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Archive for the ‘Edward Norton’ Category

Birdman

03 Nov

Birdman – directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu.  Dramedy. 119 minutes Color 2014

★★★

The Story A one-time movie star rehearses for a comeback in a Broadway play, and various calamities ensue.

~

It’s a maze with no center. So one’s fun in it leaches away, as this dawns on one. And we become bruised by the way the story fails in its loyalty to us. For what we have, instead of a tale of something, is pigtails that octopus out on all sides and seize on nothing. We have the main actor and we have his stage competitor and this actor’s live-in lady and the main actor’s former wife and the main actor’s present mistress and the main actor’s grown daughter and the main actor’s best friend, and we have a play cobbled together from fiction by Raymond Carver, and we have a vengeful theatre critic. And the main story so trails off into unnecessary and thin expositions of these personages that it loses any coherence or any sense that there is a main story and a principal concern for us to latch onto. What’s at stake? Is it Will the show go on? Is it Will he get back his wife? Is it Will he commit suicide?

A possible story might have been: can the main character act? That is to say, Can he act brilliantly? The best acted scene is one in which he must come alive when a replacement actor brings it to brief vivid life. Edward Norton plays this replacement, and Norton is an actor in full command of his instrument. But the main character?

So the story might be: Can the main actor act just as brilliantly on opening night? That might be the story, but it doesn’t seem to be, for the success of the opening night performance depends upon a fluke that has nothing do to with acting. Besides, the main actor is played by Michael Keaton, and he is up to his old bagful of tricks and tics and twitches. So since we see Keaton is not a great actor himself, we never know what we are supposed to think about the acting of the character he is playing or how we are supposed to respond to him. The result is we never identify with the character. It’s a failure of treatment on the part of the director. Even the play he is in looks like a bad play, but one isn’t sure. Besides, we as an audience want a story to follow. We are filched of it.

We are also given scenes extravagantly unnecessary. For example, the film begins with Keaton meditating in his dressing room in full levitation, so we know he can fly; we don’t need this shown again until the end. On the other hand, we have scenes missing. The character Edward Norton plays is sidetracked cheaply into a dubious relationship with the daughter, and dropped from the story cold. We are left with the marble quarry of Michael Keaton’s charm. It becomes colder the more the director pays attention to it.

Norton is very good in his part, and so is Zach Galifianakis as the friend, and Lindsey Duncan as the deadly critic. The picture is shot so fluidly that it brings pleasure even to the missing pleasure of the film as a whole. We are given lots of narration but no story. Lots of icecream but no cone to carry it in.

At the end, there was no ovation. Everyone stood. To exit. Defeated.

 
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Posted in DRAMEDY, Edward Norton, Michael Keaton, Naomi Watts, Zach Galifianakis

 

The Grand Budapest Hotel

31 Mar

The Grand Budapest Hotel – directed by Wes Anderson. Farce. 99 minutes Color 2014.

★★★★

The Story:  A fancy hotel manager and his apprentice chase and are chased around mittel-Europe after and because of their love-lives with their lady friends.

~

Wes Anderson knows the first rule of farce: face directly forward and deliver it all full-front to the audience.

He also knows the second rule: symmetry. And it’s shadow twin: asymmetry.

The third rule he does not know. Which is that the third act must not pause even for a joke. The not-pausing is the joke.

So go to this picture, and expect that something pneumatic will leave as its third act halts along. Watch it stall when Edward Norton appears. He pops in like a jack-in-a-box, which is fun, but he lacks farce-style, which is crisp, innocent, and depends upon the fixed position of the character – a position often made clear by a mustache – all actions unmotivated and revealed as physicalizations almost mechanical. Then, the scene after the prison escape dwells on itself too long. Then, the gunfight is not handled wittily. Then, does the story need that fourth prisoner to die? And how did she fall out that window anyhow?

Still, the director does understand how to transfer stage farce into film farce. He turns the camera into all the doors farce requires. His lens opens and slams shut with perfect timing. The joke lies less in what the characters are saying or doing than how and when they appear and disappear before us. The show is directed right out to us. And all the tricks are droll and appreciate our wit in enjoying them.

So go: relax and enjoy the pastry of great film farce. Jeff Goldblum as the trustee of the will, Adrien Brody as the dagger villain, Tilda Swinton as his 85 year-old aunt, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, and Bob Balaban as concierges, Willem Dafoe as the grim hit-man, Tom Wilkinson as the author old, the impeccable Harvey Keitel as a thug. The central story is introduced and framed by F. Murray Abramson and Jude Law, and the  inner and main story is carried by Ralph Fiennes and Tony Revolori, who are first-class. The settings are rich, unusual, and flabbergasteringly funny.

I don’t know what you think you are doing with your lives, but you shouldn’t be going to any other film right now but this one.

 
 
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