Black Swan: Hot damn! There are not a lot of movies inspiring crazy excitement from me in 2010. The whole year has felt a little like stalling. Yeah, there were some late-summer/early-fall doldrums, but that always happens, and The Social Network was coming as soon as October began! Then that happened and it was pretty awesome, but almost nothing super-exciting came out in all of October. November, though, always brings out the end-of-year prestige releases… but after <em>127 Hours and some popcorn fun with Tangled and Unstoppable and Potter, still kind of slim pickings. But now it’s December, and it’s really time for things to get good! There’s a veritable cavalcade of film-geek excitement heading our way! Like: Black Swan, The Fighter, True Grit, maybe Somewhere… huh. Four movies. That doesn’t seem like so many. And two of them aren’t really out until Christmas. Which, yes, might turn this entire movie year into a shell game to perpetuate my (and, I assume, your) excitement over Black Swan. In which case, I guess bring it on, because it’s too late anyway.
If The Wrestler did its part to inch Aronofsky away from his title of Most Humorless Major Director (as did The American! I really liked that movie, but damn, does anyone crack a smile in it?), Black Swan might bring him roaring back in a fit of Requiem-stylized histrionics. With Natalie Portman and horror-movie overtones, though, I might well be okay with that. If not, there’s always Season of the Witch, dropping 1/7/11, y’all!
I Love You Phillip Morris: And I kind of love you, movie. Every five or six years, Jim Carrey bends his way into work that isn’t necessarily all that removed from his broad, rubbery comic roots—the unwitting sitcom hero of The Truman Show; the obsessed anti-comedian of Man on the Moon; and, ok, his Eternal Sunshine sad-sack is pretty removed, although the memory-erasure premise still makes for an artsier take on high-concept comedies like Liar Liar or Yes Man. I Love You Phillip Morris plays even more like the dark flipside to a Carrey studio comedy: he plays real-life figure Stephen Russell, an irrepressible gay con man, who hasn’t been afflicted with the magical inability to lie so much as a personal aversion to telling the truth, perhaps, the movie suggests, from his lifelong stint in the closet. He comes out in spectacular and, as he notes in talltale narration, expensive fashion, and turns to all manner of larceny to fund his lifestyle. In prison for his crimes, he meets Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor), a soft-spoken, goodhearted if naive fellow. They fall in love, and when they’re separated by the prison system, Stephen works his hardest to get them both sprung and reunited.
The movie, written and directed by the Bad Santa screenwriters, has plenty of hijinks and capering, then, and the accompanying Carrey bounce, but it’s suffused with a desperation and sadness underneath. Russell doesn’t get nabbed because he’s a bumbler—in fact, he’s sort of brilliant, executing any number of impossible-seeming schemes—but because he just can’t stop. He’d say it’s in the name of love, and his relationship with Morris has a doomed sweetness, but I Love You Phillip Morris, which has as many big laughs as any of Carrey’s broad comedies and way more small ones backing them up, becomes a story of compulsion. Stephen Russell tries to win affection by always being, in a sense, on. In that way, it’s the consummate Carrey comedy.
All Good Things: I didn’t care much for the melodramatic touches in Andrew Jarecki’s documentary Capturing the Friedmans, but maybe true-life docudrama will channel those instincts into something a little pulpier and less clumsy. Ryan Gosling plays a movie-world variation on real-life dude Robert Durst, whose wife (played in this version by Kirsten Dunst) disappears suddenly and suspiciously. Among this weekend’s oft-delayed so-weird-it’s-true indies with big names, I can’t imagine this movie is better than I Love You Phillip Morris, which you should see, but I’ve seen that one, so maybe I’ll give this one a shot.
The Warrior’s Way: December 3rd must seem like prime dump territory, because this movie, like the last two I just mentioned, was also filmed back in 2007 and 2008 only to languish on the shelf until now. It’s one of those mostly Asian movies that was made in English, presumably for broader appeal (?), which means: maybe this is the next Dragon Wars! The Craig Robinson role of Lost American is filled by Kate Bosworth, while Geoffrey Rush introduces a new, similar role: Lost Australian. Plus, Danny Huston is in this, because of course, why wouldn’t he be in it? Why wouldn’t anyone appear in a western-kung-fu-fantasy movie? And why wouldn’t said movie go out on over 1,000 screens as the only wide release of the weekend? Do you think the All Good Things and I Love You Phillip Morris people are kind of mad about that? I mean, I’d think that Ryan Gosling, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Carrey, and Ewan McGregor might have more collective drawing power than Geoffrey Rush and Kate Bosworth, but I guess this is why I don’t run second-tier movie studios with insanely grandiose plans for movies that look like they could go direct to DVD in your country of choice.