Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Quickies for February 2014

Philomena (2013) ✭✭✭✭

Just when you think Philomena is going to be a stinging expose of the Church’s adoption policies in Ireland, the film backs off a bit and seems to realize the complexity of the issue. It’s still a fine and enjoyable film with great chemistry between Judi Dench, as a former destitute unwed mother now in search of the child she gave up, and Steve Coogan, as the skeptical journalist who tries to help her. Overall, Philomena is sort of second-tier Oscar® bait, but well worth the time.

The Company You Keep (2012) ✭✭✭1/2

There’s an air of vanity about The Company You Keep, with Robert Redford going out of his way to prove he can still jog and father children at age 77, but hey, more power to him. The movie is about a web of 1970s radicals - wanted by the police for a bank robbery that went murderously wrong - who have have spent the last 40 years or so underground. The group risks exposure when one of their leaders (Susan Sarandon), now living as a Connecticut housewife, is exposed and arrested. Redford then goes on the lam in an attempt to prove his innocence, cleverly keeping one step ahead of the FBI. Not much of it rings true, but the movie has some fun supporting turns from Nick Nolte, Julie Christie and Richard Jenkins. Even Shia LeBeouf isn’t too bad as a crusading journalist, although he seems to be a lot better at finding people than the G-Men.

In the House (2010) ✭✭✭

Fans of Ozon will like this Hitchcock-esque arc-bending story, but I doubt there’s much here for casual viewers. Fabrice Luchini is typically wonderful as a high school teacher who gets increasingly and unwisely involved in the life of a promising student (Ernst Umhauer). The film raises interesting questions about the pursuit of art at any cost, particularly when that artist is vulnerable and immature. Ozon himself has a tough time getting a handle on the issue, and the last act of In the House goes a little bit off the rails.

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