Tag Archives: independent film movie reviews

Unfair and Unbalanced

Christine

by Hope Madden

There’s a moment in Christine – Antonio Campos’s clinical character study of ‘70s on-air reporter Christine Chubbuck – when a violently depressed Christine chastises her mother’s parenting. Had she been a better parent, maybe Christine would understand how the world worked.

There is such honest, bewildered frustration in that moment. With that single thought, a career-best Rebecca Hall exposes Chubbuck’s isolated, lonely, crippled soul.

We’re invited to join the stormy decline of Chubbuck’s life. An awkward, severe professional at odds with the era’s sensationalistic news trends, Chubbuck clashes with her Sarasota station’s news manager (Tracy Letts) and pines for its handsome anchor (Michael C. Hall).

Chubbuck’s professional frustrations and personal isolation come to a head simultaneously. Thanks to Hall’s meticulous performance, what we can see is that the emotionally brittle, deeply depressed Chubbuck hasn’t the resilience to contend with it.

Hall’s body language, her gait, her facial expressions and her speech amplify her character’s growing turmoil. It’s a creeping darkness that grows to be almost unbearable before bursting into an eye-of-the-storm calm that’s even eerier for its realism.

Though Craig Shilowich’s screenplay leans too heavily on frustrated spinsterisms as a handy excuse for Chubbuck’s behavior, and Campos’s direction intentionally keeps Christine at arm’s length, Hall’s harrowing turn guarantees that Christine Chubbuck makes an impression.

Campos’s disturbing 2012 horror Simon Killer remained intentionally distant as well – a provocative approach that suited the mystery of the titular sociopath. Here, though, it feels too chilly, almost heartless.

That seems inappropriate, because neither Chubbuck nor those she left behind were heartless. In fact, one of the great successes in Hall’s performance is her ability to personify Chubbuck’s amazingly off-putting, alienating behavior while simultaneously pointing out that most of us are only a few social misjudgments away from pariah status ourselves.

Inevitably, the film feels like a 110-minute prelude to Chubbuck’s infamous on-air suicide, and that’s where Campos and Shilowich’s weaknesses show. What was at the heart of Chubbuck’s final display – institutional sexism, unending loneliness, mental illness, professional integrity, irony?

The filmmakers showed a great deal while exploring very little, but thanks to a performance likely to be remembered come awards season, Rebecca Hall makes sure Chubbuck’s struggle resonates.

Verdict-3-5-Stars

A Bittersweet Farewell

by Hope Madden

How bittersweet that the great James Gandolfini goes out on such a high note. The man who may have been the all time best onscreen Mafia boss showed surprising versatility throughout his film career, and this talent is on beautiful display in one of his final performances.

In writer/director Nicole Holofcener’s new indie gem Enough Said, Gandolfini plays Albert, the unlikely yet fitting new suitor in Eva’s (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) life.

Both are divorced and facing the prospect of empty nests as their daughters head off to college, and together they develop a sweet crush that is a joy to watch as it blossoms.

Disheveled and genuine, Louis-Dreyfus has never been better, and together these veterans best known for their epically impressive television careers sparkle with tender onscreen chemistry.

Holofcener’s made a career of exploring the issues facing privileged, urban dwelling women. While this may seem too trite to tolerate, her laid back style, dialed-down neuroticism and eye for casting tend to balance things out.

Characteristically, Holofcener’s focus in Enough Said is the day to day struggle with intimacy, connection, and the compromise that accompanies a relationship. Still, this film is probably her most mainstream and accessible to date because the problems themselves are more universal.

Expect the loose narrative and slice of life structure, but with Louis-Dreyfus and her infectious chuckle driving the story, everything seems cheerier, more forgivable, and ultimately hopeful.

The film’s conflict feels a little contrived, but Louis-Dreyfus’s comic timing and unadorned performance keep things honest. She’s aided immeasurably by a cast eyeball deep in talent.

The always excellent Catherine Keener and Toni Collette are impressive, of course. Ben Falcone also gets in some good lines, and keep a look out for Toby Huss as Eva’s ex. (He’s The Wiz, and nobody beats him! Seriously, it’s that guy from Seinfeld. You’re welcome.)

Holofcener’s crafted a wise and affectionate look at middle age. Her writing is just as incisive as ever, but this cast finds more heart in the humor – Gandolfini in particular. As he did with all of his best work, he uncovers the vulnerability in the character that makes him human, recognizably flawed and therefore compelling.

That’s right. He could even play the romantic lead. The guy could do anything.

 

Verdict-4-0-Stars

 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nEEJaIjF_Lo