After exploring the complications of young love in his Sundance champ Like Crazy, director Drake Doremus returns to the festival with another relationship drama, Breathe In, this time about the affair between a married man and a teenaged girl. Guy Pearce turns in a reserved performance as Keith, a former musician and dissatisfied family man longing to leave his job as a high school music teacher and return to the exciting life he had before he and his wife (Amy Ryan) left New York City for a quiet, suburban existence. Enter Sophie (Felicity Jones), an 18-year-old British foreign exchange student who joins Keith, his wife, and their teen daughter for a semester in the United States. There’s a nearly instantaneous attraction between Keith and the mysterious Sophie, and most of the film is a slow, steady burn toward the initiation of their affair, which plays out as more a chaste schoolyard romance than a passionate tryst. Still, the chemistry between Pearce and Jones is electric; scenes between the two that are light on dialogue and heavy on meaningful glances are striking, subtly conveying the tension building between the two characters from their first moments on screen together.
Like Crazy (#1–10 of 4)
Compared to the film’s teaser, the poster for David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis is markedly demure, a tame puppy to the preview’s rabid dog. What it first exudes is the high-society life that’s lived by Robert Pattinson’s finance superstar, Eric Packer, a 28-year-old billionaire created by novelist Don DeLillo. The movie, like the book, sees Packer trek across Manhattan for a haircut, and on the way damage his fortune and encounter all sorts of crazy, Cronenbergian shit. By all evidence (material, maestro, and frantic first glimpse), this chic one-sheet is your invitation to jump off the cliff, to leave crisp and shiny decorum behind and tumble down the hole at which Pattinson seems to be staring. Like the poster for Eastern Promises, it presents crossed hands as the ultimate depiction of a man at a crossroads, where the tick of time (hence the watch) is decibels louder. Whereas the cover of DeLillo’s book shows the pivotal limo from an external distance, this poster brings you inside, promising a ride that’s as intimate as it is untamed.
Fan Mail: “stammitti90” wondered, as others have, about the title of the column being “Understanding Screenwriting,” since he thinks the column is just film reviews with a few references to screenwriters. There are of course more than a few references. Compare how many times I mention the writers in my reviews to any other reviewer. Or how much I talk about the script in my comments on Hugo in that column as opposed to how much David Ehrenstein talks about Scorsese in his comments on the item. Too often people writing about screenwriting seem to forget that screenwriting is part of the process of filmmaking. Rather than a generic (Three Acts, Hero’s Journey, et al) column about screenwriting, I am trying to give you a nuanced look at how the screenwriting elements of a film are part of the collaborative process of filmmaking. You will see an example of that below in the discussion about the script and Charlize Theron’s performance in Young Adult.
David E. was getting on me for “dissing” the visuals in Hugo, but the one time I mentioned the visuals it was to praise them for giving us reactions of Hugo watching the people in the station. I am not sure I agree with David that I have a “terribly literal idea of what cinematic narrative consists of,” unless by that I want the film to make sense in an interesting way. It can do that with dialogue and/or visuals, as I indicated a little farther down in that column in my comments on Sullivan’s Travels. By the way, David, thanks for the story on Vidal quoting Robert Grieg’s speech from Travels. It tickles my mind to think of Vidal doing that speech.
Young Adult (2011. Written by Diablo Cody. 94 minutes.)
Petting the dog: Hollywood studio development executives always insist that characters have to be “likable” and usually ask for a scene early in the script that shows it. This is known in the trade as the “petting the dog” scene, after the old silent film convention that the hero comes into town and pets the dog, while the villain comes in and kicks the dog. You even see it in documentary films. Leni Riefenstahl’s 1935 Triumph of the Will has two of the most brilliant cuts in her career: she cuts from Hitler in a car looking up to a pussycat looking down out of a window, and then cuts back to Hitler turning back from looking up. Uncle Adolph loves the pussycat and the pussycat loves Uncle Adolph. Needless to say, screenwriters resent this. When David Benioff was writing Troy (2004), he kept getting notes from Warners that Achilles had to be more likable. Benioff later told David S. Cohen, “He’s not likable. You’re not going to have a pet-the-dog scene with Achilles. It is something I had to resist.”
Like Crazy and How to Die in Oregon took the top prizes at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.
The highlight of this weekend’s predictably shitty SNL was a meet-uncute between Jesse Eisenberg and Mark Zuckerberg.
Related: David Bordwell on the faces of Facebook.
The Emmy-winning Tony Geiss, a Sesame Street writer for decades and creator of the Honkers, passed away last week at the age of 86.
Oscar-winning John Barry, the composer of 11 James Bond scores, has died at age 77.
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