For movie watchers, few things can be more frustrating than films that begin with a sequence of immense promise, only to show over the remainder that the emperor truly wears no clothes. Two new examples come from the horror realm.
Until now, Ethan Hawke was having a wonderful year. Before Midnight, the third leg of his trilogy with director Richard Linklater and actress Julie Delpy, brought waves of critical acclaim and talk of another Oscar nomination for their collaborative screenplay, while The Purge turned a meager investment into a highly profitable box-office take.
Neither a chain of spice stores nor a Food Network program, The Seasoning House is a bleak-as-nuclear-winter thriller set during the Balkan conflict of the 1990s. A deaf girl named Angel (Brit teen Rosie Day) is taken from her home by soldiers who shoot her mother dead.
Paul Schrader’s The Canyons opens and closes with a montage of abandoned movie theaters. For this film in particular, that choice strikes one as symbolic in several ways: not only as a comment on the state of the industry, but on the state of The Canyons itself. You’re unlikely to find many 2013 films this empty.
What's a director of classic musicals doing in science fiction? Making Saturn 3, one of the worst of the genre Hollywood made in the immediate post-Star Wars / Alien era. Stanley Donen (Singin' in the Rain) takes to it about as well as you'd expect; he's in over his head.
On paper — or computer screen — Love Is All You Need sounds like an overdose of saccharine. Even swallowing just a few plot keywords could trigger symptoms: “widower,” “wedding” and “breast cancer.”
Luckily, the film is smarter than the average adult-oriented romantic dramedy, and not just because it speaks in three tongues. The main reason for its ultimate (if unspectacular) success is its director and co-writer, Susanne Bier, who won an Academy Award for the Danish drama In a Better World, deservedly named 2010’s Best Foreign Language Film.
Love represents Bier’s follow-up and, at least by comparison, her lightening up. Whereas World was all business, Love works in plenty of pleasure. Not to overpraise the piece, but catch it while you can; it begins an exclusive run Friday at AMC Quail Springs Mall 24, 2501 W. Memorial.
Denmark’s Trine Dyrholm is front-and-center as Ida, a comfortably (versus happily) married hairdresser who has reason to celebrate life: She’s nearing the end of chemo treatments for breast cancer and her daughter, Astrid (Molly Blixt Egelind), is about to marry Patrick (Sebastian Jessen), in a well-to-do ceremony in Italy.
Too bad Ida comes home to find her husband of 23 years humping some pretty young thing on their couch.
En route to the big nuptials without her spouse, Ida literally crashes into Philip (Pierce Brosnan, our former James Bond 007) in a parking garage. Not only is Philip a still-grieving widower ripe for the plucking, but also the father of Patrick. What are the odds?
Such contrivances are what many a minor movie have been built upon ... and why do so many of them — Under the Tuscan Sun, Letters to Juliet — take place in Italy? But then, Bier pulls back the reins in order to juggle multiple storylines, many yet to take seed, all while keeping a keen eye on developing the relationship between Ida and Philip.
You already know how that part will end, but it is a joy to watch Dyrholm and Brosnan go through those motions. Dyrholm demonstrates a bravery few American actresses would dare bare, while a gracefully graying Brosnan infuses his personal experience into the role.
When Ida asks Philip about his wife’s death, and he answers slowly, “She was just ... unfortunate,” one assumes Brosnan must have been thinking of his own real-life tragedy: losing his first wife to cancer in 1991, when she was just 43. He delivers the line with palpable weight, yet little effort.
Bier makes the whole of Love seem as easy. She excels at these multicharacter pieces, even if some of its edges strike one as too on-the-nose. —Rod Lott