It’s ebullient and joyous but still laced without the proper amount of pain and pathos, everything working in incandescent tandem with its various pieces in order to make the movie come alive to its own free-flowing beat. Make no mistake, Frances Ha is a stunning achievement, an exercise in pure cinema that’s as rare as it is spectacular.
Problem is, after so much build up, after a great introduction to the possibilities of doing something fresh and original with characters many of us might think have done it all, the movie doesn’t just drop the ball it pops it with a bobby pin leaving its shriveled and lifeless husk out on the playing field like bits of discarded garbage. The last third of the movie is an insult, having characters do things, not because they need to, but more because having them do it just calls more attention to the fact the filmmakers are repeating in their own mirror-world way what has already happened before.
His version of the story might not be perfect, might not know at all times exactly what it is it wants to say, but it understands the source material in an intimately intoxicating way other adaptions have sadly lacked. This movie feels like it needed to be made now, maybe even in this very way, this new take on The Great Gatsby a saga of artifice and excess worthy of deeper explorations.
Kiss of the Damned shows that Cassavetes is worth keeping an eye on, her gorily sexual debut a vampiric fairy tale the more I think about it the more in rapture of the film I slowly become.
While composed with a meticulous eye for detail, there is still the constant omnipresent sensation that anything can happen at any moment, these characters free to shape themselves as they naturalistically would if Something in the Air was actually taking place for real and not a vibrant figment of the director’s vividly alive imagination.
It’s great, filled with superb set pieces and moments, not the least of which is a dynamic attack on the Stark mansion that had the majority of the preview audience sitting on the edge of their seats holding their breath, and I can’t say I was ever bored by anything that was going on. At the same time, there is an almost television-like efficiency that can grow stale, nothing ever popping out or calling attention to itself in a way I could ever say was entirely memorable.
The bottom line is that the director has a lot on his mind and a ton he wants to say, the majority of which I firmly believe deserves to be stated as loudly and as exuberantly as possible. But as good the cast is and as great as many individual moments are none of them are detailed or are as explored as fully as I felt like they needed to be, making [At Any Price] an intriguing oddity difficult to embrace even if in some ways it’s still relatively easy to recommend.
Nichols once again subverts genre convention and slowly goes in directions you don’t always see coming. If his debut was a Hatfield and McCoy descent into familial darkness and his sophomore effort a psychological freak-out combining nature in upheaval and a devoted father slowly losing his marbles, then Mud (2013) is a coming-of-age drama of faith, understanding and friendship that defies convention resulting in an authentic urgency unique unto itself.
There’s nothing of merit to take away from Pain & Gain other than the fact that maybe in the hands of a different filmmaker something worthwhile could have been crafted, this pile of bombast as instantly forgettable, and in some ways lamentable, as anything I’m likely to see in all of 2013.