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Jun 17, 2013

Quick Takes: Arbitrage, Compliance and The Paperboy.


Arbitrage (2012)

Cast:

           Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth, Brit Marling, Laetitia Casta, Nate Parker, Stuart Margolin, Chris Eigeman, Graydon Carter and Bruce Altman

Director:

                   Nicholas Jarecki

Review:

                 The only reason Arbitrage was getting so much praise last year was because of Richard Gere and his supposed career best performance. Well i agree with it, Arbitrage belongs to Richard Gere. Arbitrage is a movie about greed, power and covering up your mistakes in order to save your own ass. Robert Miller (Gere) is a sixty-year old billionaire who has cooked his company's book in order to cover up a big investment loss and to save himself from being arrested for fraud. Miller is a sharp minded man who always have his job and his work on his mind and he is good at it. His family that we meet later on is a happy family on the outside but the strains can be seen and felt. Miller continues doing work while not letting anybody know of the things he have done. Of course, he is a rich man in a sort of unhappy marriage and even if he wasn't, there is always a mistress involved. Miller always tries to be there for her when she needs him, whether its his work or his family, he always have excuses to cover his meetings up. One night, an accident happens and its because of Miller driving while he is drowsy. His mistress dies on the spot and he himself makes a run from there asking help from a person he have been helping his entire life. Now Detective Bryer (Roth) is after him as well because he suspects Miller is definitely involved in the accident and he is the killer. Miller now have just way too much on his plate, he is trying to avoid the detective and while he is investigating, to play it cool. At home, he doesn't want his wife to know anything. His own daughter on the other hand somehow finds out about her father's deed related to his company and because she works there too, she can go to jail as well. Arbitrage is one of those movies where its characters are pretty unlikable. They have done many bad things in their lives and they take everything for granted, whether its lives, relationships, themselves or the freaking money. Even the good ones have a reason to be annoying because they still thinks about themselves only.

                 This is Director Nicholas Jarecki's feature movie debut and i am really pleased with what i saw. Its actually a very different kind of movie if you consider all these Global Financial Meltdown inspired tales that we have been seeing quite a lot because the story is setup in a different place. Its doesn't happen at the center of it and neither does it tells about those who were involved in it but rather targets some random individual who may or may not be inspired by real life people i mean supposedly, this must have happened and it does. Arbitrage isn't structured entirely as a thriller but it works as a suspense drama. Its a pulpy and very juicy melodrama which delivers the fun and grown up entertainment while it doesn't takes its audience for granted and trusts them for every silly or intelligent thing it has to offer. Richard Gere in a very meaty role is something of a breakthrough. I personally don't remember seeing him play such a complete character where he had to do so much, be so much and deliver perfection on so many levels. Miller is in a constant state of battle with himself, trying to cover up the awful things that he have done. He cares about his family and wife but have other secrets to hide as well beside his work. He cares about his mistress as well and is always there when she needs him. He cares about his work as well because its providing him with money and stability albeit of the wrong things that he had to do to make sure it goes on this way. He is a person with low-morals of course but every time he has to compromise something, he seems more human than a money grabbing monster. There are other performances that stands out as well in parts like Brit Marling, Nate Parker, Susan Sarandon and Tim Roth. The confrontation of Miller with his daughter regarding the cover up is a fantastic scene that is brilliantly written and shot. The fighting scenes with his wife are amazingly acted. Nate Parker is a big deal. Tim Roth just looks good as a detective but his character is someone who becomes more annoying as the movie goes on. Arbitrage is an intelligent and layered financial drama with moments of high drama and suspense that keeps one involved in it. Arbitrage had the tendency to be a great movie instead of good but it doesn't really goes there. But i like the way its been done.


Grade: B+



Compliance (2012)

Cast:

           Ann Dowd, Dreama Walker, Pat Healy, Bill Camp, Philip Ettinger, James McCaffrey and Ashlie Atkinson

Director:

                   Craig Zobel

Review:

                 One of the most disturbing and deeply unsettling experiences of my life was when i watched this movie last year. During my viewing, i was having this constant urge to stop the movie and run far away from the screen. It was an endurance test for me and something that i will not want to be put under ever again. Compliance is based on a true story, yes it is one of those movies but no, it earns that statement because it doesn't gimmicks or anything on the expense of being based on something that happened. The plot revolves around a fast-food restaurant whose manager receives a call from someone claiming to be a police officer and advises her to cooperate with him because one of her employees have stolen some money from a customer. These kind of incidents have happened in the past and the famous one being at McDonald's in a particular town where prank calls were received. Now the movie has this very eerie kind of an aura from the very start. Even if you don't really know anything about the plot, you will end up sensing that feeling of danger in the air. The way those employees talk about their manager behind her back, they way she treats them, i mean its basic and usual things but you can't help but think about them after seeing things unfold in such terrible ways. Ann Dowd gives one of the best supporting performance of 2012 in this movie. She plays the role of Sandra who is the manager of the restaurant. There is something in the way she looks, speaks and acts with the people. I mean you can see a blend of innocence, guilt, jealousy, rage but she doesn't act on it but just avoids whatever there is being said about her and acts very cool. Craig Zobel, the way he directed this movie is nothing short of wonderful atmospheric and compelling movie experience. The way he uses camera, shots and music increases the tension from time to time.

                 Compliance shows how far a person is willing to go under the orders given by a certain authoritative figure. Yes, they are quite naive you see both as human beings and as people working their butt out every day and they always have to either obey or order. The villain of the movie if you will is a person whom we know nothing much about, we are told about him in the end. He is a stranger for us as well, he should have been for those employees as well but he disguised himself as someone whom they have to obey at any cost. He just sits there and tells them to do some pretty awful things. He's been doing that a lot so he knows how to conduct his misconduct by slowly and very patiently talking to them and then letting them act on it. If they hesitate or tries to question it, he occasionally speaks with an angry tone and finds ways to implement his orders on them. I am pretty sure if i was in that situation, even i would have initially acted under the orders but its always the question of how far you are willing to go vs how far certain things can be done before you realize that its not right. We can say whatever we want but its only a matter of time when you find yourself in a situation as simple as ignoring what someone on the other line is telling you to do, to just hang up! You don't know how you'll act or behave in a certain situation until you do. Dreama Walker plays Becky, the girl who is told to take off her clothes, who is searched, who is told to do perform jumping jacks in front of a man and so on. Its excruciating to see an innocent, harmless girl getting to do such things. You can't help but feel dirty yourself because you are being put right under the moment as well. But Zobel knows what he is doing and how he should or would do something because movies like these tend to walk a fine line between exploitation and realism. Compliance is successful in capturing the horrifying reality of how life can be and how we as people need to be aware of the things that goes on around us. Most of the times, people becomes prey to predators because they don't realize how messed up this world is. This movie will likely make you discuss all the workplace safety and rights etc. Most of the people will think of it as an provocative trash and put it off. This highly disturbing, tense and haunting psycho-drama will stay with you long after you see it.


Grade: B+



The Paperboy (2012)

Cast:

           Matthew McConaughey, Zac Efron, John Cusack, Nicole Kidman, Macy Gray, Scott Glenn, David Oyelowo, Nikolette Noel and Ned Bellamy

Director:

                   Lee Daniels

Review:

                 Well what do we have here? One of the worst movies of 2012 that i had an absolute privilege (not!) to watch. Based on a novel of the same name by Pete Dexter, The Paperboy is directed by Lee Daniels who also made the amazing drama called "Precious". And while his previous movie which is not so different in some ways from his latest film, the former at least was so clear about what it wanted to be and what it really was with performances and drama that were just memorable. The Paperboy was among the list of quite questionable American movies that were shown at Cannes last year, this was the absolutely worst one while most of them were pretty average. Anyways, The Paperboy tells the story or should i say jumbled stories about a reporter, Ward Jansen (McConaughey) and his younger brother Jack Jansen (Efron) who along with Yardley Acheman (Oyelowo) investigates the events surrounding a murder to prove Hillary Van Wetter (Cusack) who is a death row inmate, not guilty. There is also Hillary's wife, Charlotte Bless (Kidman) who teams up with them. The Jansen family situation, the black maid, lots of swamps and alligators and secrets in general are the focus of one hell of a weird narrative. Forget how awfully campy this movie is but first, what was it trying to be about? What does it wanted to show or prove or to study? There is so much going on underneath everything that your focus just doesn't stays on one thing. The Paperboy is a murder mystery and explores the case of John Cusack's character. The Paperboy is about journalism, The Paperboy is about the careless legal system, The Paperboy is about hidden sexual desires, The Paperboy is coming of age drama, its a tale of brothers, its a family melodrama, its an interracial melodrama, its a pulpy Southern Gothic tale with lots of swamps and hostile characters. But what is it about in the end, nothing. Lee Daniels tries to do so much that he ends up doing nothing. Most of the times, the movie just hangs in there with no clear idea of what it basically wants to be about and then the other times, it just goes too far and then too little. The narrative is very shapeless and doesn't succeeds in exploring much. While it offers a few glimpses at a particular plot, it fully ignore it for the rest of the time then finally comes right back at it but it just doesn't feel right by that time.

                 I don't know what was on the mind of Lee Daniels when he wanted to make this movie. I don't know about the book because i haven't read it but Daniels was just so keen to make this movie some kind of a pretentious art but he made a mess out of what could have been a straightforward movie that studied many different things of that particular era with a murder mystery at the center of it. The Paperboy could have been a pretty nice movie if it wasn't for Daniels. He got in his own way, he got in the way of the source material with a pretty muddled and unclear agenda that made up for a complete mess in the end. There are so much gaps and holes between a particular character's story arc as well as with any particular plot that you feel like it was actually a 5 hours movie but a whole lot of it was cut in the end, that is how much incomplete it feels. How are you suppose to care or concentrate on any particular character when you don't even know how they got there or why they got where they are? How would you feel for them or get affected by any of the drama that is going on? The Paperboy isn't even literally campy, it lacks that qualities that makes a movie campy because you can see how serious it takes a few things and how completely silly the rest of it looks, a little too much. The movie ends up being quite a laughable affair. Now the movie was famous at Cannes for Kidman's character. Yes there is a scene where she urinates on Efron's character after he is stung by Jelly Fish. There is another scene in the police station where Charlotte has .... wait for it.... telepathic sex on Hillary while everyone stares at them with wide eyes and dropped jaws. There are some pretty disturbing and violent scenes that involves fighting, beating, bleeding etc. The Paperboy in the end comes off as a sexploitation junk, its a misguided adventure that ends up being homophobic, racist, misogynist because of that. Performances in particular aren't that great. Nicole Kidman occasionally shines though, her makeover both physical and just performances wise is worth praising. She is brave to be able to pull off such insane and tacky role. McConaughey too gives a nice performance but he is overshadowed by his director's focus on the wrong things but still he ends up doing the best he can. The Paperboy is very sleazy, nasty, humid, disgusting and you will feel like taking a shower after its over.


Grade: D