Just a short splehrg on some films I have seen… because in a short space of time I have been gripped, bored, compelled and kinda embarrassed…
We need to talk about Reacher
Yep, I know it’s been around the block a couple of times, but astoundingly, it also garnered some OK reviews. I’m going to skip the most common grievance about Jack Reacher, which in a nutshell, is that a $cientologist Hobbitt may have not been the optimal casting choice for a former military policeman whose dimensions are fundamental to the character. In Lee Childs’ books, Reacher is a heffalump. He’s big. The cultist ho took on the role is small. While this is to many of Childs’ fans – batshit insane, it’s not necessarily a deal breaker for me. Cruise, like it or not, can bring something to a movie. He brought nothing to this movie. But again, I must stress, this ‘dali melting clocks elongated camel leg lobster trip of a casting decision is not even scratching the surface as to why this film is so beyond shithouse, it couldn’t afford the bus fare back to shithouse.
Now, let’s get to the brass pants of the matter.
Most writers will have, and if they haven’t yet, they soon will hear the oft repeated mantra ‘Show, don’t Tell. Sure. It’s brilliant. Words to live by. But there is wiggle room, of course. I a short story, screenplay or novel consisted entirely of ‘showing’ with no transitions, explanations and expositions, it would more often than not be impossibly boring. Sometimes you have to shift time, move the story along. Maybe not so much in the beautifully confined succinctness that a short story demands, but for feature films, and novels… even the most lean will feature some exposition.
Generally though, the plot should be revealed to us through action, not people talking about the plot, to fill us in.
Jack Reacher quite simply is a film, that is so replete with exposition, it’s almost the benchmark of how not to write a film. Film schools he world over will I believe herald this in future times as an exquisite example of ‘worst practice.’ when it comes to showing and not telling.
I’m not going to give you a scene by scene rundown of the film, because for those who haven’t seen it, I would invite you, as fellow writers, to experience this for yourself. Fuck Tom Cruise and the miscasting. That is the worst of Jack Reacher’s problems. Dare I say it, he even manages to pull off the role… to a level where i wasn’t constantly saying ‘why is this midget punching people in the knees when he should be headbutting them with his chin bone.’
The real problem is that every single major plot point is delivered to us through dialogue between the characters. Nothing is shown to us. We are told. We have been denied the act of participating. We are instead spoonfed the narrative, which is then interspersed with action, that we have already been told is about to happen, and then when the set-piece/fight sequence is resolved, we go back to dialogue between the main characters, who need to then tell us what is going to happen next.
It’s quite remarkable. I give it 2 out of 10 Operating Thetans.
Which brings me to
The Place Beyond the Pines
This films is a treat. I hear a bunch of hand-wringing that the trailer misrepresented the film. Boo fucking hoo. I am reminded of a real case in the US where a woman demanded a refund when she went to see Drive, but found out it was in fact a more languid think-piece and not the McDonalds cheeseburger fast carb in 60 seconds racecar film the trailer purported it to be. Boo, Fucking. Hoo.
But it’s neat cross-generational Dad film about privilege and consequence. The direction is understated and underplayed, and for a mainstream release I can’t tell you how rare this is becoming, and while not exactly a genre buster, it does position itself more as a drama with some crim/crime elements rather than the other way around. There are also multiple story threads… that all interlink, maybe a bit implausibly, but not to the point where there’s too much deus ex machina. OK maybe it’s borderline, but still, this is a film worth watching.
A couple of minor finickity points though.
1. Whenever I watch Gosling, I am reminded of Steve McQueen. No. NO! they are not similar, but I am reminded that McQueen was and will always be, the ultimate taciturn tough guy. Presence unmatched. Charisma unparalleled. Sorry Goz. You can hang your head high in contemporary cinema’s tsunami of mediocrity, but you ain’t got nothing on Steve.
I also wonder, just as an aside, just how much longevity Gosling has as a taciturn tough guy?
I suspect he is about three brooding matchstick chewing, peroxided hair characters away from drifting into self parody. But in the mean time, I am looking forward very much to ‘Only God Forgives’ though admittedly I am more excited about seeing more Winding Refn than more Gosling.
I give this 7 out of 10 brooding window stares
So let’s go to:
Good fucking christ, the Danes have done it again. This taut, almost Gothic small town drama is the ultimate proof that the Hollywood Dream Factory is MIA. Yes we know that European films of any merit are snatched up, cannibalized and stripped of any subtlety or artistry before being regurgitated onto an audience that ‘can’t be fucked reading their own language at the bottom of the screen’ and sure, we’ll probably see a homogenized Hunt with Tom Hanks or Will Smith or Jack Galafrnkaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaapankagalafrakakasis in the lead role, but before that happens… go and see the fuck out of this film.
It’s about the evils of the small town hive mentality. The perils of adult children relationships, no matter how benign they may be, and it’s heavy on The Crucible. Arthur Miller would be proud.
Understated. Lean. Brilliant, fat-trimmed script. This is great writing, championed by magnificent, steady-hand direction. It’s gripping… and it will make you uncomfortable
Robert McKee, whom I love, and have attended one of his conferences, and treat his book ‘Story’ as the closest thing to a bible I will ever know, really truly needs to stop re-reading his dogeared script of Tender Mercies and add this film to his syllabus.
Oh, and Mads Mikkelsen’s performance as a dispossessed, shunned outcast is one of those performances that will transcend 2013. He deserves every single fucking acting gong that can be thrown at him. Bravo and bouquets, Mads.
I give this 9 out of 10 middle aged hysterical female teachers
And finally, we come to:
I think I had something to say about this film, but to be honest, the film was so forgettable and disposable, I can’t really be fucked. It’s just not worth it. Umm.. its a thriller, about double crosses of someone pretending to be on Prozac, but they’re not, but they are, and I remember when Jude Law was ‘all that’ and now he looks and acts like he should be serving me a beer and telling me what sauces are available with my Schnitzel.
Thanks Jude, I’ll have the Diane – and give me veg, not chips.
After The Hunt, and The Place Beyond the Pines, it all just seemed a bit silly really.
I give this 4 out of 10 Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors.