There’s a touch of the French New Wave – Godard’s “Breathless” most notably – in Drake Doremus’ sophomore feature “Like Crazy” (Angelika), an episodic tale of a roller-coaster romance done up with lots of flamboyant touches but also some genuine insight.
The couple, Jacob (Anton Yelchin) and Anna (Felicity Jones), meet as college classmates in California and fall head over heels for one another, quickly becoming inseparable – so much so that when the girl’s student visa runs out, she decides to stay with him anyway.
That triggers official action when she goes back to her native England for a wedding and is kept from re-entering the U.S. on her return.
The stress of being separated by the Atlantic threatens their relationship, and even after they marry in order to resolve the legal problem, the strategy fails; in time the two grow apart and take up with other people. And it’s clear that whatever happens, their early passion can’t simply be recovered.
The writing is sharp, Yelchin and Jones draw incisive portraits of the young lovers, and Doremus’ edgy style gives what might have become a soap opera a welcome roughness.
Like last year’s “Blue Valentine” but unlike most films, “Like Crazy” shows that the course of love does not always run smooth or end well. In today’s cinematic climate, that’s a radical notion.
J. Edgar Hoover, founder and long-time director of the FBI, is one of the most controversial figures of 20th century American history, alternately praised for his patriotism and condemned for his excessive zeal and manipulative methods. More recently, lurid rumors about his personal life – especially his long-time relationship with his closest aide, Clyde Tolson – have circulated.
In “J. Edgar” (wide release), Clint Eastwood tackles Hoover with his usual restrained, cautious approach. He points up the aging director’s self-glorification of his role in famous cases like the Lindbergh kidnapping and his bullying of political figures like the Kennedys to emphasize his growing egomania, and doesn’t neglect the relationship with Tolson. But he maintains a low-key tone throughout, painting a portrait of a man made insecure and awkward as a result of his mother’s domination, and pointedly muting the depiction of Hoover’s sexual life.
Leonardo DiCaprio and Armie Hammer, both often encased in heavy old-age makeup, give strong performances as Hoover and Tolson, and technically the film is very well made.
But by straining so hard to avoid sensationalizing his subject, Eastwood winds up with a film that’s technically meticulous but emotionally rather bland.
A wild combination of skewed Greek history and fractured mythology, “Immortals” (wide release) plays like a cross between “Clash of the Titans” and “Gotterdammerung,” with nods to “300” along the way.
It intertwines battles of both gods and men, making Theseus (Henry Cavill) – here a simple peasant, not an Athenian prince – Zeus’ chosen human champion against King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke), who aims not only to conquer all Greece but to destroy the Olympians by releasing the Titans from their long captivity.
The picture looks quite amazing, with images that, in their riot of color and action, often resemble baroque frescoes. And the crisp, clear 3-D is used to add to the effect rather than muddy it up.
But it’s clear that director Tarsem Singh (“The Cell,” “The Fall”) isn’t interested nearly as much in narrative coherence as in eye-popping visuals, and that – along with a lack of wit and humor – leaves his picture feeling glum and overly serious.
And since the gods and Titans bite the dust as easily as the humans do, the title ought really to be put in “air quotes.”
“Jack and Jill”
If you think one Adam Sandler is bad, wait until you see how awful two of them can be. In “Jack and Jill” (wide release), the comic plays both a happily married California advertising man and Jill, his abrasive twin sister who comes from New York for Thanksgiving dinner and decides to stay a spell.
The crude, unfunny altercations between the two are made worse by the star’s tendency to laziness. As the executive he simply shuffles through his customary shtick, and as his sibling he just adopts the sort of screechy, whining voice that was irritating in three-minute doses on Saturday Night Live and becomes insufferable over the course of 90.
But much of the movie is devoted to Al Pacino, who plays a heightened version of himself. The conceit is that he’s being sought to do a commercial but will agree only if the exec fixes him up with Jill, whom he unaccountably falls for. It’s a turn the actor probably thought would be fun, but turns out to be deeply embarrassing – as do cameos by the likes of Johnny Depp.
Like its namesakes, “Jack and Jill” falls hard.