An addled man is seen at three different points of his life; alone on a dinghy, as a Montana mountain man, and as a husband and father.
Directed by Sarah Adina Smith
Starring Rami Malek
Initial Review by Jon Kissel
This review’s being written on Black Friday, an event that the protagonist of Buster’ Mal Heart surely loathes. He would see people lining up outside of a Target and deride them as sheep at the trough, and that’s before we get to the dual-sphinctered inversion that they’re all missing out on. Iconoclastic stances like Buster’s/Jonah’s are attractive, especially when his is framed against the empty Big Sky mansions of the decadent rich. Sarah Adina Smith’s film acknowledges this attraction for the working class, but ultimately has little patience for it as her addled lead hurtles towards destruction in pursuit of freedom.
It’s an easy and somewhat lazy impulse to lament humanity. I do it all the time in spite of myself. It doesn’t require much to read a news article or watch a pessimistic film and resign oneself to eventual extinction, as opposed to the much harder work of actually talking to people or even working to improve our oft-dire state. That’s my introversion talking, a trait that I doubt dominates the teaching profession, but it’s not like extroversion is keeping The Kindergarten Teacher’s protagonist from feeling cynical. In Sara Colangelo’s American adaptation of an Israeli film, a culturally-hungry woman finds genius in a place she does not expect to find it, and, feeling trapped by her family and her own lack of insight, blows her life up to be close to a true prodigy. The film does a great job in portraying an obsessive self-regard that clouds out consequential thinking, even as it does a lesser job portraying the object of the obsession.
Irish playwrights and auteurs Martin and John Michael McDonagh have been responsible for some of the most memorable morality plays to hit theaters in recent years. John Michael’s Calvary is a definitive ‘good man in a fallen world’ post-recession tale, and Martin’s In Bruges resuscitated Colin Farrell’s career on its way to cult status. Of the two brothers, Martin experienced the McDonagh family’s greatest success with his roiling hit Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. An angry film for angry times, Martin McDonagh turns tragedy into righteous fury and blinkered obsession, while taking stabs at a conservative flavor of political correctness that praises figures of authority and state power. There’s also grace in the small Ozark town at the film’s center, but its inhabitants have too many excuses to shun it. Three Billboards is complicated and conflicting and often times at odds with itself. McDonagh’s utilizing some raw power in a less-than airtight film.
Alternative medicine practice is a killer for me in movies, much like it is in real life. I am being told something about the user/practitioner, and it’s not flattering. There’s not a huge sample size (a term alt-med practitioners are allergic to) of films that engage with this topic, but one that comes to mind is druggy road-trip movie Crystal Fairy. Its woo-woo moron is treated as deeply unstable, loony, and damaged, and is made tolerable by the sheer intolerability of the protagonist. Beatriz at Dinner takes a similar tack. It resists canonizing its titular bullshit artist and humanizes her by putting her in sharp relief to someone with an antithetical belief system. Watching two unlikable people parry and thrust is de riguer for a domestic potboiler, and Miguel Arteta’s film is a strong version of that subgenre.
This viewer is always going to be sympathetic to a story of waking up to the lazy falsehoods of unexamined tradition, and Come Sunday is exactly that. Having only recently listened to the excellent This American Life episode that inspired this adaptation of Reverend Carlton Pearson’s dark night of the soul, Joshua Marston and his talented cast caught me at just the right moment. The confluence of an evergreen theme and the freshness of the real story should’ve added up to a quality experience, but Come Sunday is too bland to make much of an impact. This story is powerful enough to get me tearing up at work when it’s in podcast form, but the cinematic version has me distracted and bored.
JUST SOME IDIOTS GIVING SURPRISINGLY AVERAGE MOVIE REVIEWS.