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Mini-Reviews: Trance, The Place Beyond The Pines, Room 237

Trance:

With Trance, Danny Boyle returns to his first love: the world of seedy hoodlums. Vincent Cassel attempts to steal an expensive painting, but an art auctioneer, played by James McAvoy, thwarts his scheme. Unfortunately, McAvoy suffers a head injury during the robbery, causing him to forget where the painting might be. Cassel and his band of thugs take McAvoy to a professional hypnotherapist, portrayed by Rosario Dawson, to try to help him remember where the pricy art is stashed. If this all sounds rather contrived and plot-heavy, you’re correct– the script throws twist after twist at you, and a full explanation of the events in sequential fashion would almost surely undermine the film’s illusion of logic. However, the energy is palpable, Anthony Dod Mantle’s cinematography is colorful and stylish, and Rosario Dawson delivers career-best work. She balances sensuality and danger well enough to rival the performances of many classic film noir femme fatales. The film compares her to Boticelli’s Venus, and her subsequent nude scene is so jaw-dropping that the rest of the movie struggles to generate the same fire. The ending feels oddly sentimental and out of place, but the overall experience is engaging and worthwhile for Boyle or Dawson fans.

The Place Beyond The Pines:

I struggled with Derek Cianfrance’s ambitious Blue Valentine, a well-acted film with strong moments that never comes together largely due to Cianfrance’s incessant interest in the melodramatic. His newest outing, the even more ambitious The Place Beyond The Pines, suffers from the same problems as the first. He tries to showcase the generations of two families, how the sins of the fathers are passed down to the sons. Several fine actors do their best, especially Bradley Cooper, who somehow shines despite being saddled with a wildly familiar cop drama storyline. However, once again, Cianfrance lets his nice quieter moments get plowed over by screaming matches, silliness with guns, and loud sobbing. What attempts for a Eugene O’Neill vibe gives way to obvious dialogue and unfortunate overacting. To make matters worse, after I (unwisely) defended Blue Valentine against charges of misogyny, Cianfrance takes his characterization of women here to a new low: they’re all either scorned lovesick dopes or bitchy wives. Eva Mendes does her best, seeing as how she has little to do other than scream and cry. With a triptych story structure and a nearly two and a half hour run time, this film drags and eventually screeches to a halt. Some of the quieter moments are affecting, and I admire Cianfrance’s ambition, but ambition doesn’t automatically make a film good.

Room 237:

It’s hard to grade Room 237 by any traditional film standards, as it’s really more of a Powerpoint presentation. It describes several interpretations of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining… and that’s all. We don’t get to know those who crafted these interpretations, nor do we see them; we are given little tidbits, like how a guy at war reads The Shining as a criticism of war, but nothing inordinately revealing. This film is merely as interesting as you find listening to detailed conspiratorial analysis of Stanley Kubrick’s intentions to be. While I found moments here and there to be amusing, these moments are fleeting– I simply have no interest in the geography of the hotel and the patterns the child forms while riding his bike. There is probably a very small audience of Shining enthusiasts who will find this film endlessly fascinating, and I can’t begrudge them that fascination. However, I found myself far more interested in the people who cling to these interpretations, and the film refuses to dive into them. Perhaps it’s unfair of me to judge the film based on what I want it to be instead of what it chose to be… yet I believe it’s totally fair for me to tell you I was so bored during stretches of this film that my mind wandered to the question, “What would you want this film to be about?” For hardcore enthusiasts only. I do, however, recommend somehow finding online the clip of the gentleman who is 100% certain Kubrick made the film to reveal his secret involvement in the staging of the moon landing– it’s the only portion of Room 237 that kept me riveted.

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~ by russellhainline on April 30, 2013.

One Response to “Mini-Reviews: Trance, The Place Beyond The Pines, Room 237”

  1. Good reviews! 🙂 (although I pretty much hated Trance & really liked The Place Beyond The Pines). 😉 Still really want to see Room 237 as it sounds entertaining and I do love The Shining.

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