: Perhaps less improbably than Terrence Malick but surprising nonetheless, the time elapsed between new Nicole Holofcener movies has actually managed to shrink a bit in recent years: the five-year gaps between her first few movies have fallen to four between Friends with Money
and Please Give
, and now a mere three between the latter and Enough Said
—even as the prospect of a lady-made, lady-starring indie movie about relationships seems more likely than ever to barely scrape together financing before hitting a handful of theaters on its way to (or well after its) VOD release. Maybe Holofcener has found a groove, because if anything, I'd say her work is getting better: more focused, funnier, and smartly paced. Enough Said
isn't quite as biting as Please Give
, but it turns a sitcom-y premise—Julia Louis-Dreyfus realizes she's dating the guy (James Gandolfini) her new friend Catherine Keener has been badmouthing for weeks—into something reflective and unhurried. I can't remember the last time I saw a movie that lingered so effectively on the parent side during the tearful departure of a college-aged kid—or frankly, a middle-aged sorta-romantic comedy that wasn't just about older people getting their grooves back or whatever. Enough Said
also functions as a lovely tribute to Gandolfini, who gets to be sweeter and more sensitive than many of his character-actor parts allowed as the clumsy but well-intentioned new/old boyfriend.
: In figuring out who might best capture the daredevil kinetics of life as a race-car driver, Ron Howard might not spring immediately to mind, even given his experience directing Grand Theft Auto
back in '77. In the years since that car movie, Howard made his way to light comedies before striking out into jack-of-all-genres territory: he's dabbled in fantasy, Western, thriller, family and historical dramas, and epic romance, with polished, professional, but often mixed results. Rush
reunites him with his Frost/Nixon
scribe Peter Morgan, and like that movie (and unlike, say, The Dilemma
or Angels & Demons
), it seems at least based on some personal interest on Howard's part, rather than a choice he had to make to get a big movie going by a certain date. It might also seem like one of Howard's periodic dips into Oscar bait if not for the fact that this particular true story, of the late-70s rivalry between hotshot Formula One race-car driver James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and more businesslike Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl), is better-known and more revered in Europe.
Rush doesn't even have a whole lot of uplift as it cuts briskly between (and contrasting) Hunt's hard-partying gregariousness of Hunt and Lauda's hilarious brusqueness. Hemsworth turns on the movie-star charm—there's a reason his brother Liam is Hemsworth the Lesser—but Bruhl, who sometimes looks a bit like Will Arnett, is the real standout, expertly wielding his surly anti-charisma. Howard's work is more stylish than usual, shooting (or computer-processing, or both) his movie through a nostalgic-looking grain that blends the outsize colors (the reds, yellows, and greens of the cars and their drivers' uniforms pop out) and the many visual effects shots. The racing scenes aren't, for the most part, nail-biting—there are too many laps around a track to really sustain suspense. But Howard amps up the rumbling soundtrack and goes in for close-ups of car parts where outside elements (sky, rain, the other cars) poke through from the background; the smallish Formula One cars, with their drivers' heads poking out, look more like extensions of the human beings inside than the NASCAR imagery we're used to.
After an hour or so of these quick cuts, rumbling motors, and worried wives, though, Rush threatens to coast. Then the movie turns on a track disaster (not uncommon in those days of Formula One) that leaves leading contender Lauda charred in a hospital and Hunt taking the lead. Lauda's accident elevates the rivalry—intensifying it while also giving both men a hard-won respect of each other—and it boosts the movie, too, as it considers the way a testy competition can enrich lives (call it a lofty interpretation of frenemies). It's a relatively short distance to travel over two hours, especially when Bruhel and Hemsworth all but recite the movie's themes to each other by the end. But their final scene together is faintly touching nonetheless. The modesty of that moment, and of the movie's ambitions, make this one of Howard's most engaging films in years.
Thanks for Sharing
: This sex-addiction comedy is the kind of movie that has you (or, you know, me) thinking unkind thoughts about the participants, not even really on purpose. For example: watching the movie made me wonder if writer-director Stuart Blumberg, who has worked on screenplays for some gently enjoyable comedy-dramas like the underrated Keeping the Faith
and the overrated but fine The Kids Are All Right
, was in some kind of addiction recovery program himself. I really have no idea. It's definitely none of my business, and if he's doing it successfully, good for him; I only found myself wondering because Thanks for Sharing
is so close to militant in its adherence to 12-step theory that it feels like the work of a convert. That's not to knock 12-step programs; I just don't particularly need to see a movie about how you can make lifelong friends in recovery, especially when it seems to come at the expense of any other friends. Mark Ruffalo, Josh Gad, and Tim Robbins all play sex addicts (though Robbins is really more of a recovering alcoholic); Gwyneth Paltrow is supposed to provide some respite from the recoverers, but here come those unkind thoughts again: Paltrow is playing such a smart, successful, fit, self-satisfied, cutesy woman with bird-like eating habits that the role approaches an uncomfortable self-parody of her persona. I don't want to think about Gwyneth Paltrow's public persona during a movie! I think she's a really good actress! But Thanks for Sharing
dredges it up. Considering the overwhelming pleasantness of Blumberg's other movies, and the overall appeal of this cast, it's a small miracle that Thanks for Sharing
manages to be this much of a chore to watch. Honestly, I had more fun at Shame
: Those of us who have been tortured by endless replays of the Prisoners
trailer in front of most movies in general and all movies at Williamsburg Cinemas in particular might be forgiven for assuming, given the standard vigilante-justice/murder-mystery notes hammered in with extra trailer repetition, that this is just one of those 90s-ish serial killer type thrillers that good actors inexplicably get tricked into doing. But word on the movie is much more positive, at least enough to explain the participation of Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Terrence Howard, Melissa Leo, Maria Bello, and poor Paul Dano (not just because he's typecast as weirdos or creeps but also because the trailer makes his status as the sole non-Oscar-nominee of the cast abundantly clear—and shouldn't he have gotten some kind of award for not being completely blown off the screen by Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood
? Eh?). Handy/glib comparisons put the movie somewhere between Mystic River
, and frankly, "better than Mystic River
but not as amazing as Zodiac
" is about what I can reasonably expect from a high-toned crime thriller.