Friday, March 25, 2016

Remember, My Golden Days, Krisha, The Clan, Midnight Special

My Golden Days


The Clan
Midnight Special

Capsules on a mixed week at the movies:

Christopher Plummer has given so many terrific performances - as recently as last year's "Danny Collins" - that it's somewhat humiliating to find him in the part of senescent Auschwitz survivor Zev Guttman in Atom Egoyan's frankly bizarre "Remember." After Zev's wife Ruth dies, his friend Max (fellow Oscar winner Martin Landau) sends Zev on a mission across the U.S. and Canada to track down the Nazi guard who killed both of their families. Zev's memory is failing, so Max writes detailed instructions for him to refer to at every step. Zev's interactions - with a child on a train and later with the four people who share the guard's name (surprise, surprise: none of the first three is the one he's looking for) - are stilted and unconvincing (one man opens his home to Zev for the better part of an hour without asking his name or his reason for being there). I give Egoyan props for the shocker ending, but until then "Remember" trades glibly and queasily on Third Reich iconography (a hotel shower triggers flashbacks to the gas chambers)… The mildest of recommendations for Arnaud Desplechin's memory quilt "My Golden Days" ("Trois Souvenirs de ma Jeunesse"), with non-professionals Quentin Dolmaire and Lou Roy-Lecollinet holding the screen as, respectively, the adolescent Paul Dédalus (Desplechin's alter ego) and Paul's soulmate Esther, who hides open-wound vulnerability behind a facade of world-weariness. How French is this movie? At one point, Esther runs upstairs to her room, throws herself onto the bed and cries (into an Hermes scarf, no less), "I don't know how to live!"… Trey Edward Shults announces himself as a major talent with his intense and accomplished debut film "Krisha," about a chain-smoking, middle-aged trainwreck of a woman battling alcohol addiction and mental illness and losing. She arrives at her sister's home for Thanksgiving after a long absence, claiming to be recovered and determined to cook the turkey and become part of her nephew's life again. Trey, played by Shults himself, wants nothing to do with her, while most of the extended family just wants to make it through the holiday with Krisha without incident. That quickly proves a pipe dream as Krisha's tenuous holds on sanity and sobriety falter. Shults films mostly from Krisha's perspective, often in perpetual circles, the dissonant notes on the soundtrack an uncomfortable yet apt aural representation of her fragile mental state. This is not an evening's light entertainment. It is hard to watch, but impossible not to. Shults' real-life aunt, Krisha Fairchild, plays Krisha (isn't there something hideously perfect about that name that seems to doom the woman who bears it to failure?), and it's a performance without vanity. This is brutal, ugly, right-up-against-the-mirror stuff, à la Gena Rowlands and John Cassavetes. I suspect "Krisha" will be studied at film schools for years to come… After early-80s democratic and anti-corruption reform made his position in the Argentine government less remunerative, Arquímedes Puccio (Guillermo Francella) turned to kidnapping wealthy individuals for ransom (and then icing them anyway). He enlisted his son Alejandro (Peter Lanzani), a star on the beloved national rugby team, as the roper who befriended the intended victims or, holding an empty can of gasoline, got them to stop their cars. Each member of "The Clan" had some understanding of the family business, from Arquímedes' wife, a grade school teacher, to the children who tried to focus on their homework over the abductees' cries for release. Pablo Trapero's dramatization of this true story is notable primarily for Francella's riveting performance as the patriarch… In "Midnight Special," "Mud" director Jeff Nichols returns to the sort of deliberately ambiguous science fiction he last explored in 2011's "Take Shelter." Michael Shannon again stars, this time as Roy, the fugitive father who has abducted his own son Alton (Jaeden Lieberher) from the religious sect of which his ex-wife Sarah's (Kirsten Dunst) new husband Calvin (Sam Shepard) is the leader. They believe the boy has superhuman powers, as does the NSA, represented here by dweeby agent Paul Sevier (Adam Driver).They're joined on the lam by Roy's friend Lucas (Joel Edgerton), as everyone heads toward the spot (somewhere in the south and east) where Alton's auguries suggest an epochal event will occur. The adult cast is predictably solid, and even Lieberher's unnaturalness (which came off as precocious opposite Bill Murray in "St. Vincent") works here. Nichols sustains a suspenseful tone, but drags scenes out too long, dissipating the tension. Not enough happens to justify the two-hour runtime. The cult falls by the wayside entirely. And the payoff is a disappointment. Alton tells us what's going to happen, and it does. Yawn.

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