Film reviews: Morning Glory | NEDS | The Dilemma | Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould | Get Low
Our film critic reviews the best and worst of this week's new releases....
Morning Glory (12a) **
Directed by: Roger Michell
Starring: Harrison Ford, Rachel McAdams, Diane Keaton, Patrick Wilson
CAST as a prickly, highly paid anchorman reluctantly forced into fronting a vapid early-morning TV magazine show, the prickly, highly paid Harrison Ford presumably found enough inspiration in the set-up for this empty and insidious riff on Broadcast News to deliver a thoroughly convincing performance. Playing opposite Rachel McAdams's perky, up-and-coming producer (whose last shot at making a name for herself hinges on transforming a failing show into a network hit), Ford's genuine-seeming, give-me-the-paycheck disdain for the material at hand almost succeeds in making Morning Glory a more palatable proposition than it is – no mean feat given that the film itself is basically a self-serving justification for the prominence of fluffy entertainment over sharply written and intelligently crafted stories. Alas, that element becomes a bit too overpowering as Morning Glory gradually reveals itself to be less about a veteran professional steering a put-upon underling to a more rewarding career, and more about a sweet girl teaching a hard-bitten grouch to embrace his cuddly side for the sake of ratings. Entertainingly self-aware though Ford's performance is, then, it can't help but leave a bitter aftertaste.
NEDS (18) ****
Directed by: Peter Mullan
Starring: Conor McCarron, Marianna Palka, Peter Mullan
SET among the "Non-Educated Delinquents" of 1970s Glasgow, Peter Mullan's third feature as a writer/director is a dark, evocative, hard-hitting piece of film-making leavened by flashes of sly wit, a great eye for period detail and a sound ear for authentic dialogue. The film tells the story of a bright working-class kid whose dreams of bettering himself via education are gradually eroded as he gets sucked into the gang culture that has already consumed his elder brother. That's a familiar story arc, but it's one to which Mullan gives a new lease of life thanks to a driving narrative fuelled by a controlled anger that never becomes didactic. As his protagonist John McGill (impressively played as a ten year-old by newcomer Greg Forrest and as a teenager by Connor McCarron) gets sucked into a violent vortex, Mullan takes care neither to judge nor glamorise this world. Instead he juxtaposes the grittiness of the subject matter with surprisingly lush cinematography and surreal, Abel Ferrara-esque flights of fancy that help underscore the complexities of a system that casually throws people into the lion's den – an idea Mullan makes amusingly literal in the film's wonderfully audacious final scene.
The Dilemma (12a) **
Directed by: Ron Howard
Starring: Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Jennifer Connelly, Winona Ryder
POOR Winona Ryder. Brutalised already this week in Black Swan, she's subjected to an even more horrifying fate in cinemas courtesy of The Dilemma, which sees her cast as the wife of thoroughly charmless Paul Blart: Mall Cop star Kevin James. Hollywood double standards notwithstanding, Ryder's waaaaaay-out-of-his-league status fatally hobbles the central premise of Ron Howard's relationship film. Not only is it impossible to fathom why her character, Geneva, and James's Nick would ever be a couple in the first place, but when it's revealed early on that she's cheating on him with Channing Tatum (doing his best Brad Pitt impersonation as a sensitive, muscle-bound hustler called Zip), it's hard not to think: "Well, duh!" This immediate lack of sympathy for Nick also means it's hard to care about the titular conundrum facing his friend and business partner Ronny (Vince Vaughn), who is aware of Geneva's infidelity, but can't decide whether to tell him for fear of wrecking a lucrative business deal they're about to close. It doesn't help that Howard chooses to play out the melodrama of the situation in relatively straight fashion while retaining all the trappings of a Judd Apatow-style "bromance". The end result is a humourless mess.
Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould (U) ***
Directed by: Michle Hozer, Peter Raymont
ATTEMPTING to do what it says on the tin, this documentary about the Canadian-born classical pianist strives to get to the root of what made Glenn Gould tick. Having achieved considerable overnight success in 1955 at the age of 22 with a radical interpretation of Bach's Goldberg Variations, Gould's virtuoso technique, his good looks, his ability to connect with his audience, and his eccentric demeanour led to him being quickly mythologised as a tortured artist, a perception exacerbated by his hatred of performing live, something he gave up at the age of 31. This film doesn't exactly dispel that myth, but with new interviews with former lovers, the few friends that he had, and his now grown-up children, it does provide some illumination of the musician's messy mind, and in particular how he managed to channel his psychological chaos into his unorthodox but technically wondrous recordings and performances. Told chronologically, Genius Within certainly works as a good introduction to Gould's life and work, especially the early parts his story. Aficionados, however, may find directors Michle Hozer and Peter Raymont's rather basic approach somewhat out of tune with their maverick subject matter.
Get Low (PG) **
Directed by: Aaron Schneider
Starring: Robert Duvall, Bill Murray, Sissy Spacek
ROBERT Duvall is on scenery-chewing form in this aggressively quirky fable set in Depression-era rural Tennessee and focusing on a backwoods hermit who arranges to attend his own funeral. Duvall plays Felix Bush, a miserly old coot whose imminent demise – he knows he's not long for this Earth – prompts him to lay to rest the ghosts of his dark past with a "living funeral" designed to satisfy local curiosity about him. Hiring a shyster funeral director (played by Bill Murray) to make the arrangements, Felix wants to hear the wild tales people have been spinning over the years about the reasons for his self-imposed exile, the genuine origins of which are hinted at in the opening scenes. Unfortunately, that story, when finally revealed, isn't all that earth-shattering; it's certainly not surprising enough to justify the languid way debut director Aaron Schneider builds up to it. Further undercut by Duvall's mannered turn, which is just too lovably curmudgeonly to allow any ambiguity to seep into the film, Get Low's one saving grace is Murray's melancholic presence, which acts as a counterpoint to the rest of the film's desperate-to-be-loved banality.
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