Robert Pattinson roundup

2 05 2017

I recently penned a piece over at Film School Rejects entitled “Robert Pattinson: From Behead to Bushy Beard,” where I ran through the actor’s career and found some pretty surprising things. I began coming around on Pattinson with “The Rover” back in 2014, but I discovered that his acting chops didn’t just magically grow once he excited the “Twilight” world. He refined them over time, though the raw talent was there.

I watched (almost) all of his filmography to write the essay, and rather than write individual reviews of them all, I’ve decided to do a little round-up here for those. It’s a little more manageable than trying to pen three separate posts.

“Little Ashes”

Robert Pattinson’s Salvador Dalí in “Little Ashes” undergoes a similar arc as Daniel Radcliffe’s Allen Ginsberg in “Kill Your Darlings.” These films find ways to intertwine the coming-of-age story with the artist biopic. Both are future groundbreaking artists in the making, but when we meet them, they are young men curious to explore their intellectual and sexual boundaries in a collegiate atmosphere.

The differentiator between the two (admittedly an unfair comparison since “Kill Your Darlings” came out five years later) is that in “Little Ashes,” Pattinson has much more of a public persona into which he must play. We know Dalí as a quirky eccentric, and that’s where Pattinson goes off the rails in the film. He’s better as an actor of small gestures and concealed emotions, not painting in a craze with a shaved head or tucking his genitals in front of a mirror. Dalí’s political awakening by way of his peer Federico García Lorca (Javier Beltrán) at a puppet show is a far better showcase for Pattinson’s gifts. We can observe the slow radicalization of his ideas through the gradual lighting up of his face.

And as a story of could-be lovers and artistic rivals, “Little Ashes” hardly fairs better. Director Paul Morrison never really determines the film’s identity, and the whole work suffers for it. C+

“Remember Me”

If you have some conception of Robert Pattinson as a disinterested, dispassionate slacker with chronic bedhead, chances are it comes a lot from “Remember Me.” It’s the film that best bottles up the essence of his late ’00s/early ’10s stardom, one that fits itself around his persona.

Pattinson plays Tyler Hawkins, an NYU student in fall 2001 dealing with daddy issues while romantically pursuing the daughter of the cop who recently gave him grief. (But don’t worry, he’s still a genuine sweetheart to his grade-school aged younger sister.) There’s constant tension in the film about how little both Pattinson and Tyler seem to care about what’s going on around them and the deep pain in his heart stemming from the suicide of his older brother Michael.

Allen Coulter’s film is what it is – a sappy, emotions-on-its-sleeves young adult romance – and I give it some credit for not aiming for much more. I’m still a little on the fence about the film’s ending, which milks tragedy in an arguably exploitative way. But as a by-the-books melodrama, it’s serviceable. C+

“The Childhood of a Leader”

Admittedly, including Brady Corbet’s “The Childhood of a Leader” in a roundup of Robert Pattinson movies feels a little wrong. The actor only makes a brief appearance at the tail ends of the film. At the outset, he’s a French professorial chap giving pre-Hannah Arendt musings on the banality of evil in the immediate wake of World War I’s devastation. In the ending, he’s … someone different. (Sorry, spoilers.)

The main focus of the film is Tom Sweet’s Prescott, a young child who forms his understanding of the world against the backdrop of the fragile peace. The film runs nearly two hours, a time in which little happens but Corbet establishes heavy atmosphere and deep foreboding. He only releases the built-up tension in the aforementioned finale.

As a film, “The Childhood of a Leader” is a bit of a strut, more style than substance. But as a debut film, it’s a little something different. This feels like an aesthetic calling card for Brady Corbet, a declaration of intent for many great things to come. He hasn’t made his great movie yet, but I left this one with full confidence that it will arrive one day. “The Childhood of a Leader” is like a feature-length proof of concept for it. B-

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