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Review: Venus, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Evening, Inland Empire and The Game Plan

By November 7, 2007December 31st, 2013No Comments

Venus posterThere’s some­thing creepy yet dis­arm­ingly human about Peter O’Toole’s age­ing lothario in Venus; a once beau­ti­ful act­or still work­ing sporad­ic­ally, his cada­ver­ous fea­tures best-suited to the lit­er­al por­tray­al of corpses, cling­ing to the prom­ise of beauty and pleas­ure des­pite the ulti­mate futil­ity of the chase.

Newcomer Jodie Whittaker (in a star-making per­form­ance) becomes the object of his affec­tion, tutel­age and rev­er­ence when she arrives in London to nurse his best friend (Leslie Phillips). While Phillips is appalled at the girl’s inab­il­ity to cook any­thing oth­er than pot noodle while drink­ing his best scotch, Maurice is intox­ic­ated by her spir­it and beauty and decides to take her under his wing.

While O’Toole’s per­form­ance has won all the plaudits (and the Oscar nom­in­a­tion), it is the por­trait of reck­less, inno­cent and impetu­ous youth that has stayed with me – the best por­tray­al of what it means to be young I have seen in a long time. Whittaker’s Jessie has all the con­fid­ence and bravado one gets launch­ing in to the world with the train­ing wheels off but not enough self-knowledge to pro­tect her from the dangers with­in it.

Evening posterEvening is anoth­er film about age­ing and let­ting go. A heavy­weight col­lec­tion of dis­taff act­ing tal­ent (includ­ing Claire Danes, Toni Collette and Vanessa Redgrave) is gathered togeth­er for an inter-generational tale of love and regret in the Hamptons. The pro­duc­tion is hand­some and the act­ing is per­fectly fine but it could really use a laugh or two.

Inland Empire posterI fully intend invoicing David Lynch for the three hours of my life I’ll nev­er get back after watch­ing the unbe­liev­ably indul­gent Inland Empire on Sunday night. Admittedly, my time isn’t worth what it once was but its the prin­ciple of the thing. An audi­ence was obvi­ously the last con­sid­er­a­tion for Lynch when he was throw­ing this mess together.

Jesse James posterBetter made, but sim­il­arly incon­sid­er­ate in terms of length, is The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford the title of which takes up 50% of the space avail­able for the review. Based on (and lib­er­ally quot­ing from) the acclaimed nov­el, the film tells the tale of the final months of out­law Jesse James (Brad Pitt) as his notori­ety and fame get in the way of his exploits and his gang start to eye the hand­some bounty on offer for his capture.

The film is often reward­ing, and the dia­logue in par­tic­u­lar is a treat for lov­ers of rich vocab­u­lary, but a suc­cess­fully self-effacing per­form­ance by Casey Affleck as Ford does­n’t mask the fact that this is an unne­ces­sar­ily grand film about a char­ac­ter that’s little more than a foot­note in his­tory (that’s Ford not James).

The Game Plan posterYou’ve got to admire someone who suc­cess­fully changes his name from Dwayne to “The Rock” and then decides to become a movie star. The Game Plan is a fam­ily movie from Disney about a grumpy tight-ass who dis­cov­ers love via the ador­ably pre­co­cious daugh­ter he nev­er knew he had: that’s right, it’s anoth­er one of those. The Rock plays super­star Boston quar­ter­back Joe Kingman (“Number One on the field, Number One in your hearts”) and at times he tries a little too hard to milk the com­edy. When he relaxes he’s just fine – someone should tell him.

First pub­lished in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 7 November, 2007.