Sex, Leins & Videotape #47. Paignton film critic Tom Leins heads Stateside to check out the latest in oddball Americana!
Underpinned by a great performance from the characteristically awkward Michael Cera, Youth in Revolt (Momentum) is a genuinely quirky comedy treat about the drastic lengths a young man will go to in pursuit of true love.
Cera stars as Nick Twisp, a precocious teenager with a penchant for Frank Sinatra and Federico Fellini. On holiday at a rural trailer park with his mother and her shifty trucker boyfriend (Zach Galifianakis) Nick meets Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday), a free-spirited girl with similarly sophisticated tastes. Nick quickly becomes besotted with Sheeni, but realises that his dull life may not be quite enough to seduce the object of his affections. Rather than resting on his laurels, Nick develops a cocky alter-ego called Francois Dillinger who leads Nick on an increasingly erratic path of destruction -all in an effort to woo the delectable Sheeni.
Cera’s unique brand of physical comedy is as amusing as ever, and the presence of Francois Dillinger gives him a chance to step out of typical character with hilarious consequences. Unfortunately, the film is ham-strung by an uneven script which undermines its idiosyncratic charms. Equally, there are a suspicious number of A-list actors saddled with mirthless supporting roles -notably Steve Buscemi as Nick’s dad, and Ray Liotta as Nick’s mother’s lover. Cult director Miguel Arteta has carved himself a quirky niche on the outskirts of Hollywood with his irregular movie offerings, and although Youth in Revolt is neither as twisted as Chuck & Buck or as acutely-observed as The Good Girl, it is a worthwhile comedy buoyed by one of geeky Cera’s best performances yet. Uneven but fun.
After making a splash on the independent film festival circuit back in 2009, Trucker (High Fliers) sneaks out on DVD with barely a ripple. Michelle Monaghan (Gone Baby Gone) stars as Diane, a feisty independent truck driver with a penchant for boozy one-night stands in sleazy motels. Her carefree existence is ruptured by the reappearance of her estranged 11-year-old son Peter. With his dad terminally ill in hospital, Peter is forced to readjust to life with the mother who walked out on him all those years ago.
Monaghan and young Jimmy Bennett excel as the wary double-act, and they are ably supported by the likes of Nathan Fillion, Joey Lauren Adams and Benjamin Bratt.
Part TV-movie tearjerker, part grubby indie flick, Trucker is a strange little movie that transcends its humble origins and grows into a genuinely affecting film. A bittersweet little gem.
Shrink (Lionsgate) is a quirky ensemble drama headlined by Kevin Spacey, who stars as Henry Carter, a psychiatrist to LA’s rich and famous. In time-honoured movie fashion, Spacey’s shrink is actually more screwed-up than his illustrious patients. Rocked by the untimely death of his beloved wife, Carter has taken to self-medicating with drugs and booze. His only shot at salvation comes in the form of Jemma (Keke Palmer), a troubled youngster from the wrong side of the tracks -someone very far removed from his usual pampered clientele. Despite a seriously predictable narrative, and an unfortunately glib conclusion Shrink has some amusing scenes, and its constant skewering of Hollywood posturing hits the target every now and again.
In recent years Spacey has seemingly lacked the defining roles that typified his 90s work, and in Shrink he actually seems slightly bored. Although Kevin Spacey on autopilot is still more watchable than many A-listers on a good day, he is outclassed here by a scene-stealing Robin Williams who plays an aging Hollywood actor with a sex addiction and a booze problem. Williams may benefit from an enviable share of casually twisted dialogue, but even so, it would have been interesting to see how the film had turned out with him installed in the shrink’s chair instead of Spacey. Tolerable, but far from essential.
John Malkovich may not be the box office draw he once was, but it’s still a surprise to see him slumming it in bargain-bin fodder like Afterwards (Optimum). Not that Afterwards is your usual straight-to-DVD thriller, mind you. With a cast list that includes Malkovich, French actor Romain Duris (The Beat That My Heart Skipped) and Evangeline Lilly (Kate from TV’s ‘Lost’), Afterwards has cult credentials to spare. Regrettably, despite slick direction and some enjoyably jumpy moments, it falls badly flat and feels like a cut-price version of one of M Night Shyamalan’s hokey, quasi-supernatural thrillers.
Romain Duris stars as Nathan, a high-flying New York attorney whose professional achievements struggle to conceal his tormented family life. Haunted by a childhood near-death experience, and the memory of his own child’s death, Nathan drifts apart from his wife and child, unable to cope with his anguish. His life is flipped upside down when he meets Doctor Kay (Malkovich), a sinister figure who claims that he has the ability to anticipate people’s deaths. Nathan is understandably sceptical, but a handful of disturbing deaths later, Nathan is keen to let the Doctor help him put his life in order before he shuffles off his mortal coil. Despite an intriguing cast list and an appropriately sinister premise, Afterwards is a dangerously lacklustre excuse for a thriller.