Kelly Reichardt’s films aren’t brilliant in an obvious, flashy way, but they have a way of worming into your brain and settling in there for good. Her collaborations with Michelle Williams in particular, “Wendy and Lucy” and “Meek’s Cutoff,” struck a chord with me with their gentle humanism and view of nature as somewhere alternately tranquil and reflective or dangerously ominous. Eco-thriller “Night Moves” got a generally chillier critical reception at Venice last year, but it still had its staunch defenders, and from the looks of things here it seems impossible that Reichardt could be too far off her familiar form. The casting is slightly curious, but I’m very interested to see Jesse Eisenberg challenge himself to play something out of his smarmy-nerd type, and, well, I think we all need more Peter Sarsgaard in our lives.
This is a bleak, black little concept for a movie, with potential to be really clever or really sadistic. I’m not sure why exactly this trailer gives me more hope for the former – maybe it’s the small scale of the execution, with just four main players leaving plenty of room to explore why each character might be putting themselves in such a nasty situation. Plus there’s just something resonant about the desperate lengths people will go to for money these days; again, it’s a good idea, but hopefully that’s not all given away in this teaser. “Cheap Thrills” just went out this weekend in limited release and on VOD if you’re interested.
Speaking of tight, theatrical execution – it’s rare to get a film that dares to strip down to essentially a one-man show, but Tom Hardy’s certainly one of the actors who would be up to the challenge. He dominated more or less every frame of “Bronson,” but that was a completely different sphere of over-the-top performance. I’m excited to see him take on the more nuanced, real-time emotion going on here. To me, the question isn’t whether Hardy will be terrific, but if the writing will be there to make the film stand out for any other reason besides the lead performance. The writing about the movie certainly isn’t there; “Reverberates with the power of universal themes,” Time Out London? Really?
Get On Up
And now for something completely different.
You might remember Tate Taylor as the director of “The Help.” He certainly hasn’t changed his style for his biopic of the Godfather of Soul, James Brown – “Get On Up” looks like the same kind of streamlined Hollywood period piece, with a mixture of innocuous humor and even more innocuous racial commentary (thankfully he’s at least brought Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer back along for the ride as well). What has me still interested here, despite not being a fan of “The Help,” is the magnetism of both the film’s subject and its lead actor. Chadwick Boseman earned some polite praise last year for his earnest portrayal of another real-life figure, Jackie Robinson, in “42;” but James Brown is certainly a much more fun role, and he seems to have thrown himself into the part with gusto to spare. Boseman’s likely to be a star by the time the year is out, and we know how much the awards circuit loves an actor impersonating a famous musician – can Boseman go beyond mimicry and be an Oscar threat? Certainly this is one of our big sight-unseen contenders.