Da 5 Bloods
On the Record
I May Destroy You
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A surprisingly good indie film about small-town familial torment and romance, done on a modest scale with respect and intelligence and terrific performances all around. Wondering why this movie didn't receive more attention when it first came out; or maybe I was absent that month.
Regarding Greta Gerwig, who writes, acts, and even plays trumpet in this film: No female actor has ever reminded me so much of Marlon Brando in her reliance on naturalism -- which is, as we know, the greatest artifice of all, and the most difficult to pull off.
I don't want to give anything away, but Gerwig even seemingly acknowledges her debt to Brando here, inventing a bit of business at one point in the film that comes right out of "The Godfather," when she playfully puts something in her mouth that could be Brando's cotton balls and/or the sliced orange peel in the garden death scene.
And the same can be said of the writing in this film -- it's almost 'non-writing' which, in order to pull off (as I think they do -- but that is the question that will obviously split viewers and critics), is as incredibly difficult to do successfully as the acting.
This is an incredibly modest film -- insular, with only a few roles, and less 'plot' rather than 'scenes' that do, in fact, reveal character and change over time. If it weren't for the compelling performances, the heartbreakingly realistic emotional struggles of the characters, and the wit and ingenuity of the dialogue and the setups, it wouldn't work. But it has them all, and mostly, it has Greta Gerwig, who has an uncanny sense of how the camera sees her, and seemingly totally un-self-consciously uses that to her -- and our -- advantage.
Ugh. Not even Natalie Portman could save this disaster. It was dead on the page.
Greta Gerwig and Joe Swanberg write, direct, and star in this low-key, offbeat, realistic anti-romance about the impossibility of connecting. Reality is never as real as this, and Gerwig in particular is the queen of contemporary realism. Of course you can't come across this real and natural if you aren't an extraordinary actor. If Marlon Brando had been born a woman in 1984, he'd be Greta Gerwig.
Other than some wooden dialogue placed in the mouth of Alan Alda, once again typecast here as a kind of all-knowing liberal demigod, this is a pretty captivating thriller with a competent performance by Kate Beckinsale and terrific ones by Matt Dillon, David Schwimmer and America's greatest unappreciated actress, Vera Farmiga. The script bites off more than it can chew -- it wants to be an epic story about the struggle for principled behavior versus the cost that can extract upon others -- and in that sense it is a failure, as the story just can't bear that weight. But otherwise it's a sleeper of an intelligent entertainment, with some deft camera work by director Rob Lurie, who loves framing closeups to reveal character.