Archive for January, 2014

Review: Run & Jump


Will Forte‘s evolution from screeching SNL cast member to serious actor continues with Run & Jump, a modest, largely likable indie out of Ireland. You’ll find the first few paragraphs of my review below. You can head to Next Projection to read my thoughts in full.

There’s a moment toward the end of Run & Jump when the melodrama reaches full boil. Our frazzled protagonist (Maxine Peake) has locked herself in her bedroom. Three men pound on her door: her husband, a cognitively-impaired stroke survivor; her son, a gay, self-harming teenager; and her lovesick admirer, a doctor who also happens to be studying her husband. Each man needs something from her. Each is his own unique source of stress. Each won’t stop pounding.

On paper it all reads like mush. It sounds contrived and manipulative, as though writer Ailbhe Keogan and director Steph Green have crammed enough weepy material into one film to prod us into tears every 15 minutes. But Keogan and Green have too much love for these characters to let Run & Jump devolve into soap opera histrionics. Theirs is an understated, genial film, despite the deluge of domestic strife hurled at its lead. Though it suffers from characters and moments that seem a little overly familiar, the film remains compelling for the empathy it shows those stuck in an impossible situation.

Run & Jump takes place over a few quietly turbulent weeks in small-town Ireland. It concerns Maxine (Peake), a jovial woman whose husband Conor (Edward MacLiam) has just returned from the hospital after a near-fatal stroke. Though his survival is a rare gift, Conor has lost much of his cognitive ability. He has trouble forming words and his behavior, particularly toward his son Lenny (Brendan Morris), is erratic, often hostile. Maxine knows her husband will never fully recover. With two children and a husband who requires equal supervision, she must learn to become the de facto caretaker of an entire house. For the sake of her children, and herself, she tries to do it with a smile.

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The following post first appeared on Next Projection. You can read it here.

You’ll find few through lines in the below list of great films released in 2013. They touch on historical drama and science fiction, coming of age and getting old, American greed and Indonesian genocide. 2013 gave us an eclectic collection of films worth discussing. I saw about 40 of them. These are the 11 that occupied the most space in my brain.

Honorable mention: The Wolf of Wall Street

Jordan Belfort received $1 million to have his life story adapted into The Wolf of Wall Street. Think about that. Belfort is a criminal, an emblem of capitalism’s worst impulses. And yet he made more money on this movie than many of us will earn in a lifetime. Belfort didn’t just screw people over as a broker; he’s now monetized the story of him screwing people over. It’s this fact, and not the movie’s deluge of nudity and drug use, that makes The Wolf of Wall Street a borderline immoral picture. Martin Scorsese doesn’t seem to see the irony here. He ends Wolf with an image that scolds cash-obsessed Americans for buying what Belfort has to sell, but didn’t Belfort pull the same trick – parlaying his notoriety into cash – by selling the movie rights to his books? The film itself paints Belfort as a Caligula-like monster, albeit one who’ll inspire the envy of bro-dudes for decades. Wolf is the kind of satire you could squint and interpret as either a celebration or a critique of its subject. Like my 2012 honorable mentionDjango Unchained, it’s a boycott-inducing romp that doesn’t say much but sparks a dialogue worth having.


#10 Blue Is the Warmest Color

Blue Is the Warmest Color is another three-hour epic one could easily condemn for its production details. The film’s (very young) leads have described the shoot as “horrible” and rife with “manipulation.” By their reports, director Abdellatif Kechiche prodded them way outside their comfort zones and became borderline abusive on set. I’m prone to believe the actors. I’m also prone to see the intimacy and volcanic energy on screen. Together with Kechiche, they’ve crafted a grand document on the highs and lows of young love. We get it all: the initial reverie, the sexual awakening, the blissful years, the atrophy, the colossal first break up, and, most gutting of all, the realization that you may never feel quite that strongly again. Save for the sex stuff, Kechiche renders these moments with remarkable care. We also see Adèle grow as an individual, outside of her relationship, as she tries on identities and political beliefs for size. Kechiche mars the film with a male-centric depiction of lesbian sex and several dumb moments intended to justify his obsession with female bodies. It’s a testament to the power of this coming-of-age drama that most of us are willing to forgive these sins. (more…)

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