Movie Reviews: Gonzo, Tell No One, The Wackness
DIMINISHED CAPACITY This first feature by character actor-theater director Terry Kinney addresses, once again, America’s apparent surfeit of sweet-souled losers and eccentrics, replete with rueful indie muzak. Cooper (Matthew Broderick), a Chicago newspaperman still held back at work by a recent concussion, returns to hometown rural Missourah to check up on a precarious relation. Old Uncle Rollie (Alan Alda) has raised concern in the family with his habit of deciphering the “poetry” written by fish through his ingeniously rigged typewriter. Rollie’s only steady thought amid an Alzheimer’s crumble: to sell a prized-possession baseball card. On the resulting journey, Broderick’s reticence barely registers, but relief comes through the deep supporting lineup, particularly the characters populating a collector’s convention (Dylan Baker, Bobby Cannavale). This is about where the damnation-by-faint-praise adjectives — “diverting” and “warmhearted” — come in (Oh! “Minor key”). It’s the kind of lite movie you go see with your mom, and she’ll say she liked it — but then a year later, you’re both trying to remember what it was even about. Two and a half shrugs. (Music Hall) (Nick Pinkerton)
GO GONZO: THE LIFE AND WORK OF HUNTER S. THOMPSON A tightly wound bundle of everything and its opposite — an anti-authoritarian who ran for sheriff of Aspen, a peace-loving gun nut, an iconoclast who relished winners as much as any football coach — the late Hunter S. Thompson pioneered what might be called psychic-war correspondence: corrosive inner dispatches from the long goodbye of ’60s idealism. Alex Gibney’s fascinating doc Gonzo: The Life and Work of Hunter S. Thompson makes Thompson a complex, looming presence, using the author’s words (read by Johnny Depp) as rueful commentary. Buttressed by interviews with his collaborators (including illustrator Ralph Steadman), archival snippets and vintage Thompson footage, the bulk of Gibney’s film is devoted to just three Thompson books: Hell’s Angels, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and his last major work, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 — a trilogy that made Thompson a counterculture idol, as well as a literal and figurative cartoon character. As director, Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side) relies too often on glib simplification and smirky music montages of social unrest. But by refocusing attention on Thompson’s blazing gift, however unevenly it burned, Gonzo reclaims him from the fate he described for the Angels: “The mystique was stretched so thin it finally became transparent.” (The Landmark; Sunset 5; Playhouse 7) (Jim Ridley)
HOLDING TREVOR Such an anomie-filled nothing of a movie that it wouldn’t even be a pleasure to savage it. The Trevor of the title (Brent Gorski, who also wrote the screenplay) is trying to break away from his monstrous heroin addict of an ex-boyfriend, Darrell, while preserving a relationship with his difficult besties, Andie (Melissa Searing) and Jake (Jay Brannan). When Darrell inevitably ODs, the emergency-room doctor turns out to be a hottie named Ephram (Eli Kranski). Ephram and Trevor fall in love, fight, make up, etc. That’s pretty much it, aside from a weirdly played HIV scare. Trevor’s life is literally empty — he and Andie and Jake careen around L.A., but none of the locales they hit up seem to be inhabited by more than five people. There’s nothing to fill up the 88 minutes of the film except for the idle bitchery spewed by nearly every character. Are there really people out there who are so irredeemably nasty to their friends and lovers, while actually managing to keep them as friends and lovers? (Sunset 5) (Julia Wallace)
GO THE LAST MISTRESS Catherine Breillat hitches her wagon to the hottest of European stars, Asia Argento, in a highly entertaining adaptation of Jules-Amédée Barbey d’Aurevilly’s mid-19th-century novel Une vieille maîtresse — once notorious for its treatment of a young libertine’s erotic obsession with a homely 36-year-old woman. Breillat’s movie opens in 1835, as a pair of self-satisfied aristos discuss the impending wedding of impoverished party boy Ryno de Marigny (Fu’ad Aït Aattou) to a well-born, chaste and rich Hermangarde de Polmaron (Roxane Mesquida). Ryno is marrying Hermangarde for her money while, innocent of his lengthy involvement with the notorious courtesan Vellini (Argento), she is marrying him for love. The illegitimate daughter of an Italian princess and a Spanish matador, Vellini is introduced in perpendicular close-up sprawled on her divan. Argento may fit no one’s notion of ugly, but Breillat uses the actress’s frank gaze and virtuoso carnality as a means of disrupting the inherently genteel material. Having made her reputation as a sexual provocatrix, Breillat here tweaks the bourgeois from another perspective — namely that of the aristocracy. Breillat also turns a particular sexual equation on its head, making her outlaw couple strikingly androgynous. Vellini puffs on a cigar; Ryno bats his eyes. Which one is the femme fatale? Desire knows no boundaries: In the end, she pursues him so that he will pursue her. For the full version of this review, go to www.laweekly.com/film. (The Landmark; Monica 4-Plex; Playhouse 7; Sunset 5;Town Center 5) (J. Hoberman)
GO TELL NO ONE François Cluzet, who looks like Daniel Auteuil and runs like Dustin Hoffman, simmers beautifully as a Paris pediatrician who, eight years after the brutal murder of his beloved wife (Marie-Josée Croze), receives an e-mailed video purporting to show her alive. His search for her or her captors is, to understate the situation, complicated by their search for him and the growing suspicions of the police — who reopen the case after two more corpses pop up — that the doc is his wife’s killer. That I can’t parse the plot of Tell No One without recourse to multiple subordinate clauses gives you some idea of the labyrinthine twists in Guillaume Canet’s soigné adaptation of Harlan Coben’s rather less elegant crime thriller. Among the movie’s many delights are the fluctuating rhythms of its pacing, an atmospheric volatility that sets off the doctor’s blooming paranoia against his sunlit, leafy surroundings, and a terrific cast that includes Kristin Scott Thomas as a bitchy lesbian with heart and a quietly funny François Berléand as an obsessive-compulsive detective. Canet’s grasp of the way institutional and personal corruption feed on each other is sure, though his excursion into France’s racial wars gilds the lily of a plot that already creaks with complication. Crucially, though, the love story at the movie’s heart is flat, clichéd and much less engaging than the satisfying mixed motives of its lively supporting characters. (The Landmark; Sunset 5; Town Center 5; Playhouse 7) (Ella Taylor)
THE WACKNESS The Wackness is a mixtape of clichés, with writer-director Jonathan Levine taking cuts from a dozen or more “life-affirming” coming-of-age melodramas and setting them to the backbeat of NYC ’94. The movie begins by ballyhooing its “edge”: the Sony Classics logo gets tagged over; teenage hip-hop head Luke (Josh Peck) is introduced stonewalling his psychiatrist, Dr. Squires (Ben Kingsley) — then, before the session wraps, the patient pays his shrink off in ... kind bud! Ohhhhhhhh, schnaps (insert DJ scratching noise) — this ain’t ya parents’ Ordinary People, son! Dealer Luke’s first summer post–high school finds him socially stalled by weed paranoia, wondering if his lingering virginity will be permanent. As his old man is the most castrated patriarch since Jim Backus strapped on an apron, midlife satyr Doc S. becomes the substitute father figure, paraphrasing Harold and Maude platitudes about LIFE! in a wobbly accent. This, combined with notably fugly cinematography, should equate to so much Sundance offal, but Peck keeps the production shy of execrable. He’s real like nothing else here: a big, pear-shaped UES Jewish kid unsuccessfully masking his insecurities with street posturing and headphone-clogged self-absorption. All the drug-slinging material’s counterfeit, but the script is refreshingly straight-faced in looking at the strange relationship between white boys and rap. (The Landmark; Monica 4-Plex) (Nick Pinkerton)
Get the Film Club Newsletter
Stay up to date on the best new movies with our critics' latest reviews, interviews and trailers for the films coming to a theater near you each week.
More Film News
- Five Reasons to Enter the Silly, Sad World of Netflix's BoJack Horseman
- Jason Segel Had His Book Club Read Infinite Jest Without Telling Them He Was...
- The End of the Tour Doesn't Quite Depict a Convincing David Foster Wallace
- You Will Learn Exactly Three New Things From the Chris Farley Documentary