THE WEEKEND MARQUEE: Everybody’s Not So ‘Fine’, and Jason Reitman’s ‘Juno’ Follow-up Takes Flight
When the month of December arrives, you can be sure of two things: 1) it’s going to get frigid–if you live in Chicago, that is–and 2) there’s going to be a slew of dull family dramedies centered around Christmas (The Holiday, The Family Stone). Everybody’s Fine, the new movie from writer/director Kirk Jones (Nanny McPhee), adapted from the 1990 Italian film of the same name (Stanno tutti bene), fits the bill perfectly.
The cast includes Robert De Niro as a regretful father trying to reconnect with his disillusioned children just in time for Christmas. It also stars Drew Barrymore, Sam Rockwell and Kate Beckinsale. In a new interview with the Star-Ledger, De Niro talks about playing such a dull, dialed-down character:
That was more of a challenge. Those parts, they are more difficult because you have to have the feeling, the intensity — but you’re holding it in, you have to keep it contained. It’s easier, a part where you can express it, because the performance is aided by the bigness of it.
Actually, it sounds like De Niro got paid for phoning in another role…which is probably quite easy–especially after doing that for over a decade (Showtime, Meet the Fockers, Righteous Kill, etc).
Everybody’s Fine is a prickly, bittersweet weeper about a father’s attempts at reconnection and reconciliation with his four far-flung children. De Niro plays his character completely contained, afraid to brim or overflow with emotion. The more he pulls back, the more he pulls in the audience.
But Kirk Honeycutt, of the Hollywood Reporter, disagrees:
The movie glides along a surface of complete inauthenticity. Characters have no depth, and all emotions get ladled on via a syrupy score and De Niro’s strenuous acting. It’s a no-go almost from the start.
As a side note: the poster for Everybody’s Fine is thoroughly disturbing. Click here to see what De Niro actually looks like now, and then look at his overly photoshopped face on the poster. Where producers trying to sell him as a younger man, even though he plays an old grandpa in the movie? And what’s with that giant Mickey Mouse hand?
When asked about the political undertone of his new movie Brothers in an interview with EyeWeekly.com, director Jim Sheridan, who helmed the excellent In America and the not-so-excellent Get Rich Or Die Tryin’, responded:
I think this movie could be about any war, anywhere. It’s about a traumatic event and how a family nearly breaks but sticks together and, ultimately, how it survives.
Smart answer, considering that modern war movies are usually box office poison (Jarhead, In The Valley Of Ellah, Rendition). Brothers, a remake of the Danish film of the same name from 2004 (and, oddly, abut the same exact war which is still going on), stars Natalie Portman, Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal.
It is about a man who is left for dead in Afghanistan and returns home to find his wife dating his younger brother. This love triangle plot is right out of Pearl Harbor, only grittier, I guess.
Meanwhile, Tom Long of Detroit News writes:
Sheridan and Maguire orchestrate things perfectly here, running a line of tension through the film that explodes at the end, just as it should.
The critical response is as disjointed and uneven as the movie itself. Can’t please every one, right?
Opening in limited release today, with a wider release set for Christmas, is Up In The Air. No, it’s not the new Pixar movie. It’s a drama starring George Clooney as a lonely man who travels the country firing people for different companies. It’s the third directorial effort from Jason Reitman (Juno, Thank You For Smoking).
Throughout his long promotional tour for Air, Reitman constructed a pie chart detailing what he’s been asked about the most. He recently summed up the most popular questions for Cinematical:
‘Why the project,’ Clooney, what’s next … the book … then my dad … whether it’s an optimistic or pessimistic film — that’s stronger here [Austin] than other places — technology’s stronger here too … happy ending, did I ever consider a happy ending, that’s stronger here. In Europe, there was a lot of talk about the economy. Everyone wanted to talk about the economy. In Miami, it’s George Clooney, George Clooney, George Clooney.
Maybe somebody should have asked him what it feels like to receive automatic critical praise for every project associated with his name. Juno is a mediocre teen comedy that most critics called “classic”. Reitman is almost like Judd Apatow at this point: the positive reviews will be there regardless of whether the movie actually deserves it.
People I meet always ask if there is something wonderful to see at the movies. Now I have an answer. See Up in the Air, a transporting comedy from slump-resistant director Jason Reitman (Thank You for Smoking, Juno) that jet-fuels the Oscar race, rattles with romantic turbulence, rumbles with the terror of living in a cratering economy and takes a never-better George Clooney on the ride of his acting life…One-word reaction: bravo.
Armored is a silly action heist flick starring Matt Dillon, Laurence Fishburne, Jean Reno and Skeet Ulrich (I thought he fled Hollywood after Scream). In an on-set interview with About.com, Dillon had nothing but praise for the movie’s director:
Nimrod [Antal] is a real visual filmmaker. I mean, he’s real visual and he’s really talented and creative. But I think it’s his instincts about performance more than anything else, you know? His eye, his taste… I think so much of it comes down to instincts and tastes with filmmakers because they’re relying on other people to do very specific jobs and they have to trust their gut. He’s got great instincts, great passion.
THE BUZZ: Looks like Armored‘s producers didn’t share Dillon’s sentiment towards the project because they did not screen it for critics. We all know that means. In one of the few reviews I could dig up, Thomas Leupp of Hollywood.com writes:
Imagine Reservoir Dogs, re-cut as a completely linear film, then stripped of its snappy dialogue, innovative shot design and compelling characters. In fact, the only thing Armored has in common with Tarantino’s flick is a cop with a bloody stomach wound — and even that’s disappointing.
Since 2006, Dillon’s post-Crash (for which he received his first Oscar nod) career has been steadily declining. You, Me and Dupree was the first nail in the coffin and Armored is his fourth or fifth. Doesn’t anybody have any more racist bigot roles for the man to play? Come on!