Posts Tagged ‘Tate Donovan’

American Take on a French Tale

The Upside

Director: Neil Burger

Cast: Bryan Cranston, Nicole Kidman, Kevin Hart, Tate Donovan, Julianna Margulies, Golshifteh Farahani, Aja Naomi King

Limitless director Neil Burger gives an American spin on the remake of the superb 2011 French film The Intouchables starring Omar Sy and Francois Cluzet about a billionaire quadriplegic striking up an unlikely bond and friendship with his down and out carer.

This time the parts are played by Oscar nominee Bryan Cranston (Trumbo) and comedic actor Kevin Hart as Dell Scott the paroled carer who gets the unlikely position of becoming a full time male nurse to art collector and writer Philip Lacasse wonderfully played by Cranston in The Upside.

The Upside aims to make audiences feel all warm and fuzzy, about the underlying compassion which should be instinctive in human nature. In this respect, The Upside is a perfectly well-directed American Take on a French Tale.

Oscar winner Nicole Kidman (The Hours) plays the Harvard educated Yvonne who is Lacasse’s personal sectary who is initially aghast at her employer’s decision to hire the rough around the edges Dell Scott who is desperate to earn some cash to redeem himself in the eyes of his ex-wife Latrice played by Aja Naomi King.

While The Upside doesn’t quite capture the quirky relationship between Billionaire and poverty stricken carer as it did in the original French film The Intouchables, there are some funny moments particularly played by Kevin Hart who does not usually play serious roles.

The Good Wife’s Julianna Margulies (Snakes on a Plane) makes a cinematic appearance as Lily an epistolary flame that Philip has been dutifully corresponding with.

Tate Donovan appears as the snobbish Manhattan neighbour Carter and Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani plays the practical physiotherapist Maggie who expertly advises Dell on how to insert a catheter and generally care for the wheelchair bound angst ridden Lacasse.

Cranston holds the film together, acting mostly with his expressive eyes.

Viewers that have not seen the original French film will enjoy this light hearted comedic drama, but those that saw The Intouchables will feel that The Upside doesn’t possess that emotional gravitas which was central to the French version. In any events, The Upside is a light hearted look at the complexity of unique human relationships and will be sure to find a suitable audience.

Recommended viewing, The Upside gets a film rating of 6.5 out of 10.

Massachusetts Men

Manchester by the Sea

Director: Kenneth Lonergan

Cast: Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, Gretchen Mol, Lucas Hedges, Tate Donovan, Matthew Broderick, C. J. Wilson, Josh Hamilton

Oscar nominee Casey Affleck gives a Golden Globe winning performance as the emotionally stunted Lee Chandler in director Kenneth Lonergan’s atmospheric if slightly drawn out family drama Manchester by the Sea.

Affleck first came to critics’ attention in the Western, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford opposite Brad Pitt, of which he received a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination. Although more reticent than his prolific older brother Ben Affleck, Casey Affleck has built up an impressive body of acting work (Gone Baby Gone, Interstellar, The Finest Hours).

In this moving study of American masculinity set in Massachusetts, playwright turned screenwriter and director Kenneth Lonergan sets the scene for a series of unfortunate events slowly revealing layers of secrets that his characters contain as the plot develops through a series of well executed flashbacks creating an extensive backstory particularly for Lee Chandler and his close relationship with his older brother Joe and nephew Patrick.

When Joe played by Kyle Chandler (Carol, Zero Dark Thirty, The Wolf of Wall Street) suddenly dies from congestive heart failure, Lee has to travel upstate to Manchester, Massachusetts to identify his brothers body and deal with the guardianship of Joe’s son Patrick, a precocious outspoken teenager, superbly played by Lucas Hedges (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Moonrise Kingdom).

Patrick’s mother Elise has moved away, a recovering alcoholic played with a brittle intensity by the hugely underrated Gretchen Mol who was so brilliant in the crime series Boardwalk Empire. Elise has set up a new life with boyfriend Jeffrey played by Matthew Broderick (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Glory, The Producers).

But Lee Chandler, a foul mouthed janitor and handyman has his own demons to grapple with, a sense which Affleck conveys with perfect nuance. In between his mundane existence he suddenly starts bar fights in the local pubs letting violence replace his inner torment about a tragic event that occurred in his past.

As the story progresses, Lonergan does not give the audience all the narrative clues upfront something which adds to the emotional tension of the film. Halfway through we discover that Lee was married to Randi and had three beautiful children but his irresponsible ways destroyed their family forever. Randi is played by Oscar nominee Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn, Blue Valentine) who re-enters Lee’s life at the point which he would least like to see her. His brother’s funeral.

While Manchester by the Sea is drawn out, the script is brilliant especially in the tension filled scenes between uncle and nephew as they drive around trying to sort out all the tedious details of Joe’s death including the funeral arrangements and the impact of Patrick’s guardianship. Hedges’ performance as Patrick electrifies the family drama with his back chatting confidence as he proudly tells his uncle that he has two girlfriends and plays in a band.

Manchester by the Sea clearly belongs to Casey Affleck as he is in virtually every scene of the film and is an intimate study of broken masculinity, a portrait of a man battling to deal with his older brother’s death and the terrifying prospect of taking responsibility for his sixteen year old nephew.

Highly recommended viewing for a film with a first rate script and intelligently portrayed characters. Casey Affleck is definitely an actor to watch in future…

Theatre of the Absurd

ARGO

This is a fake film about a real escape

This is a fake film about a real escape

Ben Affleck suitably impressed the Hollywood Foreign Press with the brilliant socio-political thriller Argo which he deservedly  won the 2013 Golden Globe for best director but it was a travesty that he was not nominated for an Oscar for the 85th Academy Awards in the best director category for this tightly woven docu-drama about the Iranian hostage crisis spanning from 1979 to 1980.

Argo starts off with an almost picture book history of Iran up to the overthrow of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in 1979 and the rise to power of the Ayatollah Khomeini which turned Iran from a Kingdom into an Islamic Republic. Amidst this cultural and fundamental Islamic revolution is a diplomatic crisis which stems from the Iranian revolutionaries storming the American Embassy in Tehran in November 1979 in reaction to the Shah seeking political asylum in the USA. Whilst the majority of the US citizens remain hostage, six escape and seek refuge in the Canadian ambassador’s house in suburban Tehran at the height of the Iranian Revolution

Back at CIA headquarters in Langley Virginia, Brian Cranston as Jack O’Donnell pulls in Tony Mendez played with a subtle strength by Affleck as an extraction specialist who comes up with a hair-brained scheme to rescue the six hostages in Tehran using the cover of a Canadian crew shooting a fake science fiction film in Iran. Enter Hollywood, where Mendez soon flies to L.A. and in a surprisingly limited time enlists the help of prosthetics expert John Chambers played by John Goodman and disgruntled and cynical veteran film director Lester Siegel superbly played by Alan Arkin to set up and promote the non-existent film Argo, taken from a trashy Sci-Fi script with a faintly Middle Eastern setting, almost like the planet Tattoine in Star Wars.

star_wars

Where Affleck as director excels so powerfully is his skilful cinematic combination of the ludicrous wealth and theatricality of Hollywood, especially presented in the wonderful Comicon press launch scene at the Beverley Hills Hilton  intercut with the real brutality and turmoil of the Islamic revolution where Tehran and Iran as a country in 1979 were experiencing a major political and socioeconomic coup aided by a vengeful revolutionary guard.

Escape from Tehran

It’s really the second half of Argo which is terrific entertainment and is a tense escape tale whereby Affleck’s character Mendez not willing to show the real strain he is under flies first to Istanbul and then into Tehran and with the assistance of the Canadian Ambassador skilfully extricates the six American hostages out of Tehran through a terrifying airport passport control sequence which for any international traveler is sure to bring back vivid memories. Along with a classified CIA mission, a bizarre ploy about shooting a sci-fi film in and around Tehran, Argo is a thought-provoking portrait of two vastly different societies connected only through a shared mesmerizing interest in a fake narrative in which they don’t fully grasp the realities yet, but recognize the antagonism associated with conflicting cultural ideologies. Much like earthlings sent to a distant planet!

Affleck’s triumph as director is that he never vilifies the Iranians and also does not succumb to much American glossy patriotism but accurately presents a bizarre tale of courage, tenacity and duplicity of international proportions and of the extraordinary lengths governments will go to protecting their own citizens in foreign diplomatic missions. Argo is helped by an excellent script by Chris Terrio and a suitably nerve-wracking original score by Alexandre Desplat who makes sure the pace of the film is maintained somewhere between terror and absurdity.

Argo is an engaging declassified tale of one man’s courage to protect his fellow countrymen in a hostile environment whilst maintaining an almost definitive sense of calm and fortitude. Kyle Chandler, Tate Donovan and Philip Baker Hall also star rounding off this highly recommended slice of late 1970’s historical drama in a similar and less violent vein than the German film The Baader Meinhof Complex.

Baader_meinhof_komplex

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