REVIEW: Le Week-End

13 06 2017

Who says going to the City of Light is always a romantic, picturesque getaway? In Roger Michell’s “Le Week-End,” a British couple celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary finds the city a staging ground for their most practical and petty matters. For Meg and Nick (Lindsay Duncan and Jim Broadbent), this grand city does not necessarily demand grappling with grand problems.

Newell finds the sweet spot between the gentle compassion of Nancy Meyers and the plainspoken working-class mentality of Mike Leigh. Not to mention, his depiction of the city also occupies a halfway ground between the American romanticizing of Paris and the French highlighting of its underbelly. The film provides a window into the dissatisfaction a couple may face when the kids are gone and they have to truly face each other. As you stare down the end, whose hand do you want to hold?

“Le Week-End” might feel a touch more slight were the graying crowd not so underrepresented on screen. Were they as well represented in movies as they are in Washington, then surely I’d be echoing then-Variety critic Justin Chang in his savage takedown of a particularly bad prolonged adolescence indie when he called it “the latest American independent feature to suggest there are few things more intriguing than a young white guy trying to find himself.” But for what it is now, the film works just fine. B-





REVIEW: Gifted

10 04 2017

Movie dads are a dime a dozen, but we rarely get movies about the specific pressures of paternity. It’s tough to tell, then, whether the pleasures of Marc Webb’s “Gifted” are organic or simply a refreshingly different story in a crowded environment.

There’s plenty to enjoy and identify with in Chris Evans’ Frank Adler, an uncle-cum-surrogate dad who mills about working-class Florida in his dirt-stained undershirt and seemingly permanent bedhead. He’s raising his niece, the film’s titular savant Mary Adler (McKenna Grace), based on his hardscrabble and wisecracking instincts. Segregating the exceptional from the average, he jokes, only produces congressmen. His everyman parenting style gets a shock from the arrival of his ivory tower-minded mother, Lindsay Duncan’s Evelyn.

From there on out, “Gifted” plays out like the Florida Man edition of “Kramer vs. Kramer” with a little dash of “Good Will Hunting” to liven up the familiar settings of family court and therapy sessions. How much that affects each viewer probably depends on their individual tolerance for the well-executed cliché and the obvious emotional moment. When Frank and Mary spend some quality time watching new dads come out of delivery to the hospital waiting room, it’s possible to read the scene as hopelessly cloying or truly touching.

I found “Gifted” somewhere in between, affecting in fits and spurts while never truly melting my heart like a stick of butter in the sun. Evans clearly has a big heart that he pumps into the film, yet Tom Flynn’s script gives him remarkably little agency. Frank is defined primarily in relation to other characters, many of whom float in and out of the plot with whiplash-inducing speed. (And let’s not even brooch the serious ethical debate that Flynn completely sidesteps in the film’s big finale.) But don’t worry everyone, there’s a truly great movie about an uncle struggling to provide adequate guardianship for the orphaned child of his departed sibling – and it’s readily available to watch. B-