|All These Sleepless Nights|
Quick capsules on another awful April at the movies:
In John G. Young's "bwoy," transgressive themes and fresh, compelling Skype-based sex scenes are ultimately undone by micro-budget production values, underdeveloped characters and a climax that's predictable but not credible. Anthony Rapp stars as Brad, a Schenectady collection agent whose son has recently died and who begins an online relationship with Yenny (Jimmy Brooks), a young Jamaican who calls Brad his "daddy." As Yenny seeds their interactions with increasingly less subtle ploys for money, Brad's alarm bells go off, but he shuts out his wife Marcia (De'Adre Aziza) and spends all his free time Skyping with Yenny. Young introduces fascinating ideas about the role of money in the power dynamics of the relationship, but when Yenny's father finds out about their romance, beats Yenny and threatens Brad, Brad takes off for Jamaica and a needlessly contrived plot resolution. Both lead actors grew on me, but I kept waiting in vain for Young to take Marcia, who is black, anywhere exciting. She knows and she accepts, but what is her journey of grief?
A big disappointment is Michal Marczak's Polish import "All These Sleepless Nights," in which we spend 100 minutes watching two twenty-something best friends party, dance and jabber meaninglessly across Warsaw. The visually and dramatically inert "Sleepless" had me sleeping soundly… Just as bad or worse is Nacho Vigalondo's (never trust a movie by a guy named Nacho) "Colossal," with Anne Hathaway as an alcoholic New York screw-up who discovers to her horror that her movements control those of a monster marching through the streets of Seoul. The movie fancies itself a genre-bender, but it's really just another Comedy Without Laughs with a silly sci-fi overlay. Jason Sudeikis plays her old schoolmate, who befriends her and gives her a job at his bar after she moves home from the city; soon he controls a robot in Seoul and becomes distastefully enamored of his own homicidal capabilities. His is one of the most unpleasant characters in a year's worth of movies (Dan Stevens as Hathaway's bullying Big Apple boyfriend is right up there) and the picture itself is a mess.
There are really only two reasons to go to the movies right now: 1.) to see "Beauty and the Beast"; or (2) to witness Bill Nighy's performance in Lone Scherfig's "Their Finest," which if there were any justice in the world would win the Supporting Actor Oscar next March. Even if you don't know Nighy by name, you'll probably know him by face. I've been waiting for years for the movie where his obvious comic talent would finally pay off, and it's arrived. As the vain actor Ambrose Hilliard, unwilling to concede that his career might be on its downslope, Nighy gets big laughs out of almost every line he delivers, and he's got lots of lines. It's a performance so good I found myself shaking my head, sure it would fizzle at some point. It doesn't. The rest of the movie - about a plucky woman writer (Gemma Arterton) who infiltrates the man's world of British propaganda films during World War II and finds romance with a colleague (Sam Claflin) - is sweet if slow. Jake Lacy continues to be insanely appealing on the big screen as an acting-challenged Yank, but they're all competing for crumbs. Nighy's the one… Finally, thumbs down for Makoto Shinkai's impossibly repetitive (and bizarrely punctuated) "Your Name.," about an Itomori village girl and Tokyo schoolboy who keep waking up in each other's bodies. One more barely missed connection and I would have screamed. I'm also long since over the humor, in so many of these Japanese animations, of younger siblings reacting hysterically to their older siblings' behavior.