F.I.L.M. of the Week (April 21, 2016)

21 04 2016

TruckerDo you ever stop and think about what could have happened in an actor’s career if they had caught the right breaks? If people had paid more attention to them when they were younger? (It’s a fascinating thought experiment, if you ever have the opportunity to daydream.)

In such an alternate universe, I wish Michelle Monaghan were a far greater star than she is today. And if not a star, at least she would be recognized for her vast array of acting talents. 2009’s “Trucker” might be for Monaghan what 2013’s “Short Term 12” was for Brie Larson – a showcase of tremendous ability that in turn serves as a valuable stepping stone towards wider renown.

The film, written and directed by James Mottern, does not necessarily bring much new to the table. Its story of an adult reluctantly assuming the duties of parenthood is something we have seen before. But the kind of selfishness and feet-dragging displayed by Monaghan’s character, the titular truck driver Diane Ford, is the kind usually portrayed by deadbeat dads.

Mothers usually must stay strong and unfailing in their love or face vilification. Mottern refuses to do that, letting Diane crave what any person being wants – a space to relax, a moment to breathe, an iota of satisfaction – without passing judgment. That quiet dignity and soft-spoken feminist angle on a traditional domestic drama gives “Trucker” just enough edge to put it in “F.I.L.M. of the Week” territory.

Monaghan matches Mottern’s tenor beat for beat, constantly spitting in the face of conventional moments for either demonization or lionization. Diane is not there as an object for our scorn or admiration. She is just fully human like us – probably a little more selfish than selfless, more stubborn than sociable. Diane does not move towards reconciliation with her son, forgiveness from her ex-husband (Benjamin Bratt) or love with her platonic pal (Nathan Fillion). She just moves from day to day, taking life like it is.

Sometimes, that’s nice. Sometimes, that’s the best way to really understand the experience of someone else.

REVIEW: Much Ado About Nothing

2 08 2013

Much Ado About NothingI’m not the biggest Shakespeare fan, especially not on screen.  (Perhaps my upcoming semester in the United Kingdom will help reverse that.)  I have learned to admire his intricate plots in various English classes by studying his plays “Julius Caesar” and “Othello.”  Moreover, I can appreciate how they remain thematically relevant centuries later.

But when you stick that Elizabethan dialogue in a modern day context, it’s just too much of a stretch for me.  Unless, of course, we’re talking about Baz Luhrmann’s “Romeo + Juliet,” which sledgehammers Shakespeare’s meaning into your skull.  Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” on the other hand, is seeking to bring all the nuance that was missing from his last feature (a low-budget indie called “The Avengers“).  The effort is commendable, yet it never results in anything really gripping on the big screen.

Perhaps Whedon’s take on Shakespearean comedy would have played better on a stage.  I have no doubt that Whedon and his pals, such as fixtures Clark Gregg and Nathan Fillion, enjoyed delving into the Bard of Avon.  They delight in their Santa Monica setting, and the exquisite lensing at least allows us a sort of Nancy Meyers/”It’s Complicated” vicarious enjoyment of beautiful homes.

But beyond the cinematography, I took little pleasure in “Much Ado About Nothing.”  Aside from a few of the film’s clever screwball gags, the humor didn’t really connect with me.  The romance was flat and uninteresting, save Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof’s well-played Beatrice and Benedick.  Most of all, I just didn’t feel Whedon effectively updated Shakespeare to our time, making for a rather uneven viewing experience.  C+2stars