Lina Lamont

"What do you think I am, dumb or something?"

Archive for the tag “Adam Driver”

Paterson

This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 1st January 2017

5 stars, Rated M, 118 mins

I’m not the first to rave about Jim Jarmusch’s latest love story, but I’ll tell you why I think it’s sending critics into paroxysms of gratitude and appreciation. Paterson feels like just the antidote we need as 2016 draws the curtain on its decimation of beloved musicians and actors, and its worldwide natural disasters, and is a welcome respite from the cynicism induced by recent months of political absurdity (politicking so absurd that if they made a movie of it, people would accuse it of being unrealistic).

Paterson is named for the titular character as well as the city in New Jersey in which the story is set.  Played by Adam Driver (the indie darling who crossed over into the Star Wars universe to win plaudits as Kylo Ren), he is a gentle-natured chap who gets walked by his pet bulldog; the epitome of the working man, driving buses by day and enjoying a pint of an evening. Less typically, Paterson writes poetry in his lunch breaks, before returning to his sweetly kooky girlfriend (Golshifteh Farahani) whose unconditional support for his extra-curricular creative leanings is immensely touching.

paterson

Director Jarmusch is reportedly uncomfortable shooting sex scenes, so there’s a novel pleasure in watching an understated love affair on screen that eschews carnal simulation for companionable conversations and loving gestures like helping to pack freshly-baked cupcakes for market. Even if Jarmusch’s vampire drama Only Lovers Left Alive made romance more melodramatic (with captivating performances from Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston, how could it not?), he has a knack for making the audience care about his characters as much as they patently do each other.

The other joy in Jarmusch’s work is in the details. Amidst scenes of well-observed dialogue, the camera cuts away to sneakered feet dangling on a bus, and photo frames of a character’s past life. Our unlikely protagonist encounters ordinary people who bring his quotidian life unexpected meaning. A carload of street-talkin’, white homeboys warn Paterson unthreateningly about the dangers of getting “dog-jacked”. He takes inspiration from a 12-year old poet. Throughout, Jarmusch’s quiet observations entrance the eye and hook you into the world his characters inhabit. Even when Paterson’s best “work story” is about a bus breaking down, we hang on his every word.

Simultaneously making me want to cry without ever giving me cause, watching Paterson is as soothing as reading a great book while sipping a fine ale on a leisurely afternoon.

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This is Where I Leave You

This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 26th October 2014

Mindful that terrific ensemble casts (Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Adam Driver, Jane Fonda) do not always a terrific movie maketh, it’s commendable that the family dramedy This is Where I Leave You is well-scripted, well-acted and doesn’t try to be anything it’s not. What it is, however, isn’t necessarily that compelling.

From the moment Bateman’s radio producer Judd finds his wife in bed with another man, the story scurries quickly back to his childhood home where the family has been summoned to “sit shiva” in the wake of his father’s death. Judd and his three siblings must sit side-by-side for seven days to greet mourners and lick the wounds of their lives so far. There’s the brother under pressure to impregnate his wife; the sister married to a corporate jerk; the youngest brother Phillip (Driver being typically Driver) who is still a spoilt brat. Quite enough family dysfunction already without their mother (an enjoyable Fonda) sporting a preposterous bosom.

The opening scene (shots of New York, Bateman walking across a bustling street with a coffee) hints that this is going to be a whole lot of what we’ve seen before, and it is. Adults behave like children, long-lost loves are rekindled and mourned, and a small child rolls out a “poop joke” several times too many. The plot is overinvolved and convenient – and yet, despite the film’s lack of originality and instant forgettability, the actors read their lines with truth and still manage to leave you feeling charmed.

Inside Llewyn Davies

This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 23rd February 2014

Despite having grown up watching MGM musicals where the multi-talented stars could sing and dance as a matter of course, it’s still a thrill nowadays when contemporary actors suddenly belt out a tune, using their own voice in a way that elevates them above their Hollywood peers.

And so the revelation that is Oscar Isaac (Sucker Punch, Agora – I know, right, who knew?) takes the stage/screen as the Coen brothers’ latest schlump of a protagonist in this delightfully downbeat tale of a musician whose talent may be appreciated more by his cinematic audience than the record producers he so desperately needs to impress.

Llewyn’s gone solo – not that he sold many records when he had a duo – but what with keeping tabs on his friends’ cat and finding a couch to crash on throughout a bitterly cold New York winter, his lacklustre approach to getting back on the folk music horse doesn’t look promising. Plus, he’s in big trouble with fellow singer Jean (Carey Mulligan, as livid as we’ve ever seen her, and also singing for real as she did so beautifully in Shame).

As in every Coen odyssey, Llewyn’s everyman travails are resonant enough that any viewer would offer up their coat, but it’s the people he encounters who provide the spice in the story. Llewyn’s half-hearted attempts at living life bring him into contact with a series of amusing characters, notably stalwart John Goodman (seemingly having borrowed Javier Bardem’s toupee from No Country for Old Men) and Adam Driver from Girls whose star just gets brighter and brighter as he donates his lovely bass tones to an hilarious rendition of “Please Mr Kennedy”. Throw in a square, bearded Justin Timberlake who just can’t quell his inherent charisma even when he’s a supporting player, and it’s clear the Coens’ new guard is as brilliant as the Macys and Buscemis of yore.

Aesthetically, the film is a dream – a smoky, grey, 1960s winter peopled with period faces and dowdy costumes, punctuated by Llewyn’s brown corduroy jacket and Dylanesque stoop. (Indeed, much of the production design evokes Dylan’s record covers and there are other blatant musical nods to the era with mention of one character’s being stationed in Germany with “Private Presley”.)

While not as plot-driven as No Country, True Grit or Fargo, Llewyn’s road trip from one Big Smoke to another is engrossing thanks to its strong investment in character and the pleasure to be had from recognising the nods to previous Coen films. Accompanied by a delightful folky soundtrack, you’ll want to get inside Llewyn Davis’ world and stick around even after the film is over.

Frances Ha

Frances Ha (not her real name) lives in a black and white New York City. She’s 27, still finding herself but not even really knowing where to look, as she drifts between college and an attempt at a grown-up career as a dancer. Quirky and undeniably lovely, she nonetheless suffers the slings and arrows of being told she looks older than her age “but less mature”, and that she’s “completely undateable” by her evidently keen flatmate, Benjy. To top things off, her best gal-pal, Sophie, just isn’t around so much anymore. Frances is at a bit of a loss.

Directed by The Squid and the Whale‘s Noah Baumbach, and co-written with the star, Greta Gerwig, this is economical filmmaking at its best (and a mere snip at 82 minutes). We see just enough of Frances’ family Christmas to know she’s parentally-supported and stable, and not to be pitied. Whip-smart dialogue between her arty flatmates (including the droll Adam Driver from TV’s Girls) keeps pace with zippy action as Frances makes an ill-fated trip to Paris, providing a ruefully funny anti-cliché. She’s awkward at dinner parties, but manages to pirouette neatly along the fine line between foolish and funny so that we don’t find her annoying.

Though Frances Ha is inevitably reminiscent of Girls (in tone and subject as much because of Driver’s participation), Frances is less angsty and self-conscious than Hannah. This girl deserves accolades in her own right.

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