Apparently, this offbeat script had been making the rounds in Hollywood for some 20 years as filmmakers struggled to work out how to blend its inventive mismatch of genres. Enter Colin Trevorrow, who's first film Safety Not Included was a mix of comedy, drama and time-travel adventure. In between making blockbusters for the Jurassic and Star Wars franchises, Trevorrow invests this unconventional drama-cum-thriller with plenty of heart, eliciting terrific performances from his central cast. But it never feels very authentic.
The story centres on single mother Susan (Naomi Watts), whose complex life is managed by her genius 11-year-old son Henry (Jaeden Lieberher). Adorable younger brother Peter (Room's Jacob Tremblay) offers plenty of support, but it's Henry who keeps everything running and supports the family with his savvy investments. Then he begins to suspect that his classmate Christina (Maggie Ziegler), who lives next door, is being abused by her stepdad Glenn (Breaking Bad's Dean Norris). But Glenn is the police commissioner, so Henry knows that calling the cops is useless. Instead, he makes an elaborate plan and writes it down in his notebook so his mother can take action.
The film's first half is a fascinating drama about the delicate balance in this unusual family. Beautifully played with layers of resonance by Watts, Lieberher and Tremblay, these are people we would like to know a lot more about, and we settle in to discover their secrets. All three are excellent, continually surprising the audience with insightful character touches that make each person vivid and likeable, even with their flaws. And then the Hitchockian plot kicks in, the suspense gurgles over and everything begins to turn rather implausible. This is kind of the point of the story - that experience is perhaps more important than intelligence - but it's much more difficult to engage with.
Continue reading: The Book Of Henry Review
With a witty observational script, amusing characters and a jazzy sense of life in New York, this feels like an old-fashioned Woody Allen movie, even though Allen merely costars in it. Instead, it was written and directed by leading actor John Turturro, with an easy-going charm that's irresistible even if it feels vaguely dated. And despite its potentially controversial premise, the film is so gentle that it's unlikely to ruffle many feathers.
Turturro stars as Fioravante, a florist whose life hasn't gone as planned. His one-time mentor Murray (Allen) has just been forced to close his grandfather's rare-book shop, and with too much time on his hand has started working on Fior's life. Murray thinks Fior could make a living as an escort, and sends him on a date with his dermatologist (Sharon Stone). When that goes well, a string of wealthy clients follow, including the man-eating Selima (Sofia Vergara). But one of Murray's friends is more reluctant: the devout Avigail (Vanessa Paradis) is a widowed rabbi's wife who can't have contact with other men. As she and Fior begin a tentative friendship, there might be something meaningful developing. Then a jealous community cop (Schreiber) notices that something is amiss.
As a director, Turturro keeps the scenes grounded in real situations that centre on the characters rather than the machinations of the plot. This offers a lively depiction of this neighbourhood as a melting pot of African-Americans, Italians and Hasidic Jews who are part of each others' lives. Some of this might feel a bit contrived (Murray also adopts a sprawling black family), but the interaction is jaggedly funny and packed with a generous stream of honest emotion.
Continue reading: Fading Gigolo Review
Strapped for cash, handsome but middle-aged bookshop worker Fioravante decides to accept an offer of an unusual job from his friend Murray, who recently had a brainwave after his dermatologist and her friend admitted to wanting a new sexual experience with a stranger. Murray charged them a huge $1,000, offering the modest Fioravante the chance to be a male escort for a large paycheque while keeping a portion himself. After realising that he quite enjoys the experience of worshipping single and lonely women in the bedroom, Fioravante continues his exploits with Murray and ends up meeting a particularly shy woman named Avigal. Consumed by loneliness, Avigal seeks comfort and recognition, but just how deep does her solitude go?
Continue: Fading Gigolo Trailer
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