Monday, April 6, 2015

5 to 7, Cut Bank

5 to 7
Cut Bank

Capsule reviews on two of the week's new art-house releases:

First, a real charmer, writer-director Victor Levin's Manhattan-set "5 to 7," about the budding relationship between Brian, a 24-year-old aspiring novelist (Anton Yelchin), and Arielle, a married Frenchwoman with children (Bérénice Marlohe), conducted with the full knowledge and approval of her husband Valery (Lambert Wilson), who has his own mistress, and by her rules limited to the weekday "happy hours" of 5 to 7 p.m.

Yelchin captures both the boyish and the solid, manly sides of Brian, upon whose oh-so-American need to pass judgment the breathtaking Marlohe looks with European bemusement. The evolution of their interaction has the feel of truth, from their first sidewalk encounter to their assignations at the St. Regis to Brian's inclusion in dinners with Valery's famous friends and trips to the park with their kids. We feel as he does that this woman is both stunningly beautiful and possessed of an impossibly sophisticated ability to compartmentalize.

At its best, "5 to 7" earns comparison with the work of Woody Allen. Levin's script delivers a number of big laughs, only a few of them forced. Most flow from the witty and intelligent discourse between Brian and Arielle, and several from supporting turns by Glenn Close and in particular a nomination-worthy Frank Langella as his initially disapproving parents. Levin takes a touch too long to wind down, but ends with a doozy of a final scene that left a lump in my throat. Cinematographer Arnaud Potier makes the city look beautiful, and Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans' breezy score enhances the spell.

Bruce Dern. Liam Hemsworth. John Malkovich. Oliver Platt. Michael Stuhlbarg. Billy Bob Thornton. What a cast, and what a waste in "Cut Bank," a depressing mash-up of "Fargo," "Drop Dead Gorgeous" and a Lifetime movie that feels like it's been gathering dust on a shelf for five years. 

Big-dreaming lug Dwayne (Hemsworth) takes girlfriend Cassandra (Teresa Palmer) out into the fields of Cut Bank, MT to film a video and happens to catch on tape the murder by a black-clad assailant of the town's old-coot mailman (Dern). When a postal inspector (Platt) flies in from D.C., Dwayne sees dollar signs (a $100,000 reward for information on the murder), but Cassandra's wary father (Thornton) smells a rat, Sheriff Vogel (Malkovich) keeps blowing chow as the body count rises, and Cassandra wants to win Miss Cut Bank before she and Dwayne "make a whole new life in Butte." (He's thinking L.A.) Meanwhile, the touched town recluse, Derby Milton (Stuhlbarg), just wants the parcel (a lunchpail) that Dern had been delivering to him when he got bumped off. 

Hemsworth and Palmer pitch their performances at a TV-movie level. Dern apparently used the occasion of this picture to let out everything he held in in "Nebraska," including one hilarious rant. Malkovich shows atypical restraint, almost to the point of laconic. Platt eats everything in sight and delivers such lines as "The best cobblers in the world can be found in hospital cafeterias," famously said by nobody, ever. Stuhlbarg - of "A Serious Man" - fares best, in particular with a monologue that helps to explain why he's chosen to avoid most interaction with other people. Thornton barely registers.

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