This probably needed to be a legitimate miniseries, rather than a 90-minute TV movie. The book is divided into four sections: one for each main character and each with a different narrative style; that seems like it could potentially be adaptable in a way that doesn’t completely erase Smith’s original storytelling choices, say by having four episodes that each have a distinct directorial style, but is probably harder to capture in a TV movie (not sure this even attempted to). And the overarcing plot of the novel (or lack thereof) doesn’t seem super suited for the typical structure of a movie, unless the filmmaker is willing to do something experimental or make the material more their own. Plus, 90 minutes is just not enough time to do justice to each character’s arc, and as a result, they all probably come off as sort of opaque and under-developed–but maybe that’s just in comparison to the novel? I wonder if viewers of the movie who had not read the novel would feel that there was something missing. Ultimately not, like, offensively bad, but a pretty bland and forgettable take on the source material. Which I guess means there’s plenty of space for a more definitive adaptation in the future?
Nocturnal Animals (2016)
I feel like I just didn’t really get this, but after reading the AV Club review of it and the Wikipedia summary of the book it’s based on, I think maybe there just wasn’t anything to get? There are these three stories–the present, the flashbacks, and the story-within-a-story–happening and you expect them to go somewhere but the movie just sort of…ends. There is not the glorious Guy Ritchie moment where all of the plotlines come together, really. Or the moment in, say, the glorious, emotional finale of the other Amy Adams vehicle currently in theaters, where you’re like, “oh, okay, so this is why we’ve been cutting to this other seemingly unrelated narrative the whole time.”
Instead, like, there are obviously some parallels between the stories–especially since the manuscript is in some way Ted working through his feelings about his failed marriage to Susan/fragile masculinity/gross revenge porn.
(And right, if you see the casting of that as how Susan’s reading it or how Ted’s writing it, there’s some more there. And I guess it’s sort of interesting to think about in terms of whether the camera is an unreliable narrator there–i.e. if it’s biased towards the reading, the writing, or if it’s actually just a representation of the story–that we might not normally consider in film? But there were perhaps too many shots of Amy Adams reading a manuscript that seemed like they were just meant to be ads for Tom Ford reading glasses.).
The ages of the actors vs the timelines the characters allude to are also sort of distracting, and that probably takes away from the story. I think the script is implying that Amy Adams and Armie Hammer’s characters have been together for almost twenty years and have a college-aged daughter, but I also know that Armie Hammer is 30, so that was…confusing? (When he was initially introduced, I thought there would be some significance to the 12 year age gap between him and Adams, with him being her “trophy husband” or something, but I guess that is…not at all the direction that was going in?)
Also not sure how to feel about the opening credits (slow motion of nude fat women dancing). They felt kind of like they were going for something super shocking and grotesque in a “haha aren’t women’s bodies just super gross?” way that irks. I don’t even buy into the whole ALL BODIES ARE BEAUTIFUL LOVE YOURSELF thing as much as my peers, but still…I’d probably feel differently about the credits if the director were a woman? Or maybe even a straight man?
Opening aside, this is obviously a very pretty movie full of very pretty people–besides the main cast, we briefly get Zawe Ashton and the dude who played the Headless Horseman in Sleepy Hollow. And maybe that’s enough.
The D Train (2016)
A bit too much cringe comedy for this to really appeal, but I appreciate that it has a kind of unusual plot and also James Marden in a slouchy beanie.
One wants this to be good for, like, political reasons or whatever, but holy shit, it is so boring.
It seems like it would have worked much better if it had either focused on:
- The Lovings as actual people with lives outside of the court case–i.e. show us more of their courtship and their family life so we get a better sense of what they’re fighting to protect–why they’re willing to slog through all of the legal bullshit to stay together in Virginia rather than moving to another state or even divorcing. Obviously, it’s a righteous cause and they don’t want other couples to have to deal with what they’ve dealt with, but idk, that’s not quite enough unless they’re totally selfless saints–which is sort of boring–or more into activism than the movie portrays them to be.
- The nitty-gritty details of the legal proceedings–e.g. all of the differences between state laws, the steps to get a case to the Supreme Court, etc.
Instead, I’m just not even really sure what the creators’ priorities were? Long shots of scenery and the characters looking sad? There was just, like, so little dialogue, until Nick Kroll comes in as the lawyer and sort of misguided comic relief (misguided because Nick Kroll feels like a super weird choice to play an actual person in a serious drama as opposed to an exaggerated character in a comedy and the “comedy” feels tonally off).
Kill Your Friends (UK 2015/US 2016)
It gets super old to compare every British movie to Trainspotting, but like…comparisons can be made, and you can sort of see that if this had been made 20 years ago, it might have starred Ewan McGregor (10 years ago it might have starred James McAvoy). But okay, why similar? I guess because fast-talking snarky voice-over, the seething hatred of one’s “friends,” drugs, music, etc. Nicholas Hoult is really good in this sort of amoral role, which I suppose we already knew from Skins but had forgotten about for a while as he took more Good Guy/Leading Man parts.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)
Completely failed to pay attention to this movie and instead made this chart:
Fantastic Four (2015)
Somewhat similar to Suicide Squad, it was a little shocking how bad this was, because I thought the criticism was probably hyperbolic? I like origin stories and I thought even if the plot was nonsense and the effects were bad or whatever, the young cast would have enough charisma and banter to make it at least somewhat worthwhile? But there’s just…not even any team bonding or power discovery montages; it ends up feeling like a lot of important scenes were cut, but then what’s even left? I couldn’t tell you.
(But actually, what are the heroes’ motivations? What is the villain’s motivation? What are these people’s relationships to each other? What was Reed even trying to do in the period between escaping and getting recaptured?)
The most noteworthy thing is probably the body horror of Reed Richards’s powers in live action. I’m glad we didn’t see too much more of that because eww, but it at least would have made it a more interesting movie. (How did the 2005 Fantastic Four deal with that, I wonder? Do I need to watch the 2005 Fantastic Four?)
Manchester by the Sea (2016)
Fucking devastating. Thank god Bethesda Row Cinema has their posh heavy-duty-but-super-soft paper towels in the bathroom, because they were completely necessary to handle the non-stop gross sobbing. There’s a surprising amount of humor with all of the Boston-accent shit-talking, but that maybe makes it all more tragic? (Because it makes it feel more real than something that’s just overt serious tragedy the whole time, maybe? Or because it makes you like the characters more and thus become more invested in their emotions?)
On a suuuuper super shallow note, Casey Affleck is surprisingly hot in manpain?
Blah blah blah re: Casey Affleck’s probability of winning an Oscar. Given #OscarsSoWhite, probably not this year, even if he maybe would have in another year? Which isn’t to say he’s being robbed if he doesn’t win, because Best Actor never actually means “Best” Actor; probably everyone who gets nominated gave approximately equally impressive performances (although how do we even judge that? Is the Most Impressive Performance the one that’s the furthest from your public persona? The one that feels the most effortless and “authentic”? The one that required the most physical transformation/accent work/etc.?) , and the winner will be the person who has the best story that year, in the context of his career arc and whatever the current political/social/cultural discourse may be. So yeah, probably not a good year for a straight white guy with sexual harassment allegations and a more famous relative–in another year, that may be a good story, with Casey Affleck as the underrated actor proving himself outside of his brother’s shadow, but it seems more likely that this year it would be read as a nepotism/privilege/connections thing. But maybe I’m completely off-base and he will win; I don’t really care either way.