Film reviews: You Will Be My Son | The Oranges | I, Anna | Celeste and Jesse Forever | Alex Cross

A French family catastrophe is brewing in 'You Will Be My Son'
A French family catastrophe is brewing in 'You Will Be My Son'
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ALISTAIR Harkness gives us a brief run down on the latest cinematic offerings including Gilles Legrand’s ‘You Will Be My Son’ and ‘The Oranges’ starring Hugh Laurie.

You Will Be My Son (unrated)

Directed by: Gilles Legrand

Starring: Niels Arestrup, Lorant Deutsch, Anne Marivin, Patrick Chesnais

Rating: * * * *

THOUGH the label suggests the wine-themed You Will Be My Son is another tastefully middlebrow bourgeois family drama (a fathers-and-sons plotline; a vineyard setting; the fact that it’s French…), there’s no denying proceedings have been imbued with a deliciously nasty undercurrent that corks the finished film in a way that makes it much more interesting. Indeed, like the morbid secret ingredient that winery and chateaux owner Paul de Marseul (Niels Arestrup) adds to his annual vintage, all manner of dark elements have been added by co-writer and director Gilles Legrand to ensure the film leaves a nasty taste.

That’s the point of course and watching Arestrup gradually reveal how monstrous Paul really is as he repeatedly undermines his desperate-to-be-loved son (Lorant Deutsch) makes for heady viewing, not least because of just how cold-hearted he makes him. This really comes into play with the arrival of Philippe (Nicolas Bridet), the handsome son of Paul’s terminally ill right-hand man (Patrick Chesnais), whom he starts grooming to take over, much to the chagrin of those around him. The repercussions of his actions are subtle and catastrophic and Legrand’s classy direction and refined cast ensures the unpleasant surprises the film has in store are something to savour.

The Oranges (15)

Directed by: Julian Farino

Starring: Hugh Laurie, Catherine Keener, Oliver Platt, Leighton Meester

Rating: * *

THIS dysfunctional family comedy feels very much like a Hollywoodised cover version of a rough-around-the-edges indie film. Sadly, actors such as the brilliant Catherine Keener, Oliver Platt and Allison Janney are wasted thanks to being trapped in a fairly airless melodrama in which none of their characters are given adequate room to breathe. Instead, they become satellite players orbiting around the depressingly predictable midlife crisis that Hugh Laurie’s advertising executive David has when the siren-like daughter of his best friends and neighbours Terry and Cathy (Platt and Janney) returns home from three years of finding herself. This is Nina (Gossip Girl star Leighton Meester), a free-spirited hottie who unapologetically puts the moves on the unhappy David with no consideration of what this will mean for his wife Paige (Keener), daughter Vanessa (Alia Shawkat) or son – and potential suitor – Toby (Adam Brody).

Unfortunately, the filmmakers don’t seem to have much sense of what it would mean either, with home-wrecking becoming a cue for some cutesy irrational behaviour and recriminations that have little basis in reality. It’s too bad, because with this cast debut director Julian Farino could really have pushed at something interesting. Instead, befitting the Christmas setting, he wraps everything up in a neat package.

I, Anna (15)

Directed by: Barnaby Southcombe

Starring: Charlotte Rampling, Gabriel Byrne, Hayley Atwell, Eddie Marsan

Rating: * *

A HORRIBLY clunky London-set neo-noir, this squanders a good cast with flat direction, ropey dialogue and the kind of plot twist that is surprising only in how audaciously hokey it is.

Blame co-writer/director Barnaby Southcombe. Making his feature debut after a string of credits on British soaps, he ropes in his mother, Charlotte Rampling, for the lead and proceeds to have her give sudsy line readings that bear zero relation to the way people actually talk and interact with one another.

True, as the titular Anna she may be dealing with the suppressed trauma of an unspecified family break-up, but even so, as she becomes embroiled with the Detective Chief Inspector (Gabriel Byrne) running a murder investigation in which she may have played a role, both actors look and sound like androids. It doesn’t help that the plot – for specious reasons – propels Anna back onto the dating scene, giving rise to a cameo from Honor Blackman lecturing Rampling (in quite excruciating fashion) about the relationship benefits of performing fellatio.

The lacklustre procedural elements are fairly preposterous too and require a ludicrous suspension of disbelief to make them work. Alas, nothing in the film is effective enough to make you want to do so.

Celeste and Jesse Forever (15)

Directed by: Lee Toland Krieger

Starring: Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg, Elijah Wood, Ari Graynor

Rating: * *

WITH the titular characters of this ironically titled break-up rom-com repeatedly making Mo Farah-style heart-shaped gestures to one another while talking in the kind of babyish secret language that comes from having been in a long term relationship since high school, Celeste and Jesse Forever certainly puts the irk in quirk.

Another cookie-cutter Sundance-sanctioned indie film, it sadly doesn’t have the charm or relationship insights that makes its studied eccentricities in any way bearable, despite an intriguing set-up in which the titular couple (played by Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg) have already broken up and made the transition into being firm friends.

As with any rom-com, though (even one such as this that’s attempting to invert the usual tropes), barriers are put in place to impede their smooth progression to their most harmonious state, which in this case means that despite their matter-of-fact attitude towards their impending divorce, its finality becomes a subconscious catalyst for all kinds of craziness as each attempts to maintain their friendship while pursuing other romantic interests. Rashida Jones has her moments, but nothing in this comes close to matching the brilliance of Silver Linings Playbook.

Alex Cross (15) 
Directed by: Rob Cohen

Starring: Tyler Perry, Edward Burns, Matthew Fox, Jean Reno

Rating: *

THIS cinematic reboot for James Patterson’s best selling Alex Cross crime novels wasn’t screened for critics and no wonder: it’s one of the worst – and certainly one of the dumbest – movies of the year.

With Morgan Freeman previously inhabiting the title role in Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider, someone is clearly having a laugh by bringing in Tyler Perry, the writer/director/star of the Medea comedies (an American phenomenon, the success of which hasn’t translated overseas), for this origins story.

He’s certainly no leading man in an action/thriller sense and his attempts to make the wise, refined eponymous psychologist-turned-detective into a badass is truly risible. Directed in chaotic style by The Fast and the Furious’ Rob 
Cohen, it almost plays like a parody of itself, with Cross out for revenge against a bald-headed psycho (Mathew Fox, looking more lost than he was in Lost) after he assassinates his pregnant wife as part of a sick game.

Hardly classing things up is Edward Burns, whose smirking line readings as Cross’s childhood best-friend-turned-partner suggest he’s not taking this too seriously. Fans of the books shouldn’t either.