Films opening this weekend
The latest self-satisfied exercise in style over substance from writer-director Wes Anderson will amuse his cult followers ” as well as Anderson himself and his pals, of course ” but probably nobody else.
This time he has amassed old friends Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman, along with Adrien Brody, to play estranged brothers who bicker while barreling across India on a train, supposedly on a spiritual journey. They haven’t spoken since their father’s funeral a year ago and their mother (Anderson regular Anjelica Huston) has abandoned them to become a nun in the Himalayas.
But the brothers Whitman, like the film itself, end up running all over the place without ever going anywhere. As usual, Anderson seems more concerned with precious minutiae ” the quirky, kitschy clutter surrounding his eccentric characters, all of which he shoots head-on in wide angle ” than with developing people and scenarios that feel even vaguely relatable or real. (Anderson wrote the script with Schwartzman and Roman Coppola.)
The bittersweet heart of 1998’s “Rushmore” has long since left Anderson’s movies, and all that’s left is a heart-shaped box, one that’s obsessively detailed and exquisitely ornate ” not unlike the one-of-a-kind luggage set the brothers schlep around, which Marc Jacobs designed for Louis Vuitton especially for the film.
Rated R for language. 91 min. Two stars out of four.
Peter and Bobby Farrelly’s take on the 1972 Neil Simon-Elaine May original is not nearly as funny as you’d like for a movie that reunites them with “There’s Something About Mary” star Ben Stiller.
With five credited screenwriters, the Farrellys among them, and source material that includes a sharp script based on the great comic author Bruce Jay Friedman’s short story, you just feel this update should be packed with guffaws.
There are a few genuinely amusing gags, but the humor comes only in occasional fits. Stiller plays a man who marries the wrong woman (Malin Akerman), then meets his true love (Michelle Monaghan) on his honeymoon.
Monaghan’s a sweetheart, and Akerman steals the show by managing to be both endearing and irritating at the same time. Stiller’s often boring, and his character’s more of a jerk than usual, so it’s hard to care whether he ends up with the right woman.
There’s far more empathy to be had for both women than the man who tries to juggle a honeymoon with the two of them.
Rated R for strong sexual content, crude humor, language, and a scene of drug use involving a minor. 115 min. Two stars out of four.
It might have been a standard thriller ” one that’s as generic and forgettable as the title itself ” were it not for some sharp writing from Tony Gilroy and an intelligent, subtly powerful performance from George Clooney.
As a “fixer” at a prestigious New York law firm, Clooney gets to show all the charisma of Danny Ocean as well as the vulnerability of his Oscar-winning role in “Syriana.” He just keeps getting better with age, and it’s breathtaking to watch this former People magazine “sexiest man alive” show absolutely zero vanity as he expands his range.
Gilroy, directing for the first time after writing or co-writing all three “Bourne” movies, gives Clooney a meaty part to work with, even though it’s one that’s rarely flashy. His Michael Clayton is stuck handling the dirty work for lawyers with more clout at the firm, stuff like hit-and-runs and volatile mistresses and wealthy kids in trouble; after 15 years he still hasn’t made partner and some bad business decisions have left him nearly broke.
He gets one of his tougher assignments when a top litigator (Tom Wilkinson) has a meltdown in the middle of defending an agrochemical company against a $3 billion class-action lawsuit. Tilda Swinton co-stars, as does Sydney Pollack ” which seems appropriate, since this would have been a solid Pollack movie 30 years ago.
Rated R for language including some sexual dialogue. 118 min. Three stars out of four.
This documentary encompasses a large number of topics ” purity of talent, the nature of art, truth in journalism ” within a deceptively simple package. In that regard, it’s a lot like the work of Marla Olmstead, a cheerful little girl from upstate New York whose paintings made her an international sensation when she was just 4 years old.
That is, until questions began to arise as to the authenticity of her work. Marla’s abstract splatterings ” vibrantly reminiscent of Pollock or de Kooning with titles like “Flower” and “Mosquito Bite” ” are colorful and alive in a childlike way yet show the polish and maturity of an adult. Her father, an amateur painter himself, likes the attention his daughter brings and bristles at the suggestion that he coached her or, worse yet, doctored the canvases himself.
Her mother, meanwhile, is hesitant to give into the media demands from the beginning, an instinct that will prove prophetic. Director Amir Bar-Lev began his film as a human interest story and ended up becoming a reluctant central figure, as he was the one person close enough to the family to be able to determine the facts.
His participation may sound solipsistic on the surface, but it adds another unexpected, fascinating layer to this already complex tale.
Rated PG-13 for language. 83 min. Three and a half stars out of four.