Daily Archives: October 29, 2004

Sideways

I can’t go along with my colleagues who regard Alexander Payne’s entertaining but familiar comedy as one of 2004’s best movies: it lacks the insolence of his Election and the freshness of his work with Kathy Bates in About Schmidt. A depressive, divorced unpublished novelist (American Splendor’s Paul Giamatti) and a cheerful, horny former TV star (Thomas Haden Church) who’s about to be married embark on a tour of the California wine country that includes sexual adventures. The performances of both leads (especially Church), Virginia Madsen, and Sandra Oh are effective, and Payne does know how to capture two kinds of male menopause. But I can’t say he ever surprised me. R, 123 min. (JR)… Read more »

Ray

Taylor Hackford’s epic biography of Ray Charles differs from other authorized Hollywood musical biopics in one striking detail: its subject, still alive when most of this was made, is almost never shown as a likable person (though reportedly this was even more true of the director’s cut, now available on DVD). The script, by Hackford and James L. White, follows roughly the first half of Charles’s 56-year careeruntil he got off heroin in the mid-60sand then abruptly signs off, apart from a couple of pro forma nods to his virtue. We also get some flashbacks to a childhood trauma and his early struggle with blindness that are supposed to explain something or other. Jamie Foxx expertly captures the singer’s mannerisms, and there are some knowing asides on the corruption of the music business. With Kerry Washington, Regina King, and Clifton Powell. PG-13, 152 min. (JR)… Read more »

Reconstruction

A photographer in Copenhagen (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) betrays his girlfriend (Maria Bonnevie) to pursue an adulterous fling with a Swedish woman (Bonnevie again) who’s visiting with her novelist husband. This arresting brain twister is narrated by the husband, and the shifting of certain particulars implies that either the whole tryst or some aspects of it may be occurring in his jealous imagination. The ambiguities suggest Alain Resnais’ Last Year at Marienbad and Providence, but the show-offy, high-tech visual style couldn’t be further from Resnais’ aesthetics and sensibility. Christoffer Boe makes his directing debut with this feature, and Bonnevie does a fine job of making her double role something more than a gimmick. In Danish and Swedish with subtitles. 90 min. (JR)… Read more »