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Movie Reviews: The End of the Line, The Proposal, Whatever Works 

Also, Daytime Drinking, Irene in Time and more

Wednesday, Jun 17 2009
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GO  DAYTIME DRINKING The early warnings of Noh Young-seok’s debut feature from the festival circuit suggested either a South Korean variation on mumblecore or Soju Hangover. Thank the Lord Daytime Drinking (Not Sool) is neither of those things but rather a dry, minimalist comedy about a puzzled sad sack (Song Sam-dong), abandoned by his buddies before a planned road trip, who stumbles into one cringingly awkward situation after another, aided and abetted by the fact that Koreans consider it grossly rude to refuse any alcoholic beverage offered in friendship. Some of the specific drunken complications may have an overly familiar, nightmare-vacation ring — such as our hero being lionized by a kinky couple, drugged and left stranded on a remote mountain highway in his underpants. But Song has admirable deadpan comic timing, with an undercurrent of panic, and the leafless locales depict a midwintry Korea as surreally drab as the permafrost Finland of Aki Kaurismäki’s black-comic road movies. The characters seem to take a masochistic pride in being able to endure a landscape this dreary without slitting their wrists, huddled around fires made from twigs, drinking ginseng and garlic-flavored home brew out of paper cups. The movie leaves a warm glow. (Music Hall) (David Chute)

GO  THE END OF THE LINE We’re overwhelmed by crises these days (financial, terrorist, climate, midlife), and, as if we needed to be depressed any further, each seems to leave a four-alarm doc in its wake. Unknown White Male director Rupert Murray’s convincing and emotive adjunct to the doomsday genre — based on British journo Charles Clover’s book of the same name, subtitled How Overfishing Is Changing the World and What We Eat — posits that seafood will be extinct by 2048. “Cod, dammit!,” the Newfoundlanders might say, as their economy’s vital whitefish population has been nearly decimated by high-tech fishing technologies with which biology can’t keep up. Nobu, depicted as villainous as McDonald’s was in Super Size Me, refuses to take bluefin tuna off its menu but promises to include a footnote encouraging patrons not to eat what’s officially an endangered species. Narrated by Ted Danson, The End of the Line is a freeform splash of jaw-dropping graphs, impressively accredited talking heads and sumptuously shot portraits of natural beauty and decay, overdramatically scored to symphonic and other intense musical attacks. Practical advice follows (eat anchovies!), but the real question remains: What new cliché must we invent to replace the now inaccurate “plenty of fish in the sea”? (Sunset 5) (Aaron Hillis)

IRENE IN TIME Mumblecore avant la lettre, casually dismissed by those who place a premium on things like narrative, visual lucidity and editorial smoothness, writer/director/emotional exhibitionist Henry Jaglom trudges forth undeterred, making his self-financed, self-distributed, unapologetically personal portraits of hopeless L.A. neurotics searching for self-fulfillment. A professed “male lesbian” who has made films on the subjects of pregnancy and eating disorders, Jaglom here turns his distaff radar on the relationship between women and their fathers. His latest ingénue, Tanna Frederick, stars as a singer looking for a man she can love and admire as much as her dearly departed dad. Frederick, who played a comically desperate aspiring actress in Jaglom’s previous (and better) Hollywood Dreams, remains very much in capital-A actor mode here, though her sometimes cartoonishly big performance is counterbalanced by those of erstwhile Jaglom muse Andrea Marcovicci, who acts and sings beautifully in a couple of scenes as a mystery woman from Frederick’s past, and Victoria Tennant, who lends the film unexpected emotional ballast as Frederick’s mother. As in many of Jaglom’s more middling efforts, moments of genuine insight alternate freely with those of banal psychologizing, but even then there can be no denying that the filmmaker has an ear for a certain brand of self-absorbed discourse often overheard in restaurants and bars in the shadow of the Hollywood sign. And given the choice, I’ll take Henry’s home movies over Jonathan Demme’s any day of the week. (Sunset 5; Monica 4-Plex; Playhouse 7; Town Center 5) (Scott Foundas)

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MÁNCORA Largely set in Peruvian beach towns, Ricardo de Montreuil’s titillating road movie follows party kid Santi (Jason Day) on a vacation from reality after his ex–pop star father commits suicide. Tagging along are his smokin’ stepsister Ximena (Elsa Pataky), whom he hasn’t seen in ages, and her supercilious husband, Iñigo (Enrique Murciano). Half the film foreshadows incest, mixing in assorted hotties and spats along the way; the other half has yet to be written. Day has the right buzz-cut brooding-little-boy look, but he’s missing in action, not that the movie has much to say about the characters anyway. Despite dramatic pretenses, De Montreuil (My Best Friend’s Wife) has essentially made a piece of sex-and-sun tourism cinema, allowing viewers to turn off their brains and pretend they’re on holiday and in a moody, acrobatic love triangle, too. There’s no law against that, but the inelegantly edited film officially goes overboard when Iñigo and Santi visit a shaman and take some sweet, mind-detonating ayahuasca. Like the pointless flash-forward that opens the movie with an unexplained beating, the episode suggests filmmakers who have lost the plot — a sensation that the abrupt, unsatisfying ending soon confirms. (Sunset 5; Playhouse 7) (Nicolas Rapold)

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