Tom McCarthy is one of the most reliable humanist American filmmakers, creating layered character studies with larger societal considerations. From the economic woes inherent to his best film Win Win, the social biases underneath the charms of The Station Agent, to his most celebrated and largest scale treatise in Spotlight, McCarthy has carved himself a part of the cinematic landscape for humble stories that put human frailty and perseverance at their center. His latest Stillwater, a vaguely Amanda Knox-like narrative of post-Trump attempted reckoning, finds him taking on what might be his most difficult version of that kind of character-first task.Continue reading “In Review: Stillwater”
Noise does not equate to excitement, but don’t tell that to James Mangold. With Ford v Ferrari, the director takes an extensively familiar and cliched approach to unexamined industrial history. Despite a somewhat interesting subject of Ford Motor Company’s entry into the Le Mans auto race and cross-continental grudge with the sexier Ferrari, Mangold reduces the narrative to entry-level machismo pathology. Its human story, led by Christian Bale in prickish rascal mode and Matt Damon as his straightlaced compatriot, is granted consideration seldom deeper than the traditional masculine types it reverts to. Even with all the technically impressive vroom vroom (or maybe somewhat because of it), it feels like we’ve seen it all before. And with Mangold unable to find any fresh territory to speak of, it hasn’t gotten any less boring.
When did Alexander Payne lose his ear for how people actually sound? Even in his archest satires like Election and Citizen Ruth, Payne’s cinematic voice had a realistic edge to make the most heightened emotion and biting commentary distinctly authentic. As his most recent features have given way to sentimentality that has made less and less room for that reality, now he actually steps toward science fiction – sort of. Downsizing is a high-concept attempt to return to satire, but with none of the attributes that made his best films so exacting.