New On DVD: Due Date, Fish Tank, Get Low
(Capsule reviews by Karina Longworth, Ella Taylor and Chuck Wilson.)
Due Date In Due Date, a skinny, scowly, and dryly self-referential Robert Downey Jr. meets a chubby, beardy, quasi-autistic Zach Galifianakis boarding a flight. Downey Jr. plays Peter, a Bluetoothed architect with a very pregnant wife waiting at home for him; Galifianakis's Ethan is a would-be movie star headed to Hollywood, with a pocket dog under one arm and his recently deceased dad's ashes under the other. One nonsensical altercation later, both Peter and Ethan are kicked off the plane and barred from boarding another. Ethan rents a car and offers Peter a cross-country ride, which provides a framework for this odd couple to bicker, smoke lots of pot, destroy several cars, evade border police, and work out daddy issues in the process.
From its breakneck pace to its stoner-esque disinterest in Chekhovian payoff that's such a balls-out fuck-you to conventional screenwriting that it's sort of exciting, Due Date is fast, lazy, and out of control in a manner that's basically commendable. Like The Hangover before it, Due Date barrels through increasingly fantastic set pieces on its way to a major rite of passage, but in this case, the journey is divorced from the destination. Downey's Peter has no need for big life lessons: He's kind of an asshole, but an asshole who's fully committed to his marriage and impending fatherhood, and he's allowed to stay more or less the same throughout. Due Date's reluctance to impose late-inning moral change may just be a function of its lackadaisical construction, but it's refreshing nonetheless. Karina Longworth
95 minutes Rated RFish Tank
Whether Katie Jarvis--discovered on an English railway station platform yelling at her boyfriend and recruited for the lead in writer-director Andrea Arnold's new drama--is playing herself hardly matters. As Mia, a foul-mouthed, 15-year-old lost child of the Essex projects, she gives a ferociously persuasive performance in an otherwise routine tale of domestic disaster. Neglected and abused by her young mother (the excellent Kierston Wareing), this unguided missile of a girl runs in circles, dogged by a handheld camera and projecting an unsettling brew of braggadocio, nascent sexuality, and vulnerability--a lethal cocktail for all parties when her mother's boyfriend, the affable, secretive, and mostly shirtless Connor (Hunger
's Michael Fassbender), moves in. Arnold (Red Road
) is a talented exponent of the new British miserabilism--verite kitchen-sink drama, trimmed with visual poetry and a visceral candor about sex that's unusual coming from a woman filmmaker, as is her preoccupation with voyeurism. Yet the action feels more contrived than inherently dramatic, and when Mia drops her guard, the movie turns stiff and pat, leaving us feeling manipulated by Arnold's desire to give Mia the worst life she can think of, followed by a great escape. Arnold's gift for evoking what it feels like to inhabit an arbitrary world ends up fatally undermined by a denouement so hammy, it invokes a giggle rather than a tear.Ella Taylor
123 minutes Not RatedGet Low
It's 1938, and Tennessee hermit Felix Bush (Robert Duvall), who has been in a self-imposed exile for 40 years, decides to throw himself a funeral while he's still alive to hear the speeches. He enlists Frank Quinn (Bill Murray, wonderful), the nearby town's funeral director, to make plans and post ads inviting people from all over to attend. For this imperfect but rewarding film, screenwriters Chris Provenzano and C. Gaby Mitchell, fictionalizing a true story, have given Felix a guilty secret that he's ready to unburden himself of, at long last, during the funeral. Despite a third-act stumble in which first-time director Aaron Schneider undercuts Duvall's wrenchingly confessional monologue with awkward staging and choppy editing,Get Low
is a pleasure to watch. Sissy Spacek plays Mattie, Felix's old girlfriend, whose forgiveness he needs the most. Duvall and Spacek have three key scenes together, including one that finds Felix and Mattie walking together down a wooded road. Nothing much happens; they talk and laugh, and their bodies sway back and forth toward one another, like young lovers courting. After a time, he offers her his arm and she takes it, with a firm, happy clutch-two characters, two actors, at ease and in joy, delighting in one another's magic.Chuck Wilson
103 minutes PG-13
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