Skip to main content

Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in Before Midnight, 2013.

As is so often the case at this time of year (usu­ally related to 48 Hours com­mit­ments) I am a little behind on my review­ing. This week­end I caught up on a lot the actu­al watch­ing (although apo­lo­gies to John Davies who sent me a screen­er of Remembrance that I haven’t yet sat down and watched) so now I will try and rustle up anoth­er one of my trade­mark col­lec­tions of “Capsule Reviews of Questionable Utility”.

Before Midnight posterOf all the movies I’ve seen so far this year, Linklater, Delpy and Hawke’s Before Midnight (after three movies I think it’s fair to cred­it author­ship sev­er­ally) is the one that has stuck in my brain the longest. In it, we catch up with the lov­ers from Before Sunrise (1995) and Before Sunset (2004) as they reach the end of an idyll­ic vaca­tion in Greece. Hawke’s Jesse is won­der­ing wheth­er he should try and spend more time with his teen­age son who lives with his moth­er in the States. Delpy’s Celine is about to start a dream job back in Paris where they cur­rently reside with their two ador­able daughters.

They are at a cross­roads but, as the film makes clear, when are we ever not? Delpy is mag­ni­fi­cent, cre­at­ing a won­drous, beau­ti­ful, insec­ure, infuri­at­ing and right­eous woman who is sim­ul­tan­eously proud and frus­trated at the role she has found her­self play­ing. Watching her I was think­ing about a couple of rela­tion­ships of mine that I ended. Maybe I was a little bit hasty. Maybe I was­n’t really listening.

The Lone Ranger posterI’ve no idea how much The Lone Ranger actu­ally cost to make but a review­er can only judge value-for-ticket-money not value-for-budget-money and I think audi­ences on, say, Cheap Tuesday can feel con­fid­ent at get­ting their money’s worth. Johnny Depp plays an aged Tonto in a car­ni­val sideshow telling a wide-eyed young kid (Mason Elston Cook) the “truth” about the adven­tures he shared with a masked man when the West was still a law­less frontier.

The Ranger him­self (Armie Hammer) is a reluct­ant hero, a law­yer who prefers non-violent forms of justice but who soon gets the hang of things. The film relies heav­ily on Depp, as it has to when Hammer is so bland and the sup­port­ing cast – includ­ing the always over­rated Tom Wilkinson – are so clearly out­gunned. For a major Hollywood block­buster, this film tries to do the right thing by Native American polit­ics. The bad guys are pretty clearly the money-mad rail­road tycoons and the psy­cho­path­ic min­er­al exploiters, while the indi­gen­ous people are por­trayed as the inev­it­able vic­tims of a colo­ni­al and cor­por­ate struc­ture bent on des­troy­ing their way of life. Hard to do that in a fam­ily com­edy but I felt they got close enough.

The Internship posterIn The Internship, two middle-aged men (Owen Wilson and co-writer Vince Vaughan) are made redund­ant due to chan­ging tech­no­logy and decide that if they can­’t beat ’em they should join ’em – they sign on for the sum­mer intern­ship pro­gram at Google. Some fairly tame fish-out-of-water hijinks then ensue as the two ami­able sales guys learn to nav­ig­ate the mys­ter­i­ous ways of today’s young people as well as the inform­a­tion super-highway. The fun­ni­est scene is when Google tries to pre­tend that they have a call centre where cus­tom­ers who are hav­ing trouble get­ting into their email can ring and talk to someone. That was hil­ari­ous.

Camille Rewinds posterWhat else have we got? Is this use­ful? Camille Rewinds is a body-swap com­edy in which a heavy-drinking act­ress (played by co-writer and dir­ect­or Noémie Lvovsky) blacks out at a party and magic­ally returns to her teen­age years to try and fix the mis­takes of the past. There’s plenty of 80s nos­tal­gia but the drama leans towards the mawk­ish side of sentimental.

This Is the End posterIn This Is the End a bunch of pampered movie stars dis­cov­er they have been left behind after the Apocalypse and have to deal with a smoul­der­ing Hollywood inhab­ited by demons, as well as their own repel­lent nar­ciss­ism and enti­tle­ment. Having fun play­ing ver­sions of them­selves (or in James Franco’s case play­ing a ver­sion of his slightly eccent­ric pub­lic per­sona) are Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride (thor­oughly and inten­tion­ally unpleas­ant) and Craig Robinson. Best of the many celebrity cameos comes from the great Emma Watson who shows, once again, that she was the most tal­en­ted of that Harry Potter trio.

The Place Beyond the Pines posterDerek Cianfrance’s The Place Beyond the Pines takes itself very ser­i­ously indeed but does­n’t bring enough big guns to jus­ti­fy the swag­ger. A manip­u­lat­ive screen­play that fails to hide its work­ings is the biggest prob­lem, almost undo­ing the fine work Cianfrance does with his act­ors and his cine­ma­to­graph­er (Sean Bobbitt). Ryan Gosling relies heav­ily on his soul­ful eyes and smirk to por­tray a young motor­cycle stunt rider who, return­ing to an upstate New York town one year on, dis­cov­ers he has a baby that he did­n’t know about.

Quitting the cir­cus, he finds new employ­ment as a bank rob­ber until the law, in the shape of nervous Bradley Cooper, inter­venes. The reper­cus­sions from their fate­ful meet­ing will be felt for anoth­er fif­teen years and it is the self-conscious tying up of the many strands – it’s like Dickens for all the coin­cid­ences – that this review­er found so frus­trat­ing. Final obser­va­tion: Mr Gosling should keep an eye out over his shoulder for young Emory Cohen who plays Cooper’s teen­age son, A.J. He looks like the real deal, get­ting under the skin of a char­ac­ter the way that Gosling used to do before he dis­covered cool.

Therese Desqueyroux posterThere’s anoth­er set of pines loom­ing over Claude Miller’s Thérèse Desqueyroux, a melo­dra­mat­ic adapt­a­tion of a well-known (in France ) French nov­el. Audrey Tautou plays Thérèse, con­tent to be mar­ried to anoth­er loc­al landown­er (Gilles Lellouche) so their two fam­il­ies can be enriched even fur­ther. When her sister-in-law (and best friend) falls head-over-heels in love with a hand­some but unworthy loc­al, Thérèse helps break them up but falls into a deep depres­sion, per­haps real­ising that the her friend’s pas­sion is well bey­ond any­thing that she has ever experienced.

This is the kind of thing that I usu­ally hate – worthy, lit­er­ary, French, Tautou – but some­how, against my bet­ter judge­ment, I was engaged with it to the very end. I think because it nev­er strays from a healthy ambi­gu­ity, and because Tautou’s opaque and unknow­able coun­ten­ance actu­ally seemed like a choice rather than rub­bish act­ing. Worth hav­ing an argu­ment about afterwards.

[Portions of this review first appeared in FishHead Magazine.]


  • Tamara says:

    Your review of Place Beyond the Pines was spot on. Plus it was also too long. I did think some of the scenes were pretty nailbit­ing though!

  • Leith Aitken says:

    Entertaining and swift reviews as always, Dan. The fact that you provided a link to Google is priceless.

  • Lonesome Jim says:

    How come there does­n’t seem to be an email address any­where on this site? Had some­thing to send you. If its here some­where it’s SOS well hid­den as to become real annoy­ing. Oh well

    • Dan says:

      In a very old-fashioned anti-spam meas­ure the email address is miss­ing. Yes. Well-spotted. Send enquir­ies to dan