Movies, movies, movies
We hadn’t been to a movie in months, then caught up with a vengeance this week. I’ll give you some brief reviews.
Christian Bale put on 40 or so pounds to play the lead in this story of the ABSCAM saga and the con man Irving Rosenfeld at the root of it. The opening screen in the movie is ‘Some of these things happened”, so it’s hard to know what is real and what is fiction, but if you just take it as an old fashioned caper movie in the spirit of The Sting you won’t be disappointed.
Amy Adams is stunning as Sydney Prosser, the bombshell redhead who partners Rosenfeld in the caper and in his life.
This is clearly the year of Jennifer Lawrence. She plays Rosenfeld’s wife, a blonde ditz who steals the show in a limited part. Coincidentally, he co-star in last year’s Silver Linings Playbook, Bradley Cooper, also co-stars as FBI agent Richie DiMaso, who puts the entire scheme in motion and then goes clean off the deep end and nearly brings the entire operation down.
Robert DeNiro has an uncredited part, a brilliant cameo as the criminal mastermind.
I think I’m writing too much about the cast and not enough about the movie, but I wouldn’t want to spoil the plot–this is a caper movie, after all, and the twists and turns, the double and triple crosses, are the heart of the movie and I won’t be the one to give the secrets away. Just go see it.
INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS
Joel and Ethan Coen are noted for quirky, odd, strange yet deep movies, like Fargo or No Country for Old Men. I thought Inside Llewyn Davis was odd and quirky, just not deep. Gail liked it much more than I did.
Oscar Isaac plays Llewyn, a would-be folksinger in Greenwich Village in the early 60’s. Mostly, he’s a loser, couch surfing through life with minimal musical skills and no social skills at all. The movie purportedly follows him for a week, but it must be the busiest week in history, including a road trip from NYC to Chicago and back in a blizzard.
One of the couches on which he surfs belongs to Jen, played by Carey Mulligan. Jen is married, and pregnant, and fears that Isaac is the father. She spends considerable time excoriating him for sleeping with her, and causing this paternity question, as though she had no part in the issue. She’s very pretty, though.
It wouldn’t be a Coen Brothers movie without some outré characters, and they deliver brilliantly with John Goodman as Roland Turner, a verbose, overbearing, crippled, drug-addled musician whose car Llewyn shares on the way to Chicago. Turner travels with his “valet”, Jim, very well played by Justin Timberlake. There is little here to advance the plot or Llewyn’s life, but the characters were the highlight of the movie for me.
Nothing good happens here. Llewyn starts out a loser and tapers off. He proves that things are blackest right before the completely go to shit.
To be fair, Inside Llewyn Davis got a 92 on the tomatometer, meaning the critics love it. Gail loves it. I didn’t hate it, I just didn’t think it was great and I could never work up any sympathy for the protagonist. I’ve been out of step with the universe before.
DALLAS BUYERS CLUB
Here is a movie I can get behind. It concerns the story of one Ron Woodroof, a bigoted, low class, homophobic, bull riding, good old boy electrician in Dallas who contracts AIDS in 1985. Matthew McConaughey lost 40 pounds to play the skeletally think Woodroof (making the universe balanced for Christian Bale in the first movie we saw).
Remember the early days of the plague? There was no cure, no real treatment. AZT had just been developed, but they didn’t know if it worked or not. Woodroof can’t get into the clinical trials, but is not a man to be denied. He finds an orderly to steal the drug for him, and when that well runs dry he heads to Mexico, where he finds an unlicensed doctor who provides him with vitamins and proteins that at least ease his symptoms and prolong his life.
The rest of the movie is how he turns this into a business, providing unaccredited drugs to the Dallas gay community and constantly looking for more and better ways to treat HIV and AIDS. He is pursued by the FDA, harrassed by the IRS, rejected by the courts but never stops fighting.
In the process, he loses his homophobia and develops a friendship, what might well be love, with a gay man named Rayon, brilliantly played by Jared Leto. Leto may be the prettiest man I’ve ever seen–he completely dissolves into this role, and is sure to be on the Best Supporting Actor list this year.
Dallas Buyers Club is a very good movie. We all know someone who died in the plague, and iconoclastic, driven, outside-the-box individuals like Woodroof made advances in treatment that the medical establishment would have taken years to develop. You want to see this movie.