Archive for the ‘Susan Sarandon’ Category

The Last Of Robin Hood

06 Sep

The Last Of Robin Hood – written and directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland. Biopic. 94 minutes Color 2014.


The Story: A faded movie star takes up with 15 year-old girl, abetted in the affair by her mother.


A hollow enterprise, since it is miscast.

Everyone knows that Errol Flynn was a magnificent specimen, 6’2”, elegant, slender, athletic, beautifully proportioned, and gorgeous. Kevin Kline is none of these things and never was. But if you are to play the part of an actor whom everyone still watches in movies, you have to have some of those things, and the most important of them is probably to be 6’2”. Hugh Jackman, who comes from Flynn’s part of the world (Tasmania), is the right age and the obvious choice to play him, for the wreck of that seagoing yacht Errol Flynn needs the oomph of the remains.

Kline brings his charm to it, his fine appearance in well-tailored clothes, his way with a cigarette. We all love Kevin Kline and want him to be good – but his Flynn accent is slightly off – why is that? Flynn came from an academic background, and actually had breeding, and Kline has no trouble in convincing us he was a gentleman. But you have to get Flynn’s accent exactly right to do it. And you have to get his crocked grin, too, his sense of conning you for all you’re worth. But the script leaves him with nothing more than a journeyman-like performance to enact. We do not have scenes of Flynn’s merriment, sense of fun, playfulness, or even his love and skill with the sea. We hear about it, but we never see it.

Susan Sarandon is equally miscast as the mother of this nymphet. She is too old to play her. She skirts around the role, as she often does with parts, and does not take it head on. She has lines and scenes that tell us what the character is, but we never see from Sarandon what the character is. She is the guardian and promoter of a grande cocotte. But she herself is not grand. She has bought into being touched by the greatness of a Hollywood star as her highest moral value in life. This we never see in the actress. We hear it in the lines, but not in the actress. There is a value system at play larger than the one before us with this woman, and we need to feel it.

Finally, there is Dakota Fanning, woefully under-cast in the part of the girl. In real life, Beverly Aadland was as sexy as a young Brigitte Bardot, and couldn’t help being so, any more than Bardot could when young. Flynn was mesmerized by her. She evidently had a full natural grasp of repartee, which anyone would be drawn to once they had stopped making out. Dakota Fanning is no sexier than a pudding. It is not her fault. It is not her fault that there is no way at all that she could play this role. She has none of the natural taunt of such a girl, none of the erotic drive and certainty, none of the inherent readiness.

Unless the movie-going public is fascinated to know about the private life of these three now after so many years have gone by that no one remembers it at all any more, I think they will stay away in as large a group as I observed staying away from the seats where I witnessed this unfortunately titled dud stumbling forth from the screen. Spare your penny. See Kline in something else.

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Posted in ACTING STYLE: AMERICAN REALISTIC, BIO-PIC, Kevin Kline, Susan Sarandon


Robot and Frank

29 Aug

Robot and Frank – directed by Jake Shreier. SciFi Drama. An elderly man is assigned a robot to be his caretaker. 89 minutes Color 2012.


Frank Langella is a wonder to watch as he gets to accept his odd companion, played by the voice of Peter Sarsgaard. Langella has been around the block as an actor so long that he surprises every nook and cranny he comes upon.

The story is by a half-wit writer (according to the moronic Extra Voice Over he supplies, a “sort of” Valley Boy, using “sort of” six times a clause), but, unlike him, it has its charms, which supply the robot with a moral and ethic denied to the Langella character who is cat burglar striving for his final hit. He teaches the robot to pick locks.

Supplying a welcome set of variations for these two, we have three fine actors, James Marsden, Liv Tyler, and the inestimable Susan Sarandon. Watching Sarandon these days one sits back as confident as in the company of the best claret and simply enjoys a skill which is as past expertise as the moon the earth. What ease! What human insight! What open presence!

These three circle around Frank and his robot and they work toward a perhaps too sappy denouement for such a grouch.

But never mind. The idea of a robot pal ordered-in to care-take a dotty senior has a fine simplicity to it, and we look upon the doings of these two as perfectly possible in the near future.

A pleasant way to spend time without wasting it.







The Company You Keep

19 Apr

The  Company You Keep –– directed by Robert Redford. Manhunt Drama. A member of the Weather Underground lams from the law to find the one who can prove his innocence. 125 minutes Color 2013.


The story is beautifully cast –– and why shouldn’t it be? – with a series of actors playing parts which revisit the terrorist activities of the early 1970s as each one reflects upon the parts the movement played and his part in those parts. Susan Sarandon starts off as the match who ignites the fuse of detonations involving her allies from the old days. Sarandon plays it as an honorable grown-up handing herself over to the law, and peaching on no one, because Weathermen never betrayed one another and she’s not going to start now.

She is interviewed by a local newspaperman, played by Shia Leboeuf, whom she trusts. LeBoeuf is admirably irritating, to his editor played by Stanley Tucci, and to everyone else, which is just right for this role. And his implacable hunger for the rest of the story leads to each of the old-timers. Richard Jenkins brilliantly embodies a man who makes flaccid excuses for his dead ideals by entertaining his students with the exploits they led to. Nick Nolte plays a man who has done well and is still willing to pitch in to help a friend in trouble from the cause. And Robert Redford plays the man on the run.

He is sought on two sides. The FBI in the person of Terrence Howard wants him for the famous bank robbery in which he was supposedly involved and in which a teller was killed. And the reporter himself seeks him for a good story. They pincer him.

The chase leads to Julie Christie, an ideologue from the old days, still fervent. However, the final scene, very much like the final scene in the recently released Sally Potter film Ginger and Rosa, is badly played and shot. Baffling.

It requires the tension of a great debate. All the issues that united them then need to be displayed, and they are, for the film is very well written, but in this scene others make several destructive mistakes.

One is that it appears they also spend the night in sex together – which is irrelevant, or ought to be.

The second is Julie Christie’s hair, which is wrong for the character. We see her hair straight when she is young. Now its curls mask her face. She cannot be seen. Someone should have said No to Julie Christie, except that to do so to her about anything is probably unthinkable. I couldn’t a done it. We’re all still too much in love with her.

The third great harm is that the scene needs to take place out of doors in full daylight, instead of in front of an unconvincing fire in a cabin by a lake where, again, it is too dark to see it.

The fourth and worse harm is that neither actor is allowed to really engage with the other, which is the fault of the director and photographer, who do the scene in a series of reaction shots. The scene collapses.

But the movie is interesting up until this the penultimate point. And Redford is quite good in the film throughout. Notice what he plays. He does not play The Hero or The Important Person Invincible. He plays someone failing at every attempt.

Actually, that’s not playable by an actor, any more than the other two are.

But watch him as he believes he is being let down by Jenkins and Nolte. He does not get mad. No. He is wounded. He is scared. Very good choice. And, while if you sit there calculating how old would have Redford been in the ‘70s, and does it seem likely he would have a nine year-old daughter, it is still one of the better pieces of acting he has done. Our attention to his beauty – the more sad being gone now – has been supplanted by our interest in his well-being as a character, which is just as it should be.

The film engaged me up to the end, which I have spent too much time on descrying and decrying. It has lots of entertainment value, and wonderful performances to behold.


Autumn Reunion

30 Jun

Autumn Reunion – directed by Paolo Barzman. Drama. 40 years after The War, three survivors meet again and face facing the past. 1 hour 39 minutes Color 2007.


What a beautiful film for us! Told to us at once carefully and imaginatively by editor Arthur Tarnowski, photographer Luc Montpellier, and director Paolo Barzman, it is the story of the price of survival on those who survive and on all who surround those who survive. When they were children Gabriel Byrne and Susan Sarandon were interned in an extermination camp way-station outside Paris, and taken under the wing of a teenage man, now grown old into the person of Max Von Sydow. All three of them by ironic chance have survived, and now they meet again on the farm of survivor Susan Sarandon in Quebec. The farm and the lake beside it hold them in a subtle vast embrace. Sarandon is a grandmother now, and the little grandson and his father, her son, stay with her there with her husband, Christopher Plummer, the college professor she married when she was his student, years before. This gathering brings into the surface the dire effects their internment had and the cruel damage it also discovers fresh means to cause. Plummer is the pivotal character of this group, Sarandon is the focal character, for she has kept alive the damage of the camps and made her life’s work the message of that damage to the world at large, sacrificing her marriage to that task, for both her son and husband suffer from her mad devotion. Each person in turn rises like a great wave out of the calm refuge of the farm and clashes with each of the others. I like everything about this movie; I like the production design by Jean-Francois Campeau; the house is just right; I like the music by Normand Corbeil; always apt – but what I admire most is the acting of these four. When I see Bette Davis’s films after All About Eve I see that she has nothing new to show me, I see the life of her skill decline by insisting on staying the same. But here I see four actors long familiar to me who still surprise me, and in the case of Plummer, an actor I ordinarily do not like, achieve not just wit but humor. They have grown. No. They grow before our very eyes; there’s no past tense to it. It is happening right before us. In acting, mastery knows no end. These four are at ease with its great difficulties. Refresh yourself with the spectacle of their accomplishment.


Moonlight Mile

25 Aug

Moonlight Mile – Written and Directed by Brad Silberling. Family Drama. Truth emerges following the death of a daughter who is also a fiancée. 146 minutes Color 2002.

* * * *

Jake Gyllenhaal is wet behind the ears when he stars in this film, but, still and all, he really does know how to play his cards. Until he does, you watch the hieroglyphic of his face, his curious mouth, his deep blue eyes, and his hunched walk for a sign of life, and you find immovable mystery. But he is still one of the few actors, all this being so, in whom I can actually place myself (and I resemble him in no particular). He makes the idiotic mistake of combing his hair over his brow in order to make himself look a teenager, and only succeeds in making himself look eleven – which is odd, since the character he is playing is 22 and Gyllenhall at the time was also 22. If you care about her, and I do, Susan Sarandon is sometimes a wonderful character actor, and this is one of those times. She also has a wonderful character to play, a feisty lady with a mind of her own and a wise eye on the conduct of others. The detriment to the film, here as so often elsewhere, is Dustin Hoffmann who is mechanical and actory, and none of whose good ideas are good enough to be natural. He is supposed to be an irritating character; he is just an actor whose acting is irritating; it’s not the same thing. When he drops it, he breathes a life that he has not earned. What less can I say? Let me say it. He is an actor of repellent technique. The film brings forth to blot him out the great Holly Hunter as the D.A. and an actor called Ellen Pompeo, a personality of the kind of female forwardness that once was found in the likes of young Lauren Bacall or Veronica Lake. She’s unusually likeable and mysterious. Sarandon, Hoffman and Gyllenhaal are Jewish. The Sarandon and Hoffman characters give their daughter a Jewish funeral. But nothing is done with this, nothing is realized about it artistically. Odd. Still, much of the excellence and recommendability of this film is the work of the writer director, who does miscalculate the writing of the exposition regarding Pompeo’s working double shifts to keep open a bar, but whose character dialogue has lots of vitality and ambiance. It’s very well directed, beautifully filmed, and the setting is sensationally right. Give it a shot. You will not be wasting your time.






Who Am I This TIme?

07 Mar

Who Am I This Time? — Directed by Jonathan Demme — Comedy. Amateur theatricals enliven the lives of two shy leads. 60 minutes. Color 1982.

* * * * *

Jonathan Demme is around 28, Susan Sarandon is around 36, and Christopher Walken is around 29, and it’s curious to see how their developments differ. Demme had already made Melvin And Howard and a variety of other pictures by this time, but the work here seems rather ragtag, a consequence one might ascribe to the ragtag conditions of filming this American Playhouse piece by Kurt Vonnegut. However, it serves the amateur, hometown material which is itself ragtag, since it deals with the workings, personalities, and performances in a small town community theatre. Susan Sarandon is an actor almost incapable of giving an emotionally coherent performance. Sometimes she is very real and true; sometimes, she is just putting out the soap opera style in which she began her career. Here her problem may lie in being ten years too old for the part. She doesn’t look too old at all, but she is 36 playing a 26 year old, and it appears that one of her adjustments is to make the girl be young — a mistake, since to do it she makes her look innocent, which never works for an actor. As the emotionless highly competent visiting technician she is much more real than as the girl finding her emotions. Finding her emotions, she “uses” her hot brown hydrocephalic eyes, for this and that. It always sabotages her moment. However, the fun of the part is that, when she is called upon to come alive in an acting role in A Streetcar Named Desire, she does so on all four burners and the oven too, and the scene works like all get out. And this is true for the large body of the film, whose story depends upon the comic transformation of two wallflowers into creatures of raging passion, Stella and Stanley. Sarandon can act like gangbusters when she leaves herself alone. Christopher Walken, on the other hand, has to control himself like mad to act like gangbusters, and it’s interesting to see how solid he is in his craft at this age, a sort of American Terrence Stamp, beautiful to gaze upon, neurotic, mannered, and riveting. The constant looks off. The savoring of subtext over relating. The physical animation. The rashness. The inherent comic sense. The quirky timing. And the sense that he has spent a lot of time looking at himself in the mirror. He actually plays Cyrano de Bergerac before our very eyes in such a funny high fustian style that it is hard to believe it is the same actor whom we see playing Oscar Wilde’s Jack and Shakespeare’s Romeo and Stanley. The whole crew have caught the dear absurdity of amateur theatrics, the aliveness and excitement of performing. I have known actors like Walken’s character, brilliant nerds whose acting skills are world class and yet you have to drag them to the tryouts, and no one will ever know of them but their own small communities. The film is a tribute to actors of all ranges and regions — light, unforced, and endearingly awkward.



James And The GIant Peach

15 Feb

James And The Giant Peach – directed by Henry Selick – Fantasy Fairy Tale. A ten-year-old boy desires to escape from his ghastly aunts. 79 minutes Color 1996.

* * * * *

Miriam Margolyes and the great Joanna Lumley play the venomous aunts in the live-action portion of the picture, the usual Disney horrible relatives which we all have. This story is a male version of Cinderella. In this case the little boy is worked like a slave by the wicked women, but salvation comes in the person a fairy godfather, played in the tattered uniform of a Napoleonic soldier by Pete Postlethwaite, a wonderful choice for the role, because you don’t know whether this is a poison pirate or a putative parent. For the pumpkin, which is the vehicle of salvation, we have a fruit of similar hue, a giant peach. Within this vessel and in animation now, our hero, well played by Paul Terry, is transported to The Ball, which in this male version is, of course, The Big Apple, a different sort of ball than a ball. He is accompanied by a gaggle of bugs: a centipede from The Bronx voiced by Richard Dreyfus, a seductive spider played by Susan Sarandon, Jane Leeves as Mrs Ladybug, Simon Callow magisterial as Sir Grasshopper, and David Thewlis voicing the Earthworm. They provide us with some merry songs and witty entertainment.  Whereas Cinderella is an important tale of sexual selection by a female assisted by no one, James And The Giant Peach, its male version, is the story of a resourceful boy headed for the commercial headquarters of the modern world and assisted by many. Make of that what you will, the piece is fine for anyone of any age, provided you are not a ten year-old boy who might take it to represent something true.


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