Edward Saxon

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Elsa & Fred Review


Good

While this geriatric romance is too simplistic and sentimental to be anything remarkable, its lively central performances add some badly needed subtext and make the film worth a look. Meanwhile, the supporting cast add some spark to their scenes, elevating the warm, silly drama with quirky humour and some more resonant themes. It's also remarkably honest about how it feels to grow older.

Set in New Orleans, the story starts as 80-year-old Fred (Christopher Plummer) is moved by his hyperactive daughter Lydia (Marcia Gay Harden) into a small apartment building. Fred's wife has recently died, but they didn't get along very well, so he's enjoying being on his own. Although Lydia's husband (Chris Noth) has yet another crazy business scheme he wants Fred to invest in. And his new next door neighbour is Elsa (Shirley MacLaine), a larger-than-life 74-year-old who claims to have once known Picasso. Her son Raymond (Scott Bakula) looks in on her from time to time, while she secretly supports her younger son Alec (Reg Rogers) in his artistic career. She also immediately starts trying to coax Fred out of his shell.

Obviously, the main idea is that you're never too old to fall in love, so director-cowriter Michael Radford (Il Postino) tries to balance a comedy about ageing with a sweet love story about an engagingly mismatched couple. The blend of genres is somewhat uneven, as the script never quite decides whether it's about making the most of the time you have left, being open to unexpected romance or accepting your family members for who they are. All of these big themes are in here, most with a fairly heavy-handed touch. But at least this means that the film is about more than just a bunch of goofy characters interacting in rather silly ways.

Continue reading: Elsa & Fred Review

Away We Go Review


Good
This gentle comedy examines at how we set priorities, plan our futures and make our families. It's sweet and superficial, but the meandering pace and lively characters make it just about watchable.

Burt and Verona (Krasinski and Rudolph) are a sparky couple looking forward to the birth of their first child. But when Burt's nutty parents (O'Hara and Daniels) announce that they're suddenly moving to Belgium, Burt and Verona realise that nothing is holding them in Colorado. So they hit the road, visiting friends and siblings in Arizona, Wisconsin, Montreal and Miami. In each place, they see things they want for their own family home, but everyone they visit is full of surprises.

Continue reading: Away We Go Review

Away We Go Review


OK
The fifth film by British theater director Sam Mendes, Away We Go, is the most unkempt movie the director has made so far in his career. It was made while he was still in post-production for last year's excellent adaptation of Richard Yates' Revolutionary Road, a film that was dependent on its form and staginess, and there's a sense that Away was made as a sort of counterpoint not only to the familial dread of Road but also to its style.

It is also the screenwriting debut of the wildly post-modern novelist Dave Eggers and his wife Vendela Vida, novelist and co-founder of literary zine The Believer. Being the recent parents of two children, there's certainly a self-reflexive quality to their script, which tells of the travels of a pair of expecting parents attempting to find a proper home for their awaited progeny.

Continue reading: Away We Go Review

The Silence Of The Lambs Review


Extraordinary
Is it a modern masterpiece? Did it deserve to sweep the four big Academy Awards? Is it one of the best thrillers ever made? A definitive maybe to all three questions. The Silence of the Lambs is definitely an experience that gets better and better each time you watch it, and it paved the way for some of the greatest sickos of 1990s cinema. Hopkins' Hannibal Lecter has entered the annals of pop culture and will never be forgotten, but it's really Jodie Foster's frail-yet-foolhardy protagonist that carries the film.

Continue reading: The Silence Of The Lambs Review

Adaptation Review


Excellent
Wrap your noodle around this one. Real-life screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich; Human Nature) writes a screenplay about screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Nicolas Cage) writing a screenplay adaptation of a real-life book, The Orchid Thief, written by real-life author Susan Orlean (played in Adaptation by Meryl Streep).

Thus spake Adaptation. Starting out with fake (or real?) behind-the-scenes footage of Malkovich, taking detours to the dawn of life on earth and story mogul Robert McKee's screenwriting class, Darwin's lab, Orlean's book (with Chris Cooper playing the swamp rat/scientist/orchid thief himself), voice-overs, and flashbacks, Adaptation finds inventive convolutions that might make it seem more esoteric than it really is.

Continue reading: Adaptation Review

The Truth About Charlie Review


Bad
It's possible to pinpoint the exact scene where the wheels come off director Jonathan Demme's rickety, pointless remake of the 1963 Cary Grant-Audrey Hepburn thriller Charade, where the whole ride comes to a screeching halt. Following an ill-timed hit-and-run accident that eliminates a crucial character, a hubcap actually rolls down the street and stops by Thandie Newton's noggin. Subliminal? I think not.

We may never know the truth about Charlie. Demme fills his European vacation with endless lies fed to us by self-serving criminals. The result circles endlessly around a thin mystery that the director punches up with inspired visual tricks, though logic would have been preferred.

Continue reading: The Truth About Charlie Review

That Thing You Do! Review


OK
When you're a star as big as Tom Hanks, you can do whatever the hell your heart desires.

Such is the lesson to be taken away from That Thing You Do!, Hanks's screenwriting and directorial debut. And just what is That Thing You Do? Well, if you don't know, you must live in a cave, and a small one at that. The title refers to the one and only hit song of "The Wonders" (get it?). It is a song that is repeated throughout this film... over and over... in full or in part, a total of 11 times. I counted.

Continue reading: That Thing You Do! Review

The Silence Of The Lambs Review


Extraordinary
Is it a modern masterpiece? Did it deserve to sweep the four big Academy Awards? Is it one of the best thrillers ever made? A definitive maybe to all three questions. The Silence of the Lambs is definitely an experience that gets better and better each time you watch it, and it paved the way for some of the greatest sickos of 1990s cinema. Hopkins' Hannibal Lecter has entered the annals of pop culture and will never be forgotten, but it's really Jodie Foster's frail-yet-foolhardy protagonist that carries the film.

Continue reading: The Silence Of The Lambs Review

Beloved Review


Bad
Long-awaited before its release, most viewers of Beloved have tried to forget the multi-hour ordeal of a train wreck that their beloved Toni Morrison novel became on the big screen. As befits any Oprah pet project, Beloved the movie is indulgent, egocentric to its star (Winfrey, of course), heavy-handed, and sanctimonious. The story of emancipated slave Sethe (Winfrey), her daughter Denver and the drooling, gibbering zombie named Beloved (Thandie Newton, in a role that is as embarrassing as it is horrific) is somehow simplistic and utterly nonsensical at the same time. Director Jonathan Demme is also at fault for failing to exhibit even a modicum of restraint in making this film. After 3 hours of excrutiating torture on screen (costumes and set design aside), you'll probably agree with me that the worst thing about Beloved is that it's simply too long. By about 3 hours.
Edward Saxon

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Green Man 2016 - Live Review

Green Man 2016 - Live Review

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Edward Saxon Movies

Elsa & Fred Movie Review

Elsa & Fred Movie Review

While this geriatric romance is too simplistic and sentimental to be anything remarkable, its lively...

Away We Go Movie Review

Away We Go Movie Review

This gentle comedy examines at how we set priorities, plan our futures and make our...

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Adaptation Movie Review

Adaptation Movie Review

Wrap your noodle around this one. Real-life screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich; Human...

The Truth About Charlie Movie Review

The Truth About Charlie Movie Review

It's possible to pinpoint the exact scene where the wheels come off director Jonathan Demme's...

That Thing You Do! Movie Review

That Thing You Do! Movie Review

When you're a star as big as Tom Hanks, you can do whatever the hell...

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