So, Hong Kong is a long damn way from Saint Paul. I can never sleep on these flights, maybe grabbing 15 or 25 minutes here and there, although such dozes were made impossible by the barking snores–like a rhino, startled into scornful laughter–from the strange man next to me on the way home. I usually hope to retreat into lovable tripe, stuff I failed to see and only half-wanted to, but the selections were less attractive, and I opted for three films going and coming back. In reverse order, worst to best:

Midnight in Paris Produced a fair number of swoons, so it may be that my aggravation was enhanced by expectation. I mean, it isn’t a bad film, just aggressively obvious and expository–characters aren’t just talky in the Allen fashion, they’re endlessly spelling out shit to understand about themes or motivation, when they aren’t dropping hamfisted allusions to the literati dallying about. (A rare exception:a gag when Gil (Owen Wilson) learns he’d just been dancing with Djuna Barnes–“No wonder she was leading!”. Yet even that ain’t exactly subtle–it just avoids explaining who Barnes was. Contrast with Gil’s first, and only, brief encounter with “Tom” Eliot–“Thomas Stearns? T.S.?”. Cue reference to Prufrock.)

I like Adrien Brody’s Dali, and a bit with Bunuel, and It was clearly made with adoration of these figures… but they all remain figures, as do the moderns–dull stick-figure sketches, trapped in an endless slew of too-brief scenes establishing their Historical Persona. It was like an SCTV sketch, except Babe Ruth didn’t appear to Toulouse-Lautrec in a dream. And almost without real laughs. And thematically inert, a dull retread of the brilliant bitter dreaming of Purple Rose.


The Guard comes with impressive pedigree, as it was written and directed by the brother of Martin McDonagh, a brilliant and scabrous playwright whose foray into film with In Bruges suggests some very interesting ideas bubbling about under the nasty farcical violence. This film, however, is more in caper/ElmoreLeonard territory, and that’s just fine with me. Smalltown Irish cop Brendan Gleason is a pillswallowing bilespewing bear, eccentric rather than crooked, but farfar more interested in taking the piss than policework. FBI agent Don Cheadle is mostly just his foil, there for reaction shots, but Cheadle’s a helluva tricky and effective straight man. This was a lot of fun, even if its plotting was as by-the-book as its dialogue was brilliantly offcenter. I particularly enjoyed he heavies, including a snarling “professional” played by Mark Strong. But it’s Gleason’s playground, and he tears it up.

By far the best of the lot, and one of my favorites for the year, was Mike Mills’ autobiographical Beginners. This is a film about love, and woven into the odd, oblique structure is a familiar bittersweet romcom. But the film’s protagonist–a guileless Ewan McGregor–is wandering into his new relationship awash in grief for his parents, or even more precisely grief for their inability to really find love–with one another, with others, with their son. Oliver’s dad lived his whole married life in the closet, only coming out upon his wife’s death, and leading a few fleeting years bouyantly out, if never quite fulfilled. Christopher Plummer is the dad, and he is dazzling. Even better is the mom, a smaller role, always further in the past–and we never see her interact with dad (only with young Oliver). Mary Page Keller, in a few bright strange scenes, conveys a whole life’s regrets and a full complex inner life.

I loved this movie. Sad, very funny, very well filmed.

One thought on “Plane”

  1. I’m amazed you can concentrate on anything more complicated than Prince of Persia on a long international flight. Those are the times that I catch up on Pirates of the Caribbean-type movies.

Leave a Reply