The Tribeca Film Festival kicks off tonight—with Shrek Forever After—and continues through May 2nd with screenings of high- and low-profile international films. We’ll be reviewing many more titles on The Measure during the run of the fest; for now, here’s a sampling of the goods.
The Disappearance of Alice Creed
Directed by J Blakeson
This darkly comic abduction-thriller is so matter-of-fact in its details it could function as a how-to: buy this much sound-proofing, this many cell phones, and these kinds of locks if you want to collect the ransom on a rich man’s grown daughter. You’ve seen kidnapping movies before, yeah? But this one, so tightly contained it could be a play, mixes its cliches with upending twists: exploitation turns into empowerment, machismo into homosexuality. It’s at times hilariously surprising, but the narrative zags amount to little more than stunt plotting, hustling to sucker-punch a been-there audience. Would that Blakeson had worked as hard to overcome the film’s pervasive nastiness or cool misogyny: just because a movie leaves the last girl standing doesn’t mean it has undone the beatings and humiliations that led up to it. Co-starring Eddie Marsan, who played the driving instructor in Happy-Go-Lucky.
Directed by Aaron Schneider
Robert Duvall begins Get Low as the textbook definition of an old coot: hermit beard, mumbly, shotgun in hand. His Felix Bush decides to throw himself a “living funeral”—a neat idea, but not much to sustain a feature. Soon the story becomes the textbook definition of an old-coot movie: low-key humor and protracted buried-secret melodrama. Bill Murray, though, as the town undertaker, offers customarily hilarious dry line readings and reaction shots, breaking the tedium and threatening to make the whole movie work.
The Killer Inside Me
Directed by Michael Winterbottom
UK auteur Winterbottom (Jude, 24 Hour Party People, Code 46) delivers a highly faithful but oddly wooden adaptation of Big Jim Thompson’s 1952 novel about a Texas deputy sheriff with bloodlust. Casey Affleck is chilling as the beguiling lawman murderer, the ironic score is just right, and the period details are finely rendered—the anachronistic Jessica Alba, aside. But for all the rough sex and graphic violence, Winterbottom can’t quite nail Thompson’s unique milieu of free-floating dissolution.
Directed by Tarik Saleh
This dystopic, animated technonoir traces the development of an ordinarily unhappy everyman into system-smashing revolutionary in a post-peak oil future: Europe—portrayed as smog-shrouded industrial ruins—has been united by a pan-continental super-subway; bicycle riding is illegal. Also, corporations are using shampoo to control minds and the Metro can read your thoughts. Cast in subterranean grey, the animation is very PlayStation, blending hyperreal design with the skittery motion of a South Park episode. And it’s appropriate: the herky-jerky, gloomy-futurist aesthetic is as disquieting as the movie’s advertising age conspiracy and surveillance state nightmare.
Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Jeunet, of Amelie renown/infamy, delivers another entry in his career-long series of grating Live-Action Cartoons For 11-Year-Olds. This one concerns a gang of junkyard irregulars, consciously modeled on Toy Story‘s chestful of oddballs, righteously warring with weapons manufacturers. Its in-your-face whimsy, Luhrmann-esque tone, and goofy ethic and aesthetic make it triply hard to take seriously its political message about the cruel indifference of arms dealers, their implicit culpability in murder. Jeunet is not without virtues—the film is wordless when it can be, and uses an old Max Steiner score to great effect—but Micmacs still comes off like Paul Blart trying to pass as Art.