Tag Archives: Robin Tunney

August (2008, Austin Chick)

August clocks in, with end credits, at eighty-four minutes. I didn’t know the running time going in, so I wasn’t thinking about it. I would have guessed, just based on the perceptive passage, around two hours. My wife, not being a fan, probably would say three and a half. Doing a good movie in ninety minutes has gotten, for whatever reason, to be near impossible in the last forty-odd years. Doing a great one in under ninety, in New York, with a limited cast, has actually gotten a little easier in the last few. I’m thinking of Looking for Kitty.

August does a couple things, a couple important things. First, it fulfills Josh Hartnett, whose career has been in a mainstream paralysis the last six years. He’s the whole show in August, playing an unlikable, unsympathetic alpha male selling a useless internet product before the technology for it even exists. His character thinks he’s Prince. I’d seen some previews and they don’t properly represent his performance (August is, as the next point will clarify, difficult to sell). He’s fantastic.

The second thing it does is more and less important. August is a character study. I kept waiting for it not to be a character study, I kept waiting for it to go bad once it started getting great, but then the last scene came around and it became clear how Chick was ending the film.

August is set in August 2001. The World Trade Center only appears in one establishing shot. What Chick and writer Rodman do with that setting is rather unexpected. The film also has a lot of financial hyperbole–most of the conversations in the film are about Hartnett and brother Adam Scott’s company’s financial condition, not the most riveting to audiences. But it’s a character study.

As a director, Chick was one of my initial problems with August. His composition kept bothering me. It was like he was wasting a quarter of the screen (August is Panavision aspect, a quarter off would make it fit for HD). Then, after the first time shot using the entire screen, it became clear he was using that empty space. He was using it all along, but I guess I was just too suspect to give him the credit. I thought it was getting lucky.

The rest of the cast is good (even David Bowie). Since it’s all about their relationships with Hartnett, Adam Scott and Naomie Harris have the best parts. Scott and Hartnett only mildly resemble each other around the eyes (and it’s only at the end Chick uses close-ups), but August has one of those good, difficult brother relationships. Harris is the ex-girlfriend; she and Hartnett only have three scenes, but they’re all excellent. The other supporting cast members–Andre Royo, Robin Tunney, Rip Torn, Caroline Lagerfelt–all good.

August is definitely the sum of its parts–Nathan Larson’s music, awkward in the trailer and, I’m sure, on its own, is an essential element–as is Andrij Parekh’s cinematography. Chick makes an eighty-four (sorry, eighty-nine… with end credits) film, shot on limited locations (I figure the driving sequence was either the most expense or illegally done), about three weeks, expansive.

At some point, I guess somewhere after the twenty minute mark, I thought how nice it would be if August were great, then dismissed it. I’m not sure if I’m happier with the unexpected surprise or if I’m mad I’m so defeatist about film. But considering August, there’s no reason to be quite so cynical.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Austin Chick; written by Howard A. Rodman; director of photography, Andrij Parekh; edited by Pete Beaudreau; music by Nathan Larson; production designer, Roshelle Berliner; produced by Elisa Pugliese, Clara Markowicz, Josh Hartnett, Charlie Corwin and David Guy Levy; released by First Look Studios.

Starring Josh Hartnett (Tom), Naomie Harris (Sarrah), Adam Scott (Joshua), Robin Tunney (Melanie), Andre Royo (Dylan), Emmanuelle Chriqui (Mo), Laila Robins (Pivo), Caroline Langerfelt (Nancy), Alan Cox (Barton), David Bowie (Ogilvie) and Rip Torn (David).


RELATED

Advertisements

Hollywoodland (2006, Allen Coulter)

Hollywoodland is not a narrative mess. It’d be a far more interesting (and far less boring) two hours if it were. Instead, Paul Bernbaum’s plotting is intentional and considered. Neither Bernbaum nor director Allen Coulter seem to understand the problems with having two protagonists, not having anything to do with each other, juxtaposed for a couple hours, however.

It starts really strong, with Adrien Brody fantastic as the glib private detective. He has a solid sidekick and love interest in Caroline Dhavernas and Coulter does do a great job giving Hollywoodland the right feel. The lack of a definite time period–Hollywoodland takes place in 1959, but the flashbacks seem to go back ten years–really hurts it. I guess that aside will be the segue into the flashbacks. The first few, which chronicle Ben Affleck’s career woes and romance with Diane Lane, aren’t bad. Then it becomes clear Diane Lane isn’t actually going to be in the film very much and her mediocre acting quickly descends into shrillness as she tries again for an Oscar. She’s not the worst (Bob Hoskins is far, far worse), but she becomes rather tiresome.

Affleck, on the other hand, deserves his own two hour film, not just this one’s poorly framed flashbacks. He’s great–better, as time goes on, than Brody. Because the movie eventually falls apart, as Brody’s story turns into the standard failed father, disillusioned detective bit. The end’s just awful.

Michael Berenbaum’s cinematography is wonderful, giving the film both rich color but also sharpness. The score’s good. It’s a well-produced film, not question, the script is just bad. The beginning–the script’s–is great, particularly in the dialogue and the way people interact. These qualities disappear quickly (it’s almost like the opening got worked on and nothing else got revised).

Jeffrey DeMunn’s good, Lois Smith’s good, even Robin Tunney’s good. Molly Parker is criminally wasted.

The big problem with Hollywoodland–conceptually–is in its approach. It’s a mystery about the death of George Reeves, but then goes and reveals his death is actually nowhere near as interesting as his life.

Luckily, it’s long enough and starts to go bad around ninety-five minutes, maybe sooner, so I wasn’t disappointed by the ending… just glad it was finally over.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Allen Coulter; written by Paul Bernbaum; director of photography, Jonathan Freeman; edited by Michael Berenbaum; music by Marcelo Zarvos; production designer, Leslie McDonald; produced by Glenn Williamson; released by Focus Features.

Starring Adrien Brody (Louis Simo), Diane Lane (Toni Mannix), Ben Affleck (George Reeves), Bob Hoskins (Eddie Mannix), Robin Tunney (Leonore Lemmon), Kathleen Robertson (Carol Van Ronkel), Lois Smith (Helen Bessolo), Phillip MacKenzie (Bill Bliss), Larry Cedar (Chester Sinclair), Caroline Dhavernas (Kit Holliday), Jeffrey DeMunn (Art Weissman), Joe Spano (Howard Strickling), Kevin Hare (Robert Condon) and Molly Parker (Laurie Simo).


RELATED

Montana (1998, Jennifer Leitzes)

I can sit through almost anything. Within certain limits, but–realistically–anything. If there’s a point, whether it enriches me or if it just gives me the opportunity to crap-mouth it in a post, anything. I have never, ever–and this broad statement covers foreign films, silent films, cartoons–sat through so much of a movie with no idea what the title referred to. I’ll never know what Montana has to do with Montana, unless it filmed in Montana, which–according to IMDb–it did not. Given the film’s terrible screenplay, I’d imagine someone ends up in Montana at the end. I’m curious as to what director Leitzes is doing these days. Much of Montana looks like a really bad play filmed and the first twenty or so minutes appear to be a really bad play filmed. It turns out, Leitzes designs jewelry. She appears to be better at it than she is at directing motion pictures (even if all the rings have sappy text on them).

That comment was out of line. Leitzes is not a terrible director. She’s painfully mediocre.

I find myself very hostile towards Montana, probably because I sat through almost half of it before turning it off. Once it appeared the film was opening up, not solely taking place in two rooms, I gave it a further chance. Oh, what a mistake I made. Mediocre turned to bad ones instead of going good, as I thought they might. Ethan Embry is totally undone by the terrible script; in addition to having lame gangster dialogue (Montana is post-Pulp Fiction derivative muddle of crap), also is terribly, terribly plotted.

I rented the film for a couple reasons. First, the screenwriters adapted the forthcoming Whiteout and I wanted to see–since the comic is good–how they are at writing films. They’re really bad. Second, I watch “The Closer” and Kyra Sedgwick’s the lead. Sedgwick’s terrible in Montana. Don’t know if she was miscast, just giving a bad performance, or if the script is so terrible a good performance would be impossible. Philip Seymour Hoffman is also terrible in this film. Embarrassingly so. When I remembered he won an Oscar recently, it reminded me of the Paul Haggis–will the Academy take away the Million Dollar Baby Oscar for Crash. Stanley Tucci’s really good.

The strange thing about Montana is the cast–Tucci, Hoffman, what are they doing in such a crappy film? 1998, Hoffman was on the rise and Tucci was an established independent film actor. They made respectable films, not this thing.

John Ritter’s really good. Much like Bad Santa, it made me really miss him.

I was actually hopeful, when Montana started. Leitzes has a complicated crane shot at the beginning, I thought she was going to spend the rest of the film aping Welles or something. Who knew she was just going to sit the camera down and shoot bad scenes? Except the one fast-edited scene I saw, so bad it makes Simon West look competent.

Let me make this further comment about Montana: I am embarrassed to admit to the forty minutes I watched. I’m ashamed of myself.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Jennifer Leitzes; written by Jon Hoeber and Erich Hoeber; director of photography, Ken Kelsch; edited by Norman Buckley; music by Cliff Eidelman; production designer, Daniel Ross; produced by Sean Cooley, Zane W. Levitt and Mark Yellen; released by Initial Entertainment Group.

Starring Kyra Sedgwick (Claire), Stanley Tucci (Nick), Robin Tunney (Kitty), Robbie Coltrane (The Boss), John Ritter (Dr. Wexler), Ethan Embry (Jimmy), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Duncan) and Mark Boone Junior (Stykes).


RELATED