Have not done a Short Takes in quite some time. For this edition just a few short reviews on some recent films I have seen in theaters.
A dark satire/thriller on both the cut throat world of the news media and how corporate thinking has twisted our culture. Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance as a free lance videographer is one of his best. Some critics have been comparing his work here to DeNiro in Taxi Driver. Both are existential anti-heroes with twisted views on society. Gyllenhaal’s Louis is a cold, opportunistic, though riveting character that drives the film. Also in the cast, and giving a noteworthy performance, is Renee Russo as a TV news director. My only problem is, Gyllenhaal lost 30 lb.’s or so for his performance. The question I have is why? When DeNiro lost weight for Raging Bull, there was an obvious purpose, here the reason eludes me. It’s a minor thing overall and should not stop you from going out to see this film before it disappears. The film was written and directed by Dan Gilroy. His best work.
St. Vincent (****)
Of all the Saturday Night Live alumni during its forty years or so, Bill Murray is my favorite. I always liked his sardonic, insolent posture. That says a lot considering the so many talented comedic performers to have come out of its halls. True, this film is nothing new. We have seen it all before, an old curmudgeon and an outcast young kid find in each other what has been missing in their lives. Murray is wonderful and deserves some kind of recognition, at least a nomination or two, come the award season. Melissa McCarthy, as the boy’s mother, is subdued and plays her role straight unlike in most of her other films. She’s fine, but it Murray who elevates this film. It’s an entertaining guilty pleasure with Bill Murray giving it a bump up.
The Skeleton Twins (****1/2)
Two more Saturday Night Live alumni star in this quirky comedy/drama about a brother and sister and the ups and downs in their relationship. Kristen Wigg and Bill Hader are the siblings. Separated for ten years with no communication they are reunited when Hader, after a failed suicide attempt, shows up at the door of his sister’s home in upstate New York. Both characters are damaged since childhood. Of course, there is a Mother (Joanna Gleason) in the mix to at least partially blame. Wigg and Hader move smoothly between the serious scenes and the humorous. There is a terrific easy chemistry going on between the two SNL veterans. The scene where they lip sync to Nothing’s Gonna Change Us Now will stick in your mind long after you leave the theater.