Movie reviews of two new releases. For a link to showtimes, see below. For other events and things to do this weekend, see San Diego Weekend: What’s Happening Sept. 19-21.
Now that we can leave all the slams and bangs of summer flicks behind, This Is Where I Leave You offers a mostly touching, though at times awkward, comic transition to Serious Movie season. Jason Bateman and Adam Driver carry the film, the tale of a group of four dysfunctional siblings (what else?) who gather for their father’s funeral. The film’s strongest story lines involve Bateman’s Judd and Driver’s Phillip, one a tortured cuckold, the other a no-worries Peter Pan. Tina Fey gets chances to show a little non-comic heft here, but Bateman, Driver and matriarch Jane Fonda are more comfortable with the dramatic demands of their roles. Connie Britton of “Nashville” and “Friday Night Lights” television fame, though underused, also registers as a fifth-wheel questioning her reasons for loving man-boy Phillip. The film motors along until a way-out-of-left-field twist near the end, but Bateman, as its emotional core, anchors several fine moments to take control as the film heads to the finish.
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them has a central problem. Perhaps it might have been fixed by viewing the two other parts of this experimental series of films, but they aren’t due to be released until next month. So here it is: If one is confronting the immediate devastation of grief, there is inherent drama. If one has accepted the loss and grown, learning how the person was transformed could be a draw. But here we are betwixt and between; as often happens with aggrieved people, these characters are stuck. In real life, we would try to support their painful journey, but a plot driven by people trapped in neutral cannot work. Jessica Chastain, who also produced the film, James McAvoy, a sadly misused Viola Davis and William Hurt – Oscar nominees all – cannot save what is essentially a relentless slog. Director and writer Ned Benson aspires to portray new depths of feeling about grief, but the often painful dialogue and meandering scenes prove he’s not up to the challenge. By the time Chastain, McAvoy and Hurt register a few honest moments within 20 minutes of the film’s conclusion, it’s far too late. All the lonely people – the Beatles “Eleanor Rigby” tells us much more about them in a two-minute song that this movie does in two hours.
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