+ "Friends With Money": Despite reviews running from warm to lukecold on Nicole Holofcener‘s latest, no one is particularly excited about it, perhaps because hers are not the type of films one gets all giddy standing in line for. She is "a first-rate portraitist and something of a miniaturist," Manohla Dargis writes in the New York Times in one of the more fond reviews, though she does suggest that it is "greatly appealing if not especially adventurous, either for its director or for her admirers." In LA Weekly, Ella Taylor muses that "if it lacks the bitchy, enraged vitality of the terrific ‘Lovely & Amazing,’ thatâ€™s because it holds true to its more mature mood and theme." Armond White at the New York Press likes the film (and loves Holofcener), but thinks that she overreaches with her themes of class this time around: "[T]he problem goes deeperâ€”too deep for Holofcener to resolve through her usual delicate methods."
David Edelstein at New York outlines the pluses and minuses Holofcener’s deadpan, nonjudgmental style, which he finds makes for many good moment that don’t come together, though he quick to point out that the film is still a remarkable rarity: "Warm, female-centric, socially conscious comedies with juicy
partsâ€”characters you want to talk aboutâ€”for fortysomething actresses
don’t grow on Hollywood palm trees." Of Ms. Aniston‘s latest indie turn, the Village Voice‘s J. Hoberman (who isn’t thrilled by the film’s episodic structure) writes: "Scarcely a character, Olivia idly phone-stalks her married ex, but she is also something of a saintâ€” remarkably free of class envy and as easily bullied by the men she meets as Aniston is upstaged by the three avidly hard-boiled actresses with whom she shares the screen." And Roger Ebert, after a bizarre "Crash" mention (any excuse, apparently), complains that the film "lacks the warmth and edge of the two previous features" and is "more of an idea than a story," but does also make this great point:
Yes, it’s about how Olivia’s friends all have money, and at one point Jane suggests they simply give her some to bring her up to their level. As it happens, characters do exactly that in novels I’ve read recently by Stendhal and Trollope, but in modern Los Angeles, it is unheard of. If you have millions and your friend is a maid, obviously what you do is tell her how much you envy her. Working for a living is a charming concept when kept at a reasonable distance.
+ "4": The Reverse Shot troop (Lauren Kaminsky, Michael Joshua Rowin, Jeff Reichert, and Michael Koresky this week) at indieWIRE give Ilya Khrjanovsky‘s "4" the most positive reviews we’ve ever seen them give anything â€” they even call in an extra writer, as if a full chorus of voices would give their praise more weight. A sample from Kaminsky: "This film does not imitate life, it creates it — it lives and
breathes a little different from anything you’ve seen before, and yet
the result is somehow painfully recognizable." At New York Press, Matt Zoller Seitz calls the film "easily the most visceral work of art on screens right now," and though he has caveats, he does write that "For now, Iâ€™ll give this film the benefit of every doubt because itâ€™s confident, mysterious and powerful, and because thereâ€™s a shortage of films that invite this degree interpretation and engagement." J. Hoberman at the Village Voice and Manohla Dargis at the New York Times are more restrained; Hoberman suggests that "’4”s most provocative quality is its ironic surplus of beauty," while also stating that "least one of the alcohol-infused lies [at the film’s beginning] turns out to be true," which is totally arguable. Dargis sums up the film’s symbolism thusly:
Sometimes a severed pig’s head is just a severed pig’s head, after all,
though sometimes a weeping crone yodeling mournfully about the Volga
River is also a symbol of a grotesque and nostalgic nationalism.
She also writes that while "4" is a "rather remarkable first feature," Khrjanovsky still has a lot to learn.
+ "On a Clear Day": LA Weekly‘s Ella Taylor likes Gaby Dellal‘s debut feature about an unemployed shipbuilder who decides to swim the English Channel and ends up reaffirming his self-worth, and even she writes that "I can’t defend this film, except as an opportunity for the deliciously mawkish weep some of us require for optimal mental health." Jeanette Catsoulis at the New York Times is also fairly (and less self-deprecatingly) fond, suggesting that "while Alex Rose‘s screenplay immerses itself in idiosyncrasy and redemption, [Peter] Mullan and his director, Gaby Dellal, balance the sentimentality with a healthy dose of working-class vulnerability." Less generous is the Village Voice‘s Michael Atkinson, who, in a rare showing these days, dusts off the snark:
The only asset ‘On a Clear Day’ comes equipped to exploit is Peter Mullan asâ€”and here’s where I lose youâ€”Frank, a disgruntled, laid-off Glasgow dad who decides in his miserable torpor to justify himself by swimming the English Channel. Will he make it?!
But the New York Press‘ Matt Zoller Seitz is unimpressed even with Mullan, writing that "Nine-tenths of Mullan’s acting consists of scrunching up his face to telegraph ‘depression’; the remaining tenth is subdivided between rueful smiles, manic motion and disoriented glancing about (to convey the idea that Frank is ‘lost’)… Even small roles that have ‘scene stealer’ written all over them are so weirdly misjudged that itâ€™s as if youâ€™re watching a film made by space robots that landed on earth last week."