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Posts Tagged ‘David Gordon Green’

Jake Gyllenhaal

“STRONGER” My rating: A- 

116 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“Stronger” is the story of Jeff Bauman, who lost both legs in the Boston Marathon bombing. The subject matter alone is enough to give potential moviegoers pause.

Is this going to be a weepy? A jingoistic flag-waver? Is it gonna be, oh God, inspirational?

There are plenty of arguments for steering clear of “Stronger.”  Ignore them.

For in adapting Bauman’s memoir writer John Pollen and director David Gordon Green have given us what may be the year’s most potent drama, a masterful blend of personal narrative and social observation.

It’s a film about despair, resilience, family and romance.  Yes, it’s deeply emotional, but less in a crassly manipulative Hollywood way than in the sense that it nails so many truths about the human condition.

You’ll cry.  In fact, anyone who can sit through “Stronger” without tearing up at least three times had best stop wasting their money on movie tickets and start saving for a bass boat.

But it’s a cleansing cry, not an exploitative one.

In the film’s first 10 minutes we’re introduced to Jeff (Jake Gyllenhaal, quite possibly Oscar bound), a “chicken roaster at Costco” and a classic example of blue-collar Boston. He’s a drinker and a sports idiot, traits he shares with his boisterous, brawling, low-credit-score uncles and cousins. He’s kind of unreliable, which is why his girl Erin (“Orphan Black’s” Tatiana Maslany) has broken up with him yet again.

Jeff decides he can win back Erin by passing on  a Sox game to cheer her on as she runs the Boston Marathon. He’s at the finish line holding a hand-made congratulatory sign when the bomb goes off.

Almost immediately director Green demonstrates how to ease into an uncomfortable issue with grace and taste.  We don’t see the immediate bloody results of the blast.  But we’re with Erin in a bar when the TV news shows a photo of the seriously wounded Jeff being carried away by a man in a cowboy hat. (We won’t actually see a re-enactment of the event until flashbacks in the movie’s third act.)

(more…)

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Sandra Bullock and Joaquim Alameda

Sandra Bullock and Joaquim de Alameida

“OUR BRAND IS CRISIS”  My rating: C+ (Opens wide on Oct. 30)

107 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“Truth is relative in politics,” observes campaign consultant “Calamity” Jane Bodine (Sandra Bullock) in the opening moments of “Our Brand Is Crisis.”

“I could convince myself of anything if the price is right.”

A catalog of the many dispiriting ways in which the electoral process has become an exercise in lying and slime-slinging, “Our Brand…” is grimly satiric and thoroughly depressing.

Dramatically it is undercooked, with outrage outscoring humanity.

The latest from chameleonic director David Gordon Green is a fictional remake of a decade-old documentary of the same name. That film followed a group of American campaign strategists — among them Clinton stalwart James Carville — working their black magic for candidates in a Bolivian presidential election.

The doc showed these Yankee fixers bringing their mercenary campaign marketing tactics to the developing world.

Gee, thanks, fellas.

Bullock’s Jane Bodine is a one-time terror of the campaign trail who, in the wake of a humiliating defeat, has spent the last six years in eccentric isolation in a Colorado cabin.

Now she’s offered a chance to get back into the game by working for a Bolivian presidential candidate. Jane is ready to reject the idea until she learns that her old nemesis Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton with Carville-esque chrome dome) is working for the competition. This will be her chance for revenge.

Jane and her team (Anthony Mackie, Ann Dowd, Scoot McNairy, Zoe Kazan) are working for Pedro Gallo (Joaquim de Almeida), a surly plutocrat and past president whose first term was marked by the crony-pleasing sale of Bolivia’s national resources to multinational corporations.

Now the Americans must figure out how to propel this unsavory character to the top of a six-candidate race.  Their plan is to emphasize crises for which their man offers the best solutions. That these “crises” don’t actually exist is beside the point . They will strike fear in the hearts of Bolivia’s various economic and ethnic voting blocs. (more…)

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