooky grandmother of Georgia (standout Kristen Stewart), a sexually curious high-schooler who slurs and walks shakily as she suffers the neural disease Friedreich’s ataxia. Like their pop, the Kimbrough boys both have their own romantic complications (Beagle and the years-younger Georgia want to hook up in spite of her mother’s disapproval, and Guy reconnects with the ex-fiancée he ditched in his exodus), and since everyone here broods instead of speaks their minds, the perfunctory moments of quiet indie revelation actually add up. Bungee-strapped to her new beau on his scooter, Georgia extends her arms to draw in the sunshine (see also: the forthcoming DVD cover), and as we fade out with Easy and sons bonding over steak and beers, our cockles are warmed — the movie forgotten. (Sunset 5; Playhouse 7) (Aaron Hillis)

 

THE EDGE OF LOVE No longer weighted down by the perukes she had to wear in The Duchess. Keira Knightley returns to the simpler chignons of Atonement in another World War II–set prestige piece with a starchy literary pedigree — this one scripted by her mum, Sharman MacDonald. Knightley sings and affects a Welsh whisper as Vera, a childhood friend of Dylan Thomas (Matthew Rhys, the gay sib on Brothers and Sisters), who meets up with the pickled poet in London during the Blitz. When Thomas’ even more aggro spouse, Caitlin (Sienna Miller, in a role originally attached to Lindsay Lohan), arrives, Vera opens her flat to the couple and the trio becomes one big cuddle puddle. Adding a fourth wheel, Vera hastily marries stoic soldier William (Cillian Murphy); while he’s off fighting in Greece, the threesome decamp to adjoining cottages in Wales. Director John Maybury showed a defter hand with the artist biopic in his 1998 Francis Bacon film, Love Is the Devil. Here he repeatedly falls into the genre’s traps, creating an inert, claustrophobic movie in which the constant sound of inhaled cigarette smoke is as showboaty as Rhys murmuring Thomas’ poetry and Murphy’s shell shock. Occasionally, Angelo Badalamenti’s fine score will pleasantly remind you of Mulholland Drive. Knightley and Miller’s pseudo-sapphic tub-splashing will not. (Nuart) (Melissa Anderson)

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MISS MARCH “That’s four years’ worth of poop,” a doctor remarks when Eugene (Zach Cregger) — who wakes up from a coma after his best friend, Tucker (Trevor Moore), wallops him with a baseball bat, only to discover that his virginal high-school sweetheart is now a Playboy centerfold — voids his bowels. Miss March, which Whitest Kids U’ Know Cregger and Moore also co-wrote and co-directed, sprays like an exploding colostomy bag for 89 minutes. Only a moron would expect a dude road-trip-sex comedy to be more than an aggressive expression of male sexual anxiety. But really, when did women become such vile creatures that they must be stabbed in the face with a fork after a botched blowjob, become near roadkill, and drink dog pee (and love it!)? To make assholes respect you, ladies, try this: Become a Bunny to pay your vegetable boyfriend’s medical bills while saving yourself to have sex with him, or a Slavic lesbian who ingeniously transforms a Perrier bottle into a dildo. Hugh Hefner shows up to give an addled lecture after Eugene and Tucker make it to the Playboy Mansion, and you think: Wasn’t it just last summer that he so sweetly played himself in The House Bunny? (Citywide) (Melissa Anderson)

 

THE OBJECTIVE On the hunt for WMD in Afghanistan immediately after 9/11, a CIA agent (Jonas Ball) leads a Special Ops team into the mountains to find a cleric who can point them to a hidden stash. Instead, they get progressively more lost, their compasses and equipment stop working, and they hear strange noises at night. Not a bad premise, that — basically a Blair Witch Project rip-off tied into current war anxieties. And since The Objective was directed by Blair Witch co-creator Daniel Myrick, co-scripted by Wesley Clark Jr. (son of the NATO general and presidential candidate) and cast with several real military veterans, you’d think it would be a perfect mix. (What’s scarier than terrorists? Ghost terrorists!) Instead, it plays like a disastrous Sci-Fi Channel castoff, thanks in no small part to Myrick’s odd decision to include incessant voice-over narration by Ball, which plays like a really terrible in-character DVD commentary track. But it’s hard to blame Myrick for not having faith in the ability of images alone to tell the story; nothing here is interestingly staged or shot, and the former soldiers somehow manage to be unconvincing ... as soldiers. Ten years on, it’s hard to begrudge the director for trying to make a comeback by rehashing his prior formula, but perhaps he should have stuck even closer and handed the cameras to the actors again — or, cast talented actors to begin with. (Sunset 5) (Luke Y. Thompson)

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