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Posts Tagged ‘Amber Tamblyn’

Jon Hamm

“NOSTALGIA” My rating: C-

114 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“Nostalgia” is a points-in-heaven movie.

Basically it’s a little art film (well, it wants to be art, anyway) that has attracted an astounding cast of recognizable actors (Ellen Burstyn, Bruce Dern, Beth Grant, Jon Hamm, Catherine Keener, James le Gros, Nick Offerman, John Ortiz, Amber Tamblyn) who are working for little or no pay to be part of a noncommercial effort that they hope will have something to say.

Call it movie star penance. These actors are trying to rack up some points in heaven.

Let’s hope they do, because “Nostalgia” isn’t going to make a ding in either the box office or critical circles.

Written and directed by Mark Pellington (“Arlington Road,” “The Mothman Prophecies,” “The Last Word”), “Nostalgia” offers an interesting premise.  It’s about how humans connect with objects and how giving up or losing those possessions can result in both trauma and a positive re-examination of one’s life.

Plotted less as one contiguous story than as a series of interconnected shorts, the film begins with an insurance investigator (Ortiz) checking out the home of an old man (Dern) who is preparing to sell  everything to finance his last years.

Exactly what the insurance guy does is a bit vague. He says he’s there to see if there are items in the house worth bringing in an appraiser…but on whose behalf we don’t know.  Maybe an evaluation of home’s contents has been requested by the old man’s granddaughter and heir (Tamblyn).

Anyway, the insurance guy’s real job — narratively speaking — is to be a sounding board for other characters. (If “Nostalgia” were given to metaphysical musings, you might view the character as a sympathetic angel.)

His next “customer” is a widow (Burstyn) whose home has just burned to the ground.  She’s lost everything except her late husband’s most cherished possession, a baseball signed by Ted Williams.  Eventually the old lady will travel to Las Vegas and a sports memorabilia shop where the copacetic owner (Hamm) buys the baseball for mucho dinero.

Then we follow the sports memorabilia guy to his home town, where he joins his sister (Keener) in clearing out their late parents’ home. This reunion is marred by a family tragedy. (more…)

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Alia Shawkat

“PAINT IT BLACK” My rating: C+

94 minutes | MPAA rating: R

With a title like “Paint It Black” you don’t expect a barrel of monkeys, nor do you get one with actress Amber Tamblyn’s directing debut.

Indeed, “Paint It Black” is a self-consciously artsy downer; not even a last-shot glimmer of hope is likely to rouse audiences out of their glum funk.

Which is not to say the film is terrible.  It’s got some terrific acting and creative visuals. But it lacks the emotional substance to make us care.

Current indie “it” girl Alia Shawkat stars as Josie, an artist’s model, black-out alcoholic and punk music groupie in pre-cell phone ’80s Los Angeles.

Early in the film (the screenplay is by Ed Dougherty and Tamblyn, adapting Janet Fitch’s novel) Josie receives news that her boyfriend Michael, who disappeared some time earlier, has committed suicide in a cheap hotel room.

In flashbacks we see how they met (she posed for nude studies in the class where he was an art student).  Their relationship, depicted in silent (save for music) snippets scattered throughout the film, is presented using Hallmark card visual shorthand (we see them discovering a junked upright piano, painting it together in their living room, spooning in bed etc.) .

They seem happy enough, though what a late-night carouser like Josie sees in the squeaky-clean Michael (Rhys Wakefield) is a mystery. Truth is, because he has only a few words of dialogue in the entire film, we get almost no sense of his personality.

Which makes Josie’s post-mortem obsession with Michael all the more unfathomable.

Turns out Josie isn’t the only one with Michaelmania.  His mother Meredith (the great Janet McTeer), a famous concert pianist, is also driven to the edges of madness by her grief and fury at having had to share her boy with this other woman.

The meeting of the two women is memorable — at Michael’s funeral Meredith tries to strangle Josie in front of the casket and a mortuary full of shocked mourners. Later Meredith raids the apartment where Josie and Michael lived, stealing all of his drawings, journals and personal effects.  Josie retaliates by sneaking into Meredith’s hilltop mansion and stealing back as much of the loot as she can carry.

We’re poised to see the story become a possibly violent test of wills between two women. But it never gets that far.

(more…)

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