Picks of the Week
( PG-13, 96 minutes, Sony Home Video): The first-time directorial effort from Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal, who also collaborated on the screenplay, is a well-acted but narratively limp indie that’s undermined by a failure to connect emotionally with its audience. It’s a film that intentionally blurs the line between reality and fiction and, as a result, never creates real or fantasy worlds that are remotely believable.
The central plot revolves around Rory Jansen (played by Bradley Cooper), a determined writer who discovers an anonymous manuscript of a spectacular novel. Rory reads the manuscript, then decides to peck out the whole thing on his laptop just to know how it feels to have typed such brilliant sentences. But then hot wifey (Zoe Saldana) reads it, thinks her husband has finally found his gift, and the next thing everyone knows, a novel is published and Rory becomes the Man of Letters.
Of course, the novel’s actual author tracks him down. He tells Rory the whole story of how that work of fiction came to be. And in a third plot track, Dennis Quaid – as Clay Hammond, another very successful author – reads from his own novel about a struggling writer named Rory Jansen.
It’s actually not that hard to follow, but it just isn’t terribly effective.
Contains brief, strong language and smoking.
DVD extras: extended special edition with an alternate ending, behind-the-scenes featurette and “A Gentleman’s Agreement” production featurette. Also, on Blu-ray: “Clay and Daniella” and “The Young Man and Celia” character featurettes.
‘The Well-Digger’s Daughter’
(Not rated, 105 minutes, in French with English subtitles, Kino Lorber): A remake of a 1940 film by French novelist and filmmaker Marcel Pagnol, “The Well-Digger’s Daughter” feels old-fashioned but not necessarily in a bad way.
Its theme of the fallen woman – the 18-year-old unwed mother referenced in the title – feels quaint and out of sync, not just with many of today’s movies, but with the modern world in general.
Still, the melodrama is classy and convincing, even if the scandal feels antique. Set just before the start of World War I, the movie is the directorial debut of actor Daniel Auteuil (who plays the widowed well-digger, Pascal, with a mixture of rustic dignity and cuddly curmudgeonliness). Pascal’s daughter Patricia (Astrid Berges-Frisbey) is pregnant and unmarried. Compounding that sexual taboo is the fact that the baby’s father, Jacques (Nicolas Duvauchelle), is the son of a wealthy shopkeeper, while Patricia and her family are working class.
Jacques has been called off to war, without so much as a chance to say goodbye. With their only son at war, Jacques’ snooty parents initially rebuff the well-digger when he shows up seeking recognition of their son’s parental responsibility. Pascal arrives sans shotgun, bringing only a sense of honor, humility and the expectation that people will do the right thing. Needless to say, they do not.
Contains sexual themes and brief vulgarity.
(R,118 minutes, Sony Home Video): Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Joe, a laconic young man living in Kansas City in 2042, where as the film opens he is in a wheat field consulting his pocket watch. Another man suddenly appears and – blam! – Joe blows him away.
He explains in a voice-over that his victim has come from the 2070s, when the mob uses time-traveling assassins like Joe – called loopers – to dispose of bodies that technically don’t exist. It’s a living, and a pretty good one, until the mob boss decides to “close the loop” and sends the older version of the hitman back to be killed.
That’s precisely what happens to Joe, who when he confronts his older self – played in the film by Bruce Willis – doesn’t quite carry out the orders as planned.
The ethics of saving the future by changing the past might be a time-worn theoretical question. But “Looper” brings it to life with startling inventiveness and visual pizazz, whether in a grimly imaginative scene of the effects of a character’s torture showing up on his future older body, or some dazzlingly clever staging during a climactic sequence at a farmhouse. Contains strong violence, profanity, some sexuality/nudity and drug content.
DVD extras: Commentary with director Rian Johnson, Gordon-Levitt and Emily Blunt; featurettes “Looper: From the Beginning” and “Scoring Looper”; five deleted scenes. Also, on Blu-ray: “The Science of Time Travel” featurette and 17 additional deleted scenes. The Washington Post