Tag Archives: Laura Linney

Absolute Power (1997, Clint Eastwood)

Absolute Power has a number of narrative issues. Well, less narrative issues and more narrative slights. As the film enters the third act, director Eastwood and screenwriter William Goldman decide the audience has gotten enough out of the movie and it’s time to wrap things up. It’s a shame because the film goes into the third act at its high point.

The first thirty minutes of the movie have Eastwood playing an old man cat burglar who sees something he shouldn’t. There’s a little character establishment montage during the opening credits for Eastwood–he likes to sketch, he doesn’t know how to work a VCR, he’s solitary but still takes care of himself–then it’s into the break-in sequence, which leads to a really tough murder sequence. It goes on and on, getting worse and worse.

Then there’s a cover-up sequence, where Eastwood really shows off all cinematographer Jack N. Green is going to do with Absolute Power. Even with its issues, the film’s beautifully made, beautifully acted. Green’s photography, with its occasional soft focus, is stunning. Absolute Power’s entertaining because of the actors, but Green helps out a lot with presenting their performances. Because eventually everyone’s fighting for time.

You know, a better defined present action and subplots probably would’ve helped. Because everyone’s just present. Eastwood and Laura Linney, as his daughter, get some hints at his weak parenting, but it’s not like Linney’s got anything to do but be around for Eastwood and his thriller storyline. Same goes for cop Ed Harris. Well, eventually he gets to flirt with Linney a little and all of a sudden, it’s like Eastwood’s goal for Absolute Power is just for everyone to enjoy themselves. There’s so much charm in the scenes between Harris and Linney–and Harris and Eastwood–narrative slights don’t really matter.

But it’s also about ability. The other half of the film has Secret Service agents scrambling to cover up a Presidential indiscretion and some of these scenes aren’t the best. Goldman’s got to do a bunch of exposition, but not too much for anyone to ask logic questions. The acting gets it through–Judy Davis, Dennis Haysbert, Scott Glenn, Gene Hackman. All of them are phenomenal, but all of them come at their parts differently. And most of their scenes are together; Haysbert just waits. And Eastwood loves showing Haysbert’s patience. He’s got fewer lines than Glenn–as another Secret Service agent–but he makes more an impression. He’s terrifying. Glenn’s good, but sympathetic. Davis and Hackman both get to go wild; no one plays menace better than Hackman and it’s almost like Davis’s playing protege. It’s very helpful having that acting depth since there’s nothing but action or actions for them in the script.

E.G. Marshall’s good in a smaller part as a wealthy mover and shaker. He gets some of the film’s worst lines but Marshall just makes them work. Even in the third act, when Absolute Power is racing downhill to get finished as soon as it can, Marshall is patient in his performance. His deliberateness makes all the difference. Or, enough difference to keep things afloat until Eastwood can get to the incredibly gentle finish.

Awesome editing from Joel Cox. The thriller sequences are phenomenally cut. And Lennie Niehaus’s score is good. It does quite a bit of work throughout the film, though it can’t hold up the third act. Nothing can. It’s just too much all at once.

Eastwood, as an actor, gets some good scenes and then some fun ones. He and Linney are fantastic together–maybe the cutest thing about the film is how similar Linney and Eastwood seem after the film spends time with them. When it comes time for ominous line deliveries, they give them in the same way. Eastwood initially gets away with it because he’s Clint Eastwood, but by the end, they get away with it because she’s his kid and he’s her dad, after all.

Harris is fun. He plays great with his partner, Penny Johnson Jerald, who isn’t in it enough. Though almost no one is in Absolute Power enough. Not Jerald, not Davis, not Hackman, not Marshall. Especially not with how much story Goldman and Eastwood are telling. Again, they manage to get away with it, but it’s a rush. Goldman’s script is too spare, especially given Eastwood’s preference in the family drama over the thrills.

Absolute Power has that adaptation curse–too much content but not enough story; still, it’s masterfully produced, with rich performances.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Clint Eastwood; screenplay by William Goldman, based on the novel by David Baldacci; director of photography, Jack N. Green; edited by Joel Cox; music by Lennie Niehaus; production designer, Henry Bumstead; produced by Eastwood and Karen S. Spiegel; released by Columbia Pictures.

Clint Eastwood (Luther Whitney), Ed Harris (Seth Frank), Laura Linney (Kate Whitney), Scott Glenn (Bill Burton), Dennis Haysbert (Tim Collin), Judy Davis (Gloria Russell), E.G. Marshall (Walter Sullivan), Melora Hardin (Christy Sullivan), Penny Johnson Jerald (Laura Simon), and Gene Hackman as the President of the United States.


RELATED

Advertisements

Maze (2000, Rob Morrow)

A story, based on its text and then the reader’s reading of that text, evolves. The reading is required to make the story complete. A film has a similar relationship with the viewer, but has the added complication of conflicting influences–there’s a director, actors, a composer, a gaffer… and a screenwriter. A script is the instructions to making the model airplane, it’s not a story without being produced and experienced by a viewer. So, what might read fine on the page doesn’t necessarily translate well to the screen. Take an ending, for example. After spending ninety minutes with people–to borrow from Faulkner–to miss out on seeing the most important moment in their lives, only to have a cutesy ending–it’s lamentable. In the case of Maze, it’s also infuriating.

With the exception of the first five or six minutes, when Morrow the director is introducing the viewer to Morrow the actor’s character–an artist suffering from Tourette’s–there’s an eyeful of Morrow’s visualization on the Tourette’s–herky-jerky video. Like camcorder video. It’s annoying and probably ought to be a deal breaker, but when Morrow’s shooting on film–he’s a great director. It’s incredible, given how good the rest of his choices, he makes such a serious misstep. The visualization isn’t important, given the quality of Morrow’s performance.

Therefore, when Maze reaches the conclusion, after eighty-five or so minutes of fantastic, thoughtful direction concentrating on people–Laura Linney’s performance in this film is one of her best–the film cheats the viewer out of seeing Morrow and Linney’s people at this singular moment in their lives. Morrow slaps the viewer in the face. I realize Maze is a low budget picture without much hope for a theatrical pickup so Morrow had to keep the running time closer to ninety minutes than not, but he went from being able to have a stunning, devastating film with a fade out to having a goofy, bad romantic comedy ending of an epilogue. It’s like he wasn’t watching the dailies.

The film uses the disorder as the Princess’s Pea. It’s a love triangle–kind of a traditional one even–and the disorder presents the excuse for telling the story again. Morrow always handles the disorder well and Maze would, without that ending, reach the point where I probably would have said it was more about a guy with Tourette’s then a romance with a guy who happened to have Tourette’s (a distinction for Carlin lovers).

Linney and Morrow are great together. He manages to do a leading man role under a lot of pressure, given the disorder–it’s a shame he’s not an actor anymore. Linney’s indescribably good.

While the majority of the film is the two of them, there’s also Craig Sheffer. I suppose Morrow gets as decent performance out of him as possible… but Morrow and Linney came from theatrical backgrounds and Sheffer was in commercials. He’s never convincing as a dedicated surgeon.

Almost all of Maze is a wonderful viewing experience. Then comes the ending, a devastating sucker-punch. But Morrow’s definitely wasting his time on TV when he’s such a fine director.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Rob Morrow; screenplay by Morrow, Bradley White and Nicole Burdette, based on a story by White and Morrow; director of photography, Wolfgang Held; edited by Gary Levy; music by Bobby Previte; production designer, Kalina Ivanov; produced by Paul Colichman, Mark R. Harris, Stephen P. Jarchow and Morrow; released by Andora Pictures International.

Starring Rob Morrow (Lyle Maze), Laura Linney (Callie), Craig Sheffer (Mike), Rose Gregorio (Helen), Robert Hogan (Lyle’s Father) and Gia Carides (Julianne).

Dave (1993, Ivan Reitman)

I love scenes where actors eat. There’s a great scene in Dave with Sigourney Weaver eating a sandwich. Great stuff.

It occurred to me, while watching the film, that, while it’s still cute, it’s already a relic and it’s only twelve years old. The idea of a person wanting to be President in order to help other people, to help the less fortunate. It isn’t just that Bush is a nitwit, ass clown, he’s also viciously unkind to the very idea of helping people. At the end of Dave, when the pseudo-Capra moments filled me, altruism filled me and I wanted to be President. The sensation lasted a second or two, which is the longest it’s lasted… probably since the last time I saw Dave, or maybe when I saw Waking the Dead or something. I love how movies about politicians have to be set in the past. Except “The West Wing,” but that’s not a movie and I don’t watch it anymore, anyway.

Then reality caught up. While Kevin Kline is great throughout the film, Gary Ross’s screenplay wastes the first half, barely featuring the best parts of the film: Kline and Weaver’s relationship, Kline and Ving Rhames’ relationship, and Kline and Charles Grodin’s relationship. Wow, do I ever miss Charles Grodin. Watching him again almost made me want to try watching The Heartbreak Kid again, then my senses returned. The whole film is perfectly cast, but the front section is too heavy with Frank Langella’s villain. Langella’s great, but it’s not where the film’s meaty. Dave‘s at its best when Weaver’s around. Her scenes let the audience connect with the incredible situation (so do some of Rhames’, but not as many) and let the film approach real poignancy.

If you can believe a film about an American President who doesn’t like murdering brown people, which, historically speaking, isn’t likely.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Ivan Reitman; written by Gary Ross; director of photography, Adam Greenberg; edited by Sheldon Kahn; music by James Newton Howard; production designer, J. Michael Riva; produced by Lauren Shuler-Donner and Reitman; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Kevin Kline (Dave Kovic/Bill Mitchell), Sigourney Weaver (Ellen Mitchell), Frank Langella (Bob Alexander), Kevin Dunn (Alan Reed), Ving Rhames (Duane Stevensen), Ben Kingsley (Vice President Nance), Charles Grodin (Murray Blum), Faith Prince (Alice), Laura Linney (Randi) and Bonnie Hunt (White House Tour Guide).


RELATED