Mini-Reviews: Fruitvale Station, Only God Forgives


Fruitvale Station:

“Fruitvale Station is unquestionably the type of film people are going to be talking about. As a first feature for writer/director Ryan Coogler, it’s pretty remarkable. As a star-making vehicle for Michael B. Jordan, it’s a slam dunk: this young man’s potential as an actor is limitless. When asked to compare him to other young actors, I find myself drawn to names like Tom Cruise and Will Smith. An open face with endless charisma, he can switch from making you laugh to breaking your heart in a split second with grace and finesse. This seems like hyperbole. It’s not. The film itself strays occasionally into what I call Martyr Syndrome, in which both the characters and the camera seem to sense that the lead character will be dead soon, so every parting moment and every confession of love is delivered with a certain somber air. While the heavyhandedness may affect the overall emotional resonance, it doesn’t affect the anger it inspires regarding the criminal act that took place, nor does it affect my admiration for the terrific work done by Coogler, Jordan, Melonie Diaz, and Octavia Spencer. This is an issue film, an important story well-told, and an actor’s paradise.”

Follow-up: I saw the Fruitvale Station California premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival, before the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman verdict. The timeliness of this film can’t be overstated. The aforementioned faults I wrote have vanished from my memory, and only the film’s relevance, heartbreak, and hope remain. I strongly urge you to see this film.

Only God Forgives:

“Before Only God Forgives begins, Nicolas Winding Refn comes out and informs us that if Drive was really good coke, Only God Forgives is supposed to be the type of acid where you become one with the chair. I’ve never dropped acid before (contrary to what others may tell you), but his description is spot-on. Not unlike Refn’s Valhalla Rising before it, Only God Forgives is more about sensory immersion than about character-building or strict storytelling. Though “follow” is too strong a word, we follow Julian (Ryan Gosling) as he debates seeking revenge for the death of his brother. His brother was a scumbag, but their mother (Kristin Scott Thomas, so gloriously campy) is hellbent on Julian growing a pair and coming through for the family. It’s a fragmented affair, relying on its visuals, sound design, and mythological villain to carry the day. It kept me riveted, though by the end I did feel the overall experience was a bit empty.”

Follow-up: Another Los Angeles Film Festival premiere, Only God Forgives is unquestionably a frustrating experience while watching it, though it hasn’t truly left my mind since. Any film this adept at creating a vivid sensory experience certainly will strike a chord with many, and it merits attention. Undoubtedly several readers will hate it… but those intrigued may find rewards if they give it a fair shake.

Read the rest of my Los Angeles Film Festival coverage here.

~ by russellhainline on July 29, 2013.

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