You are currently browsing the daily archive for November 12, 2006.

Bookmark and Share

Always having been a fan of Richard Linklater’s work, it confounded me that his film after indie darlings Dazed and Confused and Before Sunrise has never been released on dvd. SubUrbia is the kind of movie you hear that fans of his work love, but never found a place in cinema history. Flipping through the movie channels on tv, I happened across the film and could not stop watching until it was over. Much in the same way as his other work, the movie is dialogue driven and concerning a small group of people talking about life and what comes next for them. He has compiled a very nice cast, all of who take their character and roll with it. It is a scary thing, post high school, deciding what to do with one’s life. Having been stuck in the suburbs for so long, one begins to wonder if they can survive outside it.

The compelling thing for me in Richard Linklater films is the general waxing philosophic feel they all seem to have. These are kids that are college age who have things to talk about, questions to have answered, and are not afraid to ask them when they are surrounded by those they trust. This group of friends is caught at a crossroads, not knowing if what they are doing is the right way to go. Many have tried their hands at something, but ultimately gave up to continue loitering around their corner convenience store. When one of their friends, who found success in leaving the small town of Burnfield becoming a rockstar, happens to come home for a show, the group’s equilibrium goes off-kilter as they face what could be. Some feel that if they had applied themselves they could have been successes as well, while others see the shell of a man their buddy has become after being sucked into the machine. The return home opens everyone’s eyes to the situation they are in and for better or worse changes the way they decide to continue living their lives.

While a drama, there are many funny scenes. When a few of them begin talking about the reason Pony became a rockstar, to be able to tell the world his thoughts, to have someone listen to him, they say how rough it is to feel like no one can hear what they are saying. Through the entire conversation Giovanni Ribisi’sJeff is trying to be heard chiming in with his own ideas. The irony of the situation may be a bit heavy-handed, but it is also very true to form. Ribisi shines in this role as an intelligent youth who has never applied himself, always being content with hanging around his troubled friends. He soon realizes that the freedom he has is more important than selling out for fame and fortune, it is the people he cares about that keep him going, not the material things in life he could have. Steve Zahn is again brilliant in one of his earlier roles. He plays the idiot comedian to perfection while also evolving into someone who uses his cheery disposition for success. You begin to see that he knows exactly who he is and is in control at every moment. It’s a shame he now only gets roles that are one-dimensionally that stupid guy there for laughs. It is also a pleasure to see Office Space alum, Ajay Naidu in a good role, touching on the bigotry of American small town life. The success his character is having, while not being American, prays on the jealousy of those who feel their heritage should entitle them to happiness. The lazy toughs around town would rather pick on the foreigners for working hard instead of doing the time themselves.

Rounding out a very good cast is Dina Spybey and Nicky Katt. Spybey is great in a tough role. She is the lackey friend of one of the main group members and tries to fit in. It seems that every time she begins to connect, she is ultimately left alone. The depression her character feels comes through at all times; the despair of someone that troubled around you without knowing how to help is tough. There is so much going on this night that her anguish gets pushed aside until there is no turning back. Then there is Nicky Katt who makes the film. He is an intellectual trapped in the body of a jock who has partied and been king of the town for too long. He sees the world around him for what it is and hates himself for living amongst the grime. Toying with the emotions of his best friends, he seems to have a death wish to just end his suffering. No longer the star football player, the character of Tim can’t apply his intellect constructively and instead uses it to help the others while self-destructing himself.

Linklater is one of the most consistent directors working in and on the fringe of Hollywood today. His films always seem to have a message coming through them, trying to uncover a truth of life. Every one of his characters is true to themselves and connecting with humanity at every step. SubUrbia is so much like his other smaller films that I was surprised to see it was written by and based from a play from Eric Bogosian. I am a fan of his acting work, but after seeing this I might finally wipe the dust from my copy of Oliver Stone’s Talk Radio and check it out. Also, maybe I will turn on the movie that started it all for Linklater, Slacker, and see the true evolution he has taken. Hopefully SubUrbia will find its own way to dvd, maybe even the Criterion Collection will release it to join the other Linklater masterpieces it already has.

SubUrbia 8/10

Bookmark and Share

Advertisements

Bookmark and Share

Harsh Times is an intense film. Keeping you on the edge of finding out how crazy events can become seems to be a staple in the writing of David Ayer. He penned the script for the gritty cop drama Training Day and saw its star, Denzel Washington, win an Oscar for his portrayal of the conflicted beast at its core. With his new film, and directorial debut, Ayer has crafted another street drama about people who themselves don’t know whether they are the good guys, the bad guys, or both. Don’t be surprised if his work soon creates a second starring Academy Award, as Christian Bale is a powerhouse. The raw acting talents of this Brit are unfathomable and thankfully his rejuvenation of Batman has finally allowed those chops to be shown on screen in challenging roles for the masses.

Crossing between being the soldier/sir, yes sir type of man with the gangbanger of his past could be a difficult thing to believe for a viewer. Bale deftly changes personas as if he was flipping a switch. His ability to go from crazed lunatic to apologetic, tear-filled and beaten man is amazing to watch. Having a great up-and-coming actor to play off of is a plus as Freddy Rodriguez shines in much the same way Ethan Hawke did in Training Day—playing the straight man whose life is finally on the up and up before his love for a friend drags him back down. The rapport between them is believable and effective in showing us what could be. One of their friends, played nicely by Chaka Forman, gets it right when he says how Bale’s Jim used to be so mellow. His fits of rage and confusion come upon him with no warning, showing us what war did to him. Being in the trenches created a man without a moral code, one who needs to not think, but just do. If one’s capacity to kill was always there, he/she could probably live their lives being able to turn it off when needed. However, if you were not wired that way to begin with, the stark contrast could fry their mind into not knowing what it should do. Harsh Times shows us that fall into delusion and self-loathing to the point where thinking doesn’t factor in at all, action becomes reflex and reflex becomes life. Unfortunately society is not of the shoot first variety like that of a warzone.

Ayer has done himself well with this directorial effort. He gets great performances throughout and in multiple languages. Even Eva Longoria was adequate and not a blemish on the film as I initially felt she might be. Ayer shows us all facets of his characters helping to enhance the story. We are privy to the past history of all involved and are allowed to understand each person’s motives. Seeing the paradise that Bale has in Mexico adds immensely to the conflict going on inside of him as well. The performance by Tammy Trull is paramount to this fact and her undivided love for her broken man is beautifully expressed. This relationship makes his actions that much more powerfully unfathomable. We have monsters among us in this world and while they can be utilized as a necessity for the survival of our culture, hopefully when their jobs are done they can be helped to assimilate back into society without their ambivalence being able to hurt the ones they love.

Harsh Times 8/10

Bookmark and Share

photography:
[1] (L to r) CHRISTIAN BALE and FREDDY RODRIGUEZ star in HARSH TIMES written and directed by DAVID AYER. Photo courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn Mayer Pictures, Inc.

Categories

Bookmark and Share

jared’s tweets

Advertisements