Talking Movies

December 9, 2018

Any Other Business: Part XXI

What is one to do with thoughts that are far too long for Twitter but not nearly long enough for a proper blog post? Why round them up and turn them into a twenty-first portmanteau post on matters of course!

Move over Chekhov, here’s Gresham: bad writing drives out good

I was very late in catching up with Westworld given that I loved Jonathan Nolan’s previous TV show Person of Interest. However, if I had watched the pilot of Westworld unaware of who was behind it I would have never have guessed Nolan, J. I was stunned at how humdrum to lousy so much of the dialogue was, and floored by the immediate and lasting awfulness of the British writer character. Indeed to critique Westworld I find myself digging into the Talking Movies archives for my review of Safe Haven, where I complained “one-note characterisation is far too prevalent,” and find myself grimacing that yes, one could level the same charge against the most acclaimed, epochal, cerebral TV show of our age. But then we come to my complaint regarding Cobie Smulders’ character in Safe Haven: “Indeed the shallowness of the writing is such that it allows an infuriatingly connived third-act reveal, infuriating because it relies on one particular shallow characterisation without realising that hiding it behind shallow characterisation all around hurts the film.” Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy clearly thought they were doing an awesome job of hiding two cards up their sleeves, but dropping hints. The problem being that if your hint that Bernard is a host is that he seems to be unconcerned about the whereabouts of his deputy then you as showrunners should probably be more concerned about the whereabouts of your characters. Why on earth should I worry that Bernard doesn’t seem worried that his deputy has gone missing when this show left two technicians at knifepoint by Thandie Newton’s character, and then never came back to them for the bulk of an episode? If forgetting about characters afflicts the writers of the show who’s going to notice it in one of their creations? What’s worse is that jumping a scene almost with Thandie Newton leaves it very unclear why the techs continue to play ball after they’re no longer at knifepoint.  But as that’s vital to the season arc, it’s just glossed over. And so I end up drawing comparisons between the writer of Memento, The Prestige, The Dark Knight, and Person of Interest, and Nicholas Sparks…

Advertisements

January 9, 2014

Delivery Man

Vince Vaughn stars in a rapid, identikit American remake of a hit Canadian film by its original writer/director Ken Scott.

DELIVERY MAN

David Wozniak (Vince Vaughn) is an incompetent meat delivery man for the family business. He’s in disgrace with his father and brothers for predictably messing up their basketball team photo-shoot, $80,000 in debt to scary people, planning to grow marijuana in his apartment to raise money, and his estranged NYPD cop girlfriend Emma (Cobie Smulders) has just announced she’s pregnant and doesn’t want him involved. Into this mess of a life intrude his 533 biological children… A lapse in judgement at a sperm bank has seen his 693 samples prove remarkably fertile and now 142 of these children are suing to find out just who is their father. His best friend house-husband Brett (Chris Pratt) renews his licence to fight for David’s right to anonymity, but David starts to act as guardian angel to progeny including troubled Kristen (Britt Robertson)…

Delivery Man is being misleadingly sold as a comedic romp. There are some laugh-out loud moments punctuated throughout the film, but in truth it’s a warm dramedy rather than a comedy. Simon Delaney makes no impact as David’s acerbic brother, Victor despite having comparable screen-time to his turn in This Must Be the Place, because of the poverty of the material available to him. Jack Reynor as David’s struggling actor son Josh has a glorified cameo in which his initial obnoxiousness is hard to overcome. Chris Pratt’s exhausted lawyer has the best lines and gives by far the funniest performance, but even that’s faint praise. The few of David’s children who are characterised; pretentious morbid philosopher Viggo (Adam Chanler-Berat), unstintingly cheerful busker Adam (Dave Patten), smooth gay lothario Channing (Matthew Daddario); are all caricatures, transparently there to service David’s arc.

Scott seems uninterested in proffering anything other than naive optimism. Despite his 80k debt David manages to find money to intervene positively in the lives of his children. His wise Polish father (Andrzej Blumenfeld) notes that David is four times slower than most delivery men, but is beloved wherever he goes. But what’s so loveable about David’s m.o. of being hopelessly unreliable then occasionally making a grand gesture? As Tom Walker pointed out to me, Vaughn makes his obligatory rapid-fire speech telling some home truths. But Scott avoids numerous knotty questions. Where are the parents who raised the 142? How do they feel?  Why do none of the 142 express hurt to David? And what about the other 391 – the clear majority – who have no interest in finding out the identity of the man behind the sperm donor pseudonym Starbuck?

Delivery Man is perfectly fine, it’s neither a hilarious comedy nor a touching drama, but is content to plod along efficiently somewhere in between; but that’s not a recommendation, more a lack of condemnation.

2.5/5

February 28, 2013

Safe Haven

Lasse Hallstrom directs his second Nicholas Sparks adaptation after Dear John, but this film about a fugitive  combines some thriller action with its soppy romance.

safe-haven-julianne-hough-josh-duhamel-640x427

The movie opens dramatically with blood-soaked Katie (Julianne Hough) running  from a stabbed body to a neighbour for help. Some quick dyeing of hair and  changing of clothes and she’s on a bus out of town, despite the frantic attempts  of cop Tierney (David Lyons) to find her at the terminal. At a brief stop in  small town coastal North Carolina Katie decides to ditch the bus and take a job  as a waitress at a seaside restaurant. The presence of hunky widower Alex (Josh  Duhamel) in the general store being a major factor in her thinking, not that  she’ll admit that without some prodding from helpful neighbour Jo (Cobie  Smulders). But even as Katie bonds with Alex’s children Lexie (Mimi Kirkland)  and Josh (Noah Lomax), and embarks on a relationship with Alex, dogged detective  Tierney is on her trail…

Another year, another awful Lasse  Hallstrom movie to review; although in this case I suspect he may have had  considerable help from Nicholas Sparks. I excoriated Hallstrom’s disastrous  adaptation of Salmon Fishing in the  Yemen but this underwhelming flick offends less because nobody’s ever  accused Sparks of writing wonderfully. Hallstrom traffics in sentimentality;  and, this somehow being my first Sparks adaptation, that seems to fit well with  what I assume here is Sparks’ approach to romance – which is distinctly Mills & Boon in its major set-pieces. Except that this plot, as Hallstrom has  boasted, incorporates a strong thriller element into the usual sappiness. I’m  not sure that’s something to boast about as this feels like uncannily like Tess  Gerritsen’s novel Girl Missing, her  final entry in that horrible sub-genre of suspense romance, where each intrudes  on the other’s turf irritatingly.

Hallstrom pulls out all the stops visually for the climactic 4th  of July showdown, with fireworks in foreground and background, and some  efficient suspense. Footloose star Hough  on auto-cute makes less of an impression though than Smulders, despite having  acres more screentime as the heroine. Duhamel is a reliably endearing presence,  but he can’t carry a romance solo, while Lyons’ performance as the pursuing cop  decays throughout the film from subtle obsessiveness to pantomime villainy. Red  West as Uncle Roger essays some nice comic gruffness, but one-note  characterisation is far too prevalent, and is incredibly grating in the case of  Kirkland (adorable kid) and Lomax (sullen kid). Indeed the shallowness of the  writing is such that it allows an infuriatingly connived third-act reveal,  infuriating because it relies on one particular shallow characterisation without  realising that hiding it behind shallow characterisation all around hurts the  film.

Safe Haven is a competently made  film, that has some amusing moments and a memorable ending, but it’s impossible  to say that it’s good.

2/5

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.