Archive for the ‘Peter Sarsgaard’ Category

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.







Blue Jasmine

15 Aug

Blue Jasmine – written and directed by Woody Allen. Satirical Tragedy. A wealthy woman falls on hard times, moves in with her sister, and things get harder still. 98 minutes Color 2013.


The movie is fun to watch because everyone in it is fun to watch, from Glen Caspillo who plays a cabdriver in one scene to Cate Blanchett who is virtually in every scene.

Are Woody Allen movies ever miscast? We have sub-stars, such as Alex Baldwin who spreads his face with the merciless fixed smile of the opportunist and we have Sally Hawkins touching as Blanchett’s ordinary sister whom she moves in with and Peter Sarsgaard as Dwight, ideal as the millionaire in shining armor. But we also have every single minor character perfectly acted and played. As the maraschino cherry on top: Bobby Canavale playing to perfection the baby-bully of Hawkins’ boyfriend.

And we have Allen’s cunning script, which keeps us moving from the beach house on The Vineyard to the walkup on Van Nuys in San Francisco, set decoration by Kis Boxell and Regina Graves, and Production design by the ever faithful Santo Loquasto. Javier Aquirresarobe excellently shot it. What a team!

I don’t know if Cate Blanchett was Allen’s first choice to play this woman, but she is my first choice to play it right now. She is never without resources. She is always in the situation which she is, which she has created, and which she dearly wishes to escape. Vocally she has a rich, melodious alto, which one never tires of hearing. She wears that last desperate little Chanel jacket with a difference positively valiant. She looks smashing in the clothes and in the milieu of the millionaire she has married. She is riveting. She is imaginative, varied, and true.

And you do not give a rap about her or about anyone or anything else in the story, so no one is applauding. You sympathize with her at times, but the character is a character of satire, not of tragedy. She is one of Truman Capote’s swans. She is a woman with no inner resources whatsoever, and so there is no alternative for her. She pygmalioned herself out of a dull upbringing and changed her name of Jeanette into that of A Trophy: Jasmine – a  fragrance without a past, an invisible surface. This means that there is no inner drama, no other possibility, no might-have-been. The drama is between going mad and living out the madness of the life she still wishes for herself.

Jasmine has been compared inaptly to Blanche Dubois, but Blanche Dubois was a schoolteacher, and she had an inner life. Jasmine was never anything except the interior decoration of a tycoon. When that falls apart, she has nothing inside herself to fall back on. She has no money, no calling, no children. What happens to King Lear when his job falls away? He too goes mad. But with a mounting difference. There was that in him – authority – which invites obedience to it. Being every inch a king is different from being every inch a society bitch. And the difference is that Lear learns something from the denuding and self-denuding of his authority; Jasmine learns nought, for there is nothing learnable in her. She is a just a story about a past told by a verbose half-crazed lush who once had one.



16 Jan

Elegy – directed by Isabel Coixet. Romantic Drama. A celebrity professor of 60 and a student fall in love, and try for some history together. 112 minutes Color 2008.
Five stars, because of Penélope Cruz’ performance, with its fluidity, freedom, and accessibility. What a wonderful talent she has, what a beauty of spirit and form. But there is something wrong with the script or the story or with Ben Kingsley as the professor. Let’s start with him, because the film’s subject is so gripping and so beautifully told by the director, that I want to end with that, and get the questionable part out of the way first.

“I am here,” the last line of the script does not work nor does cancer as a dramatic tool. For the professor is a man who won’t commit. So, if the woman is dying of cancer the question of quitting her is no longer moot. Of course he can commit to her: she’s not going to live long. So if the cancer scene at the end is meant for us to believe that he finally does commit, it fails. It is not even strong enough to be ambiguous.

As to Kingsley’s performance, good as he is, he is not a film actor of the order of freedom of brilliance of Cruz, and what that means is that we never see in him the possibility that he might commit. So, for us he is without inner conflict. He is only one thing, non-commital. The character, however, has an open heart. He loves her. To be willing to feel such a love is already to commit, for it is to be taking an enormous risk. Kingsley is able to “act” love, but never to be in love. We never see the other side of his refusal.

However, setting all this aside, as I hope you do, the film is a thoroughly adult treatment of the subject of love. It is not about love’s approaches or love’s departures, but about love itself, what it looks like, how it goes. Abetted so ably by the brilliant supporting playing of Dennis Hopper, Peter Sarsgaard, and Patrician Clarkson, the film took my respect and interest and care all along.

The film is very badly titled, irrelevantly titled. It is set in New York City but filmed in Vancouver, so its atmosphere is more drenched than New York’s is, but that hardly matters as the picture unfolds behind its drawn shades and we are let into love’s unlikely clearing in the woods once more. It is not an elegy. It enlarges its subject with the life Cruz brings to it and my hope things will work out and the energy of my attention to those workings. I hope you will agree.

See it.

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