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Posts Tagged ‘Alan Alda’

Scarlett Johanssen, Adam Driver

“MARRIAGE STORY” My rating: B+

136 minutes | MPAA rating: R

The opening moments of Noah Baumbach’s latest film finds a couple — Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) and Charlie (Adam Driver) — rhapsodizing about the other’s best features.

Each has a laundry list of his/her spouse’s positive attributes.  My God, you think, these two are wildly in love.

Uh, no.  The cataloguing of lovable traits is simply an exercise developed by a marriage counselor.  In fact, Nicole and Charlie seem destined for the big split.

“Marriage Story” — which more accurately might have been entitled “Divorce Story” — is a black comedy that leaves audience suspended between laughter and wincing.  It’s about how despite the best efforts of the people involved, a marital breakup takes nightmarish turns.

It’s funny and heartbreaking.

Nicole and Charlie live in NYC with their adorable son Henry (Azhy Robertson).  Charlie is the director of a semi-celebrated experimental theater company; Nicole’s the leading lady  in most of their productions.

But Nicole has long felt stifled, artistically and emotionally. Over Charlie’s objections she takes a role in a TV series being filmed in Hollywood and with young Henry heads West to live — temporarily Charlie assumes — with her mother Sandra (Julie Hagerty). It eventually dawns on Charlie that Nicole won’t be returning to their life in New  York.

Now Nicole and Charlie are decent folk and they agree up front that while the marriage may be doomed, there’s no reason to become enemies.  They have a child to think of and, anyway, who wants to get all wrapped up in recriminations and resentments?  Why not just split up the common property and make it all as painless as possible? (more…)

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‘Bridge of Spies’ by DreamWorks Studios.

“BRIDGE OF SPIES” My rating: B+

142 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

 

Tom Hanks’ singular status as this century’s James Stewart pays off big time in “Bridge of Spies,” Steven Spielberg’s recreation of one of the Cold War’s lesser known stories.

As the real-life James Donovan, a New York insurance lawyer pulled into the world of espionage and international intrigue, Hanks is wry, moving, and astonishingly ethical. He practically oozes bedrock American decency.

Which was precisely what this movie needs.

The screenplay by the Coen Brothers and Matt Charman runs simultaneously on four tracks.

In the first Soviet spy Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) is arrested in NYC in 1957 by federal agents. As no lawyer wants to represent him, the Bar Association basically plays spin the bottle — and assigns the job to Donovan.

Jim Donovan believes that every accused person deserves the best defense possible. In fact, he alienates the judge, the feds, and the general public by standing up for his client’s rights and assuming that this is going to be a fair trial when everybody else wants just to go through the motions before sentencing Abel to death.

On a parallel track is the story of Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell), a military flyboy recruited for a top-secret project and trained to spy on the U.S.S.R. from a one-man U-2 reconnaissance aircraft.  Alas, on his very first mission in 1960 he’s shot down, fails in an attempt to commit suicide, and falls into the hands of the Commies.

Then there’s the arrest in 1961 of Frederic Pryor (Will Rogers), an American grad student studying economics who finds himself trapped on the wrong side of the newly constructed Berlin Wall and vanishes into the labyrinthine East German justice system.

All this comes to a head when Donovan, several years after Abel’s conviction, is dispatched to Berlin in an ex officio capacity to arrange a swap of the Soviet spy for Francis Gary Powers.  And if in the process he can somehow free Fred Pryor from a damp cell, so much the better.

The yarn is so big and dramatic that it seems improbable…yet it happened. (What’s more, a few years later Donovan was dispatched to Cuba to negotiate the release of anti-Communists captured in the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion.)

(more…)

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