Friday, December 28, 2007

A few movies

What I've seen:

The Savages: The writer-director of Slums of Beverly Hills can't resist a too-cute opening montage of seniors pirouetting a la Busby Berkley against a Barry Goldwater-approved Arizona backdrop; or giving Laura Linney a breakup scene with her boyfriend instigated by a question about her fern (it's one of those details designed to develop character of which Cameron Crowe is so fond, like the bit of business in Singles involving Bridget Fonda Kyra Sedgwick and a garage door opener). These are the middlebrow equivalents to the highbrow flourishes in Jean Cocteau's Les enfants terribles, this movie's obvious influence. I don't buy Philip Seymour Hoffman's book on Brecht; it's a sop, like Woody Allen characters yammering about Rilke like Woody himself hasn't read him (you can discuss art and politics in American movies without looking smug). But Tamara Janowitz avoids "closure," and she's blessed with two of the least sentimental actors around.

Juno: "Jason Bateman's character is one of the members of Vampire Weekend ten years later," I wrote somewhere today. Thank You For Smoking's Jason Reitman deepens his talent for exacting portraits of trends and mores skewed at least a half-dozen times in the thirty years since The Graduate. He's a selfless talent too; he honors the intentions of the material being adapted. The first hour is such a meticulous rendering of screenwriter Diablo Cody's hipster gotcha-every-few-seconds approach that I wanted to run into Love in the Time of Cholera, playing next door. It's "Papa Don't Preach" written by Lily Allen. Then Reitman-Cody take their feet off the gas pedal, and allow the natural empathy of actors like Alison Janney and Jennifer Garner (in a lovely, disarming performance that's one of the year's best and least acclaimed) to absorb Ellen Page's tuba blast of a performance. And knobby-kneed Michael Cera (who's got no scenes with "Arrested Development" costar Bateman) has gotten more mileage out of shades of befuddlement than any actor since Buster Keaton.

This is England: White riot, I wanna riot, white riot, I wanna riot of my own.


John C. said...

I don't buy that Bateman's character is "one of the members of Vampire Weekend ten years later." I mean, what's the connection -- that Vampire Weekend are pre(-yu)ppies? Because I sort of got the impression that Mark Loring got gradually sucked into his quiet Midwestern yuppiedom, and partially through marriage, rather than having been born into some East Coast elite. And not to be too literal about it, but the dude was in a band that worshipped Sonic Youth and the Melvins, not "Peter Gabriel, too."

Alfred Soto said...

Whether he's born to it or got it secondhand, Bateman looked very comfortable in rumpled preppy clothes! He's the kind of guy who makes noises about his status to please his conscience.

The Manthony said...

That's KYRA SEDGWICK and the garage door opener. Feel free to blame your dyslexic heart for this egregious error.