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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Nate Dern

Youth (2015)

Hope I die before I get old. Or probably not.

At a fancy health spa located somewhere in Switzerland, Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) walks around aimlessly, thinking about life, love and his career that he’s had. During one point in his life, Ballinger was a renowned conductor/composer who has, for personal reasons, lost the will to record, or better yet, live. Granted, he doesn’t want to kill himself, but he doesn’t really appreciate life quite as well as his dear best buddy, Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel), does. Boyle’s different from Ballinger in that he thinks that he’s got some of his best work ahead of him, which is why he’s currently stationed in this spa with four younger confidantes, working on what he pledges to be “a testament to cinema”. However, while together in this spa, the both realize that not only has life passed them by, but that they’ve also got to do something with the last couple good years of their lives they have left. This means that they do a lot more walking, talking, swimming, sun-bathing, and oh yeah, ogling at hot chicks.

Just as old men tend to do.

My cocaine not happy with white walls.

My cocaine not happy with white walls.

No matter what problems persist in Youth, there’s no denying that writer/director Paolo Sorrentino has an eye for beauty. Every shot in Youth, feels as perfectly calculated and put-together as you’d expect a Renaissance portrait to be, but instead of feeling as if he’s just being showy, it just somehow works and you get used to it. That Sorrentino set the movie, first and foremost, in the lovely countryside of Sweden, already allows for him to shoot any scene, whichever way he wants and it’s hard to take your eyes off. Of course, this is perhaps best seen on the big screen, but no matter what screen or aspect-ratio it’s seen on, Youth is a beautiful movie.

Which is a shame that it’s script is a bit annoying.

For one, a lot of the visuals that Sorrentino sets up here only seem to exist for the sole purpose that they’re metaphors and that’s it. While I have no problem with the visual-imagery here being displayed as shiny and bright metaphors, the issue with Youth is that the screenplay itself starts drive home the same kinds of points that the visuals are trying to get across, so after awhile, it just feels like over-kill. It’s almost as if the movie didn’t trust having a scene in which Michael Caine’s character went out into the middle of the woods and started imagining a piece of music he would create using only nature’s sounds to drive home the point of getting old and losing one’s mojo, that they had to have him constantly go on and discuss with just about everyone he comes into contact with.

And honestly, this wouldn’t have been too bad to listen to, except for the fact that what these characters all talk about, only serve one purpose and one purpose only: To preach. It’s hard to listen to characters talk about their own mortality and aging-process, when it seems like they’re reading free-form poetry; had more of the dialogue been a tad bit more naturalistic, the conversations these characters have probably wouldn’t have been so nauseating at certain points. It’s obvious from the very start that these characters are all going to be sad about getting old and realizing their time has come, but give us more reasons to care for that and not just go, “Oh, well it’s sad. But hey, look at this pretty bird and how Michael Caine so adoringly gazes at it.”

Perhaps less navel-gazing would have helped Youth in the long-run, but really, I’m not sure.

Old men sneaking a peek. What else is new?

Old men sneaking a peek. What else is new?

All I do know is that what Youth benefits from the most, aside from Sorrentino’s keen eye for detail, is that the ensemble here is just terrific. Of course, Michael Caine plays Fred Ballinger to near-perfection, as it genuinely seems like he’s touched by this character’s willingness to keep his career on-halt, even though there’s much more demand for him to come back to the stage and continue making music. There’s one scene in particular that shows Caine’s true connection to this character, when he lets loose on why he doesn’t want to perform any of his old material for and in front of the Queen, and it’s quite emotional, but well-done as well. While not much of Youth is subtle, Caine still finds a way to peak underneath the cracks and slip a little piece of it every now and then.

While it’s weird to see Harvey Keitel being cast as Michael Caine’s best friend here, surprisingly, it works. Because Ballinger and Mick Boyle are so different in ways, it’s fun and interesting to hear them go on and on about their careers, their interests, women they’ve slept with, and their history together. It’s hard to imagine that Harvey Keitel and Michael Caine would ever sit down and have a fully-functioning conversation, let alone, be besties, but still, the two make it work and it was also nice to see Keitel dig hard and deep into a meaty role that we haven’t seen him get for quite some time. And yeah, Paul Dano shows up as a “serious actor” working in Switzerland, whereas Rachel Weisz plays Ballinger’s heart-broken and pissed-off daughter, and both do good work here and it’s nice to see them round it all out.

However, the one who probably walks away with the whole show, is Jane Fonda showing up in nearly two scenes as Brenda Morel, a friend and co-worker of Mick Boyle.

Though Fonda appears seemingly out of nowhere, she takes over the whole movie by showing that her Brenda Morel character is, most importantly, the exact kind of worker in the biz that Youth seems so obsessed with focusing on. Even though her best years have gone past her and, quite frankly, she’s holding on to her career and fame by a thread, Morel’s still trying to keep herself busy and relevant, even in a world that could probably care less about her. She won’t give up and won’t let anybody stand in her way, which is why her scene, while hilarious and exciting (something the rest of Youth really isn’t), is probably the most heart-breaking. Fonda’s terrific in this role because even though she gets maybe only 15 minutes of screen-time, she delivers us everything we need to know about this character, from the very first second we get with her, to the last and it’s hard not to stop and think about her when all is said and done.

Consensus: As pretentious as it can occasionally be, Youth still offers up some wonderful visuals, as well as a great couple of performances from both veterans and stars alike, that all give a little extra to the sad, but true message of the movie.

7 / 10

Pictured: Metaphor upon Metaphor.

Pictured: Metaphor upon Metaphor

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

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Time Out of Mind (2015)

You may be jobless, dirty and smelly, but hey, at least you look like Richard Gere!

George (Richard Gere) is a homeless man and, from what we can tell, has been for quite some time. He literally wakes up in somebody’s bath-tub, only to be kicked out by the landlord (Steve Buscemi) and thrown back out on the streets. On the streets is where George occasionally lives and breathes; other times, he gets into a local homeless shelter that may be a permanent place for him, if he can get past the psyche evaluation and plays nice in general. In this homeless shelter is where he meets Dixon (Ben Vereen), a fellow homeless man who talks his ear off about anything and everything. George, however, doesn’t really care because he’s sometimes too tired, too drunk, or to “out of it” to really care. Mostly though, George cares about his daughter (Jena Malone), who basically wants nothing to do with him, even though he constantly persists in trying to get into contact with her. Because even though George doesn’t have much hope in his life, the only one around is his own flesh and blood – someone who doesn’t even want to see him.

Is this really the same guy who was named "World's Sexiest Man" in 1999?

Is this really the same guy who was named “World’s Sexiest Man Alive” in 1999?

Basically, Time Out of Mind is plot-less. It’s literally two hours of watching as Richard Gere wanders around the streets of what is, presumably, New York City, doing what most homeless people do. Beg for change; sleep; drink; eat scraps from the garbage; and sleep some more. So, if you can handle all that for, like I said, two hours, then you might find something to take away.

If not, well, you may have a more rewarding time doing something else. Like, I don’t know, actually giving money to actual homeless people on the street.

But that said, there’s a lot of props given to writer/director Oren Moverman for not at all trying to shy away from the hard reality that is homelessness in the United States of America. With his last two films (the Messenger and Rampart), Moverman has taken a sad story, and found ways to make it even bleaker; probably more so with Rampart than Messenger, but as is, Moverman likes to revel in the dark and depressing details of life. And that’s a lot of what Time Out of Mind is.

However, that in and of itself works because it doesn’t try to sensationalize or turn its back towards the true issue at hand. Then again though, the movie isn’t at all a “message movie” – it’s just one tale in the midst of a whole bunch of similar tales, most of which are just as tragic as the next. In this aspect, Moverman reminds us that homelessness, as a whole problem, takes over its cities and while there are people that are willing to help out those who may need a bite to eat or some dollar bills for whatever they decide to spend them for, it’s all too slight and gets further and further away from the real issue at hand: These people need our help.

Like I said before, though, the movie isn’t one that’s important, or simply, about something more.

It’s literally about this one homeless man, trying to live and get by in a world that, like he says, “doesn’t say he exists”. And as this homeless man, Richard Gere does a fine job portraying George as humanly simplistic as he can. Normally, when you have these attractive, mostly recognizable actors playing in these roles that are supposed to be raw, gritty and down-to-Earth, it can sometimes feel phony. But surprisingly, due to the make-up and Gere’s down-playing of the role, he fits into it well.

The only reason why I’m not more on-board and in awe of this performance as others may be, because it seems like Gere himself is stuck in a movie that’s awfully repetitive. Then again, that may be the point. That homeless people themselves seem to go through the same patterns on a regular basis, helps make all the more sense as to why Gere’s George is literally going through all the same sorts of motions, day in and day out. We see him wake up, deal with hecklers, try to get whatever money he can scrounge up, use that money to buy either booze or food (sadly, it’s mostly booze), and every so often, have contact with a fellow homeless person, or aide that just wants to give him a helping hand.

And that’s basically the whole gist of this movie.

When life gets rough, you always need a pal.

When life gets rough, you always need a pal.

There are scenes where George goes to the food stamps office to apply, but even those scenes feel like they’re being replayed where he’ll come in, argue with the clerk, and then unexpectedly leave. Not to say that there’s anything wrong with a movie that gets into a sort of rhythm that puts us in the same mind-frame as its lead character, but when it’s literally two hours if the same motions, happening again and again, it gets to become a bit tiring. Especially since Overman himself, doesn’t seem to really be going anywhere with this tale, or with George, the character.

As we see of George is a broken down, beaten-up guy who, for whatever reasons, is homeless and left without anybody to care for him. It’s sad and even though we see him try to mend relationships with those he hurt, the scenes themselves never seem to go anywhere. We just see George walk into a room, piss-off his daughter, and that’s pretty much it. He leaves, goes onto beg some more, and see where life takes him next.

Once again, I get that this was probably the point Overman himself was going for, but in hindsight, it doesn’t help the movie much, or Gere’s performance.

Because even though Gere seems to be trying his hardest to inch out any sort of humanity within a character who is just as simply-written as you can get, he, and everybody else, aren’t left with much to rock and roll with. Jena Malone’s character seems one-note in that she’s always angry when her dad’s around; Buscemi’s not in it all that much to really register; Kyra Sedgwick plays a homeless woman who strikes up a little something with George and has the only bit of humor to be found at all in this movie; Ben Vereen has the best performance as Dixon, another homeless man with a heart of gold and a personality that could charm the socks off of a real estate agent.

But, like I said, to which extent does it matter?

Consensus: Gere does a fine job in the lead role, but overall, Time Out of Mind feels too much like a repetitious slog that may, or may not have a point to go along with the story it’s telling.

6 / 10

Yup. Totally not the dude from Pretty Woman.

Yup. Totally not the dude from Pretty Woman.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire