Sunday, December 19, 2010

Rapid Reviews: Carrey, Clooney and Hathaway

Delayed flights are a pain. They're less of a pain if you get stuck somewhere lovely, like the San José International Airport. They're even less of a pain if you have free Wi-Fi and movies to entertain you. And they're even less of a pain if the movies are The Truman Show, Rachel Getting Married and Up in the Air.

Obviously, I've already seen the latter two, but Peter Weir's Truman was new to me. It was interesting to get fresh eyes on what I consider two of the best character studies to emerge out of the past decade, one that was horribly underrated, that being Rachel.

What words can be used to describe Anne Hathaway's performance in Rachel Getting Married? Transcendent seems so miniscule. Breathtaking is insufficient. Truly, her work is the stuff that most actresses could only dream of reaching. She embodies Kym, the drug-addicted sister of the titular Rachel who gets out of rehab to attend her sister's wedding, with such quiet fury with the world and self-loathing that each moment she is on the screen the audience is guaranteed to squirm. But it is not only Hathaway that makes this movie marvelous: the supporting cast is incredible, from the supportive-but-deluded dad, played by Bill Irwin, to the detached mother, embodied with such a great anger under her gentle façade by the great Debra Winger, to Rachel herself, the emotional entry point for the audience played so wonderfully by Rosemarie DeWitt. The film was directed by Jonathan Demme, and he created such a vivid world of a wildly diverse wedding that the audience feels a part of it. He overindulges at times, but not to the point of ruining the film. As the groom's mother says during her toast at the rehearsal dinner, "And this is how it is in heaven...just like this." A-

Up in the Air is a film I find myself constantly waffling on. At first I thought it a beautiful portrayal of one man constantly on the move while stuck in his place in life. Then I considered it a showcase for three brilliant actors: George Clooney as Ryan, Anna Kendrick as Natalie, and Vera Farmiga as Alex. Then I started to realize it was easily the least of director Jason Reitman's directorial trilogy (Thank You for Smoking as his best, followed by Juno, a piece that was primarily writer Diablo Cody's vision). And now I consider it a good movie with a highly overrated script (some of that dialogue is downright clunky) and some good performances but one that outshines them all: Kendrick's. While Clooney is simply playing himself (albeit to great effect), and Farmiga does solid work with what she's given (Alex is a little unrealistic), Kendrick makes the fast-talking, both stronger and weaker than she appears Natalie truly the heart of the film. Her Oscar nomination (and likely win were it not for the unstoppable force that was Mo'Nique in Precious) was well-deserved. All the hype around the movie? Maybe not so much. A for Kendrick, B+ for the film.

Anything I've said about Jim Carrey being talentless in the past, I take it all back after seeing The Truman Show. What a marvelous film. What great performances from Carrey, Laura Linney and Ed Harris. What an interesting take on religion and free will. What a high concept film that was done to such perfection. Well done, Peter Weir, who directed this marvel under budget and to spectacular effect. Set in a "show-within-a-show" about Truman Burbank, we soon learn that Carrey's Truman has no idea that his life is a reality show, that one man (Christof, played with such excellency by Harris) controls his every move, that his wife (Linney, wonderfully 50's here) is just an actress, etc. Watching the plan unravel after thirty years of success is thrilling, and the film is truly a masterpiece. A


joe burns said...

I really like Rachel, plus Anne Hathaway's performance, and I'm really glad you do too!

My opinion of Up And The Air constantly changes every time I see it, ha ha, I've always liked it, plus both Kendrick and Ferminga, but which one I like better always changes.

Haven't seen The Truman Show yet, but it's always been interesting to me.

Kevin said...

I know exactly what you mean re: Up in the Air. I might rewatch it in a month and give it an A, or I might give it a C+. I feel so range-y about it.