Tag Archives: Diane Lane

Family Feud

Let Him Go

by George Wolf

It feels like Kevin Costner and Diane Lane have made ten movies together, doesn’t it? They haven’t, but their low key and lived-in chemistry keeps you constantly invested in Let Him Go, a slow burning and effective revenge thriller aimed squarely at the older demos.

Costner and Lane are George and Margaret Blackledge, a retired Sheriff and his wife loving their status as grandparents to little Jimmy Blackledge in late 1950s Montana. The simple life turns tragic when their son James (Ryan Bruce) dies in an accident, and complicated when their daughter-in-law Lorna (Kayli Carter) marries the brooding Donnie Weboy (Will Brittain).

Donnie’s an abusive husband and stepfather, and without warning, takes Lorna and Jimmy back to his family in North Dakota.

George and Margaret decide to track them all down, finding out pretty quickly the Weboy clan don’t appreciate attention from strangers.

The flashpoint to this Western Gothic blood feud is matriarch Blanche Weboy, brought to scenery devouring life by the glorious Lesley Manville. Dragging on her cigarettes and demanding obedience, Blanche is quick to show the Blackledges how far she’ll go to keep Lorna and their grandson under her thumb.

Writer/director Thomas Bezucha builds the tension well, then uses Manville’s entrance as the natural catalyst for amped intensity. Adapting Larry Watson’s novel, Bezucha carves out the road to vengeance and redemption like a less nuanced Cormac McCarthy. This isn’t poetry, but that doesn’t mean it’s not primal and satisfying.

Costner’s in his comfort zone as a weathered country lawman, more invested and touching than he’s been in years. Lane grounds Margaret with a wounded but determined heart, stepping easily into the soul of the film.

After a tender kiss, a sixty-something husband telling a fifty-something wife, “Don’t start anything you can’t finish” could seem like a cheesy ad for Viagra. It doesn’t here, and that’s a testament to the authentic bonds of time, grief and love formed by Costner and Lane.

Even at nearly two hours, the secondary character development does feel slight, and some thematic possibilities of the Blackledge’s friendship with a young and wayward Native American (Booboo Stewart) are never quite fulfilled.

But Let Him Go is here for the adults at the ranch, with a solid American genre yarn full of few surprises, but plenty of bang for your buckaroo.

Fish Story


by George Wolf


McConaughey takes a long, emphatic drag on a cigarette, then downs a shot of rum, his constantly wet t-shirt screaming for mercy.

Hathaway vamps in from the thunderstorm, wearing a hat pulled down low and a raincoat from the “nothing underneath” collection at Victoria’s Secret.

“I still love you, high school sweetheart, and now you have to save me…and our child,” she purrs. “Take my abusive husband Jason Clarke out on your fishing boat, feed him to the sharks, and I’ll give you ten million dollars.”


Yes, the noir is strong with Serenity, with familiar tropes laid so heavy you know something must be up. So when writer/director Steven Knight finally does make his pivot a la Gone Girl, the real eyebrow-raiser is why.

Knight, whose career has shown flashes of brilliance (Eastern Promises, Locke), takes his latest in some wild directions, almost none of which make much sense. There’s plenty of pretty island scenery, “fish on the hook” and “one that got away” symbolism, along with some random supporting talent (Diane Lane, Djimon Hounsou) that feels as wasted as the leads.

The spoon-feeding that’s waiting at the end of Serenity is well-intentioned but structurally misguided, landing so far from the mark that just embracing that early Body Heat wave and riding it out might have made for a better crash.





Deja Vu

Mark Felt: The Man Who Took Down the White House

by Hope Madden

Imagine what could go wrong if one group of power hungry thugs could subvert any investigative body, discredit the press and cover their corrupt, nation-degrading tracks.

Yes, in light of pussy grabbing, Nazi accepting, wall building, election tampering, hurricane victim abandoning and countless other inconceivable abominations, Watergate seems quaint.

But maybe that’s where Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House could find its power. It could not only underscore the nearly incomprehensible severity of our current climate but also remind us that change is possible.

Liam Neeson plays Felt, the Associate Director of the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover who found himself so aggrieved by the corruption overtaking the bureau after Hoover’s passing that he leaked confidential information to the press, earning himself the affectionate nickname Deep Throat.

Writer/director Peter Landesman takes on nearly 45-year-old history perhaps to draw comparisons between then and now. For the former New York Times investigative journalist, the material may have been too tempting.

Since his leap to filmmaking, Landesman’s been concerned with true-life tales, but he’s been stronger as a writer (Kill the Messenger) than a writer/director (Concussion). Here, he stumbles with both.

The script wedges in too many clunky connectors to help the audience figure out who each participant is rather than creating a set of characters. Ensemble dramas have loads of characters. Watergate has loads of characters and drama. Let it breathe.

Worse still are the soliloquies Landesman saddles onto poor Diane Lane as Felt’s wife Audrey. Lane does what she can but her overwritten monologues beg the question: why is she telling him these things? Surely her husband already knows. The answer, of course, is that she’s telling us, which is just weak writing.

On paper, Felt’s a fascinating character, as any lifer in the bureau must be. And Liam Neeson’s a fine actor. So why is it the film never plumbs any deeper than a distant stare, a grimace, an errant curse word?

Mark Felt is onscreen for maybe 4 minutes in All The President’s Men and I understood him as a character more fully than in his full 2-hours here.

What may be the most interesting idea Landesman shares is that Felt was less interested in criminal activity at the highest level than he was in the idea that the FBI would become beholden to the White House. He was busy looking beyond a single presidency to the power and necessity of an independent investigative body when everybody else was too stunned by the felon in the White House to notice.

You know what, though? I bet Nixon knew he was president of the US Virgin Islands.

Paris Is Yearning

Paris Can Wait

by Matt Weiner

Have you seen the Coppola film about an unlikely star-crossed couple touring a foreign country? In Paris Can Wait, Eleanor Coppola, better known for her documentaries, writes and directs her first feature film.

Diane Lane plays Anne, the long-suffering wife and de facto personal assistant to a hard-driving producer husband Michael (Alec Baldwin, literally phoning most of his lines in). When Anne needs to get to Paris from Cannes, Michael’s business partner Jacques all too happily offers to drive.

Jacques has a spontaneous lust for life as well as an endless appetite that turns a one-day drive into an unexpected long weekend in close quarters for the pair. Paris Can Wait has some very loud echoes of the meandering “stranger adrift in a strange land” in Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation.

But the comparison does Eleanor Coppola no favors, instead showing just how respectively undeveloped and soulless Anne and Jacques are. At least Bob Harris knows that his distinguished charm act is just another form of kabuki, whereas Jacques comes across as sincerely committed to his hedonistic shtick.

This by itself wouldn’t torpedo the film, given Arnaud Viard’s effortless bonhomie. But it’s impossible to ignore the complete lack of agency given to Anne up until the very last frame of film. Jacques’s disquisitions on food and wine, art and local history are far too boring to be as one-sided as they are. All their outings together are gorgeously filmed, but Jacques’s conversational M.O. is to recite the first two lines of Wikipedia on any and every subject that comes into his field of vision.

In return, Anne is supposed to derive value from being pelted with the encyclopedia every five minutes. Call it homme-splaining, and then also call the police to rescue Anne from her whimsical weekend of nonconsensual self-discovery.

It’s not that two strangers wandering around a foreign country and talking can’t work—Richard Linklater got a sublime trilogy out of it. But the whole of France isn’t scenic enough to make up for Jacques’s tour guide/hostage taker balancing act. Just how bad is it for Anne? If the film swapped out the soundtrack for tense horror strings, there’s not a single excursion with Jacques that couldn’t naturally segue to a scene of Anne lashed to a bed with both her legs broken.

And somehow the trip stirs up life-changing feelings for both characters. (To be fair, spending an entire weekend feeling like each new adventure is a prelude to a murder would probably change anybody’s outlook on life.) Anne and Jacques each get a last minute, pathos-drenched backstory. But the result is not only forced, it also weakens Lane’s last-ditch attempt to inject a flash of mischief and mystery into Anne’s final moments onscreen.

This makes Paris Can Wait tragedy, not comedy. If Lane is going to be typecast in this sort of role, at least allow her character to flourish. Instead we’re stuck with the Jacques tasting menu: course after course of attractive fluff whether you want it or not, and then someone else gets stuck with the bill.