2014 Top Ten

01) The Tale of Princess Kaguya – Isao Takahata (Japan) **** 1/2
02) We Are the Best! – Lukas Moodysson (Sweden)
03) Whiplash – Damien Chazelle (USA)
04) Locke – Steven Knight (Britain) ****
05) Birdman – Alejandro González Iñárritu (USA)
06) The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson (USA)
07) Ida – Pawel Pawlikowski (Poland)
08) Ernest and Celestine – Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar and Benjamin Renner (France/Belgium)
09) Under the Skin – Jonathan Glazer (Britain)
10) The Great Passage – Yuya Ishii (Japan)

We Are the Best! – Lukas Moodysson (2014)

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Based on a comic book by Coco Moodysson, We Are the Best reminds me of this famous old punk flyer — here are three chords, now start a band.

The girls in this film, Bobo and Klara (Mira Barkhammar and Mira Grosin), a couple of seventh grade punks living in Stockholm in the early 80s, don’t even know the three chords when they start their band on a whim to get one over on a group of metalheads who torment them on a daily basis, calling them ugly and dykes.

They learn to piece it together and make a good, loud racket once they enlist fellow classmate and misfit Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne) after she is mercilessly booed during a school talent show for playing classical guitar in the time of ABBA.

Punk is dead, they’re constantly reminded, and worse (!), they’re girls.

Struggling against the idea that young girls in a punk band are a novelty act (a girl band), cute to look at but not much else is as much at the core of the film as friendship. It’s that sense that makes the whole “aww, adorable” critical reaction to the film a burden. To watch even part of the film is to know that Bobo, Klara and Hedvig would roll their eyes and make vomit faces at the idea that they’re aww, adorable.

It’ll be fun to have a girl band, one of the clueless counselors says when they’re invited to play a Christmas concert. Roll eyes.

Look at Bobo, she cut her own hair. Roll eyes.

The energy you dive into things when you reach your teenage years, when you’re this new person in your own eyes, but the same old person in everyone else’s eyes, will always be fascinating to me. It’s hard to watch the awkwardness at times, especially dealing with parents who can’t accept the new person they see, but that’s the stuff that binds all of us together, misfit or not, punk or not.

As much as the film shows off a return to form for Moodysson — who hasn’t made a film this good since his first, Fucking Åmål (aka Show Me Love) — it’s the killer chemistry between Miras Barkhammar and Grosin that make the film jump off of the screen and dive into your soul.

Sleeping over at Klara’s one night, Bobo has a drunken emotional breakdown — over so much: never being as cute as Klara, never getting attention from boys, having shitty parents, getting picked on, feeling like a loser and how everything is worthless — Klara is gentle, hugging her best friend as she spills her feelings and calmly reminds her that she is in the best band in the world. She is in the best band in the world and has two friends who love her. That’s all you need.

Palo Alto – Gia Coppola (2014)

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http://orlandoweekly.com/film/gia-coppola-talks-about-palo-alto-1.1701242

PIECES OF APRIL
Gia, the next Coppola in line, on adapting Palo Alto and being her own Coppola
By: Rob Boylan

Like the Kennedys in politics or the Mannings in football, film has its own dynasty in the form of the Coppola family. Along with the Hustons, the Coppolas are the only family in Oscar history to have three generations of winners. Together, the family owns 8 statues (double the Hustons’ 4), spread across Carmine, Francis, Sofia and Nicolas Cage, with a combined 24 nominations. And now there is a new generation starting to wade out into the world being spearheaded by Gia Coppola and her film Palo Alto.

But when I ask her about growing up in a dynasty over the phone, the tenor of conversation shifts. “I mean, I don’t know any other way of living. It’s very normal,” she says with a slight sense of frustration growing in her voice. “I have such an appreciation for my family and their movies. I’ve learned so much from them just growing up on their movie sets, but at the same time I wanted to grow and face my own challenges.

“[But Palo Alto] was made through James’s production company [instead of American Zoetrope], so it was really important for me to do this on my own and find my own voice.”

The James in that sentence is James Franco, whose book of short stories was adapted by Coppola for the screen, and who also co-stars as the charming-creepy girls soccer coach, Mr. B.

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The stories are somewhat separate in the book, but have been combined by Coppola to form a rotisserie of angst, alienation, abuse and ennui where bad decisions and drugs abound for the loosely affiliated group of friends, April (Emma Roberts), Teddy (Jack Kilmer), Fred (Nat Wolff) and Emily (Zoe Levin).

April and Teddy make up much of the film’s focus. They are mutual crushes, but because of crossed wires neither realizes it and both look elsewhere for someone to love them back. That leads them down different paths, but both of them only find emotional landmines in their way.

April is the sensitive soul who puts on a nonchalant front, who smokes and drinks because she wouldn’t fit in otherwise. Even with that front, she doesn’t really fit in. She flits from group to group searching for a comfortable niche to fit into, but never really finds anything but a parody of comfort when Mr. B begins to take an interest in her as more than Coach.

Teddy is more sensitive than the rest as well, but its to a more skewed degree than April. He is sensitive and still childlike — in one piece of the film he dreams of being in a wolf suit, playing an anguished Max from Where the Wild Things Are — but he stops a few steps short of April’s sensitive nature. Even with a loving family at home, his front goes a few steps beyond when Teddy crashes his car while drunk and flees the scene.

07

“James’s book is dark at times. I tried to make certain things a little hopeful, but I also knew I didn’t want to totally change it … That stuff does go on and life is dark sometimes.” Things do seem darker of late, kids more wired than I remember. “I don’t think emotions change,” she says when I ask if kids are under more pressure to succeed than when she or I were their age. “Its kind of an organic thing that we all go through where we’re physically and hormonally changing. It feels really heavy.”

It makes me wonder if a film can be too organic though. In my head I can counter the idea that the film meanders or doesn’t find its dramatic ending by telling myself that teenagers meander and only have dramatic endings if they die. If being a teenager weren’t intensely boring, it wouldn’t lead to drinking or seeing which drug is the most fun to abuse the hell out of. The fact that teenagers need something else to make them more interesting maybe means that films about teenagers need something else to make them as interesting as they can be. Maybe not always as extreme a basketball playing wolfman, but something. In that sense, Palo Alto only manages to get to third base. As an audience, it’s a good time but we keep our underwear on.

Nobody makes a perfect first film though. To harp on the family angle again for a moment, neither Dementia 13 nor The Virgin Suicides were perfect either. It takes a minute to learn the rules of the game and how to bend them to your will to make the picture you want to make. To distinguish yourself in the T-Rex-sized footprints of such a famous family can’t be an easy task, but on the other hand, who would bet against a Coppola?

AMC’s new computer drama “Halt and Catch Fire” does just that

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http://blogs.orlandoweekly.com/the-gist/for-reels/amc-new-computer-drama-halt-catch-fire-does-just-that/

The history of computers on the big or small screen bears little resemblance to the reality of computers. A few films like The Social NetworkUnderground and The Pirates of Silicon Valley aside, too many directors go for the cheap way out and try to dramatize computing beyond all concepts of reality. The worst offenders, like The Net and Hackers, are so laughably wrong about the way the subculture works that they’ve become more valuable for irony’s sake than anything else.

Maybe the best thing about the series pilot for AMC’s new drama Halt and Catch Fire, is that there is no movie bullshit in it at all.

We are not invited into a world where the circuit board is a model city, where we are an electrical current riding the rails to the file being called up. There are no graphics being projected onto anyone’s face to heighten the idea of “hacking”. No one drops a logic bomb to gain root access through the Gibson’s GUI backdoor loophole protocol.

The series takes place in the 80s, a time when IBM was firmly in place as the industry leader in computing, when Jobs and Wozniak were still at Mac who had their niche market, and Gates and Allen had yet to send the computer into mandatory status with Windows 95. Big Blue play the villains of the piece, which plays out an elaborate rouse by a slick hustler named Joe MacMillan (Lee Pace) leads an trod upon engineer, Gordon Clark (Scoot McNairy), to do the unthinkable: clone a PC.

In the pilot’s biggest set piece, Joe and Gordon sit in a garage and transcribe 65,000 lines of hexadecimal code that the IBM BIOS is written in. IBM catches wind of the dastardly intellectual property violation and threaten to sue the company they work for, Cardiff Electronics, a mid-tier Silicon Prairie computer company led by Toby Huss (aka ARTIE. The strongest man… in the world).

In a strange legal gambit, they may actually be able to get away with it as long Gordon and Joe can prove they haven’t shown the hex code to anyone, which is where Cameron (Mackenzie Davis), a punky, bored comp-sci major who is smarter than the curriculum comes in to save their asses.

If all that sounds boring, it’s only because it’s impossible to convey the silky smooth style and tension that the showrunners Christopher Cantwell and Christopher C. Rogers build up to. Cracking the IBM motherboard is exciting as it plays out. The schlubby Gordon is an engineering whiz who is had been defeated by the failure to launch a system he and his wife, Donna (Kerry Bishé), designed, and as he picks apart the circuit board with his oscilloscope you can see the blood come back into his face. The excitement becomes contagious as they get closer and closer.

If the show has anything earmarked for a potential breakout element though, it’s Cameron, who doesn’t get nearly enough screentime in the pilot. Davis plays her tough and sarcastic, much the same way Katee Sackhoff played Starbuck in the early Battlestar Galactica episodes, and her half new wave/half punk style only adds to that edge. She is fiercely independent, maybe because she’s surrounded by idiots. Even though she signs on for the job, Joe and Gordon still have to prove that they’re something more than typical. They have to prove it to us too, but they make a good start at it.

Ida – Pawel Pawlikowski (2014)

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http://blogs.orlandoweekly.com/the-gist/for-reels/film-review-ida-pawel-pawlikowski-opens-today-enzian/

If there have been institutions more maligned in film than the Church and the iron curtain, they can’t have been by much. It’s one of the few things that religion and communism have in common in this world, and it ends up making for a sublime road movie in Pawel Pawlikowski’s black & white, full frame Ida.

The Ida of the title (Agata Trzebuchowska) is a young novice nun who was orphaned during the war and who is on the verge of taking her vows. It’s the winter of 1962 and she has barely been beyond the walls of the convent she was delivered to as a baby when she is abruptly sent by the Mother Superior to see her last remaining family member, an aunt named Wanda (Agata Kulesza) who would not take custody of her once the war was over.

Wanda is a Party judge, a severe and sharp woman who looks completely defeated by life by the time we meet her. The photo album she shows Ida — full of pictures of the family before the war, even photos of a very young Ida — does seem to spark her somewhat, but there is so much pain buried behind the photos that it doesn’t last.

Piqued by the photos, Ida wishes to visit the family’s home town and see the graves of her parents once before she returns to the convent and takes her vows. In the end though, this is a World War II story, and nothing is pretty and neat. Her parents have no graves, Wanda tells her. The family is Jewish and was betrayed by neighbors who had been helping to hide them.

Ida, maybe partly from naivety, is undeterred in her wish and the two set off to the country knowing the potentially destructive power of what they might find.

Newcomer Agata Trzebuchowska is a revelation as Ida. It’s an unassuming, quiet role, one that requires that she spend most of the film covered in a habit, but it doesn’t hold her back in the slightest. She smolders under her coif, giving a teasing, knowing performance where less is more, doling out hints to a much richer inner life than one might imagine from the outside. It’s remarkably assured and minimalistic, not at all kind of performance you expect from a first time actress.

As her travel partner, Agata Kulesza has a more traditional repressed role, but expresses it with aplomb at every step. The pair are at their best when Wanda asks Ida if she has sinful thoughts. The smirk that Trzebuchowska delivers is playful and devastating you want to bonk her on the head with an Oscar for it.

The stark black & white cinematography is gorgeous, conveying the coldness of the scene and Ida and Wanda’s emotional states perfectly. It’s something that the full frame aspect ratio helps with as well. I haven’t been a fan of the reemergence of full frame photography, but something about it here is so fitting that I can’t find fault with it. It almost gives the film a sense of being in a time machine, as if the film were actually shot in the 1960s when the wounds of the war were still fresh and just starting to scab over. In a film full of opposites in an orbit of attraction and repulsion, it helps adjust our focus. It’s a declaration that Pawlikowski doesn’t want to waste our time, and he doesn’t.

Can the Maya Rudolph Show survive the fact that no one likes variety shows?

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http://blogs.orlandoweekly.com/the-gist/for-reels/can-maya-rudolph-show-survive-fact-one-likes-variety-shows/

Last night NBC aired the pilot for The Maya Rudolph Show, an hour-long variety show that featured Sean Hayes, Andy Samberg, Fred Armisen, Kristin Bell and Craig Robinson, with Janelle Monae as the musical guest performing Electric Lady.

Hosted, of course, by Rudolph, the show doesn’t exactly throw it back to the Sid Ceaser Caesar or Muppets-style comedy-variety show, but sticks very close to its SNL roots — a little too close to separate itself from the superior Saturday show.

Overall, the show featured too much Sean Hayes and too many 12:50 slot quality sketches, including a dance off with Andy Samberg’s as Tony Manero (that could have been funny without Samberg), a kind of unbearable parody of The 25,000 Pyramid and Frozen sketch, with Rudolph, Bell and Hayes write the sequel:

Variety shows have been dead since the 80s, and with good reason. They’re a terrible television format, especially as the media landscape grows and tries to consume all of out waking hours. No one needs to rely on network television to see the stars they like as they did in the 40s and 50s. These days it’s harder to avoid seeing the stars you like than it is to see or read about them in far too much detail. We have little need for variety shows because everything else we can see on a screen to so tailored to our specific wants that the format falls to pieces the second something we don’t 100% like comes on.

You could argue that SNL is a comedy-variety show, but it’s so extremely tailored to its audience that it doesn’t really meet the “something for everyone” idea.

Those thoughts aside, there wasn’t much variety to this variety show. Outside of the monologue song (which featured backup dancers, a pony and plate spinning), it was a steady sea of dance numbers and sketch after sketch, with the enumerated guests (notably missing her more famous friends, Kristin Wiig, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler) playing all of the parts.

I could easily see this working as a stage show, especially a Vegas stage show, but on TV it’s just not a format that works anymore. We don’t want something for everyone, we want everything for us.

The Double – Richard Ayoade (2014)

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http://blogs.orlandoweekly.com/the-gist/for-reels/vod-review-richard-ayoades-the-double/

I have a suspicion that The Double, the second feature by The IT Crowd’s Richard Ayoade, will end up being one of the most sneaky films of the year, psychologically speaking. The film, which mixes everything from Dostoevsky and Kafka to Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, Hitchcock’s Rear Window and Billy Wilder’s The Apartment, is the kind of thing that says more about the viewer than it ever could about the artists.

The film stars Jessie Eisenberg and Jessie Eisenberg as Simon James and James Simon, employees at the same faceless bureaucratic conglomerate who look remarkably alike, though no one seems to notice.

Simon is a smart, hard worker who is held back by his timid anonymity; James is a confident, charming social climber who gets ahead by using Simon’s work as his own to impress their dipstick boss, Mr Papadopoulos (Wallace Shawn). If they sound like George McFly and Biff Tannen, they’re not. Simon is much more of a doormat than George ever was.

Though it gets there quickly, Simon and James’s relationship doesn’t start out in the dumps. In exchange for doing his work for him, James agrees to help Simon get the attention of his office crush, Hannah (Mia Wasikowska), the cute girl who works in the copy office that Simon admires from afar.

Naturally, she falls for the charismatic James instead of the insubstantial Simon.

And she falls hard.

It’s hard to find an aspect of this story that hasn’t been picked over at great length in so many indie films in the past that I’ve lost count at this point. Identity crises and unrequited love — not to mention visually quoting Billy Wilder and Franz Kafka — are the motor oil that keeps the indie film machine going, but there is something else going on in The Double too that makes it special.

We’re not necessarily asked through cinematic means to side with the painfully lonely and socially awkward Simon, as we usually are in an unrequited love story. He’s basically, whether he realizes it or not, a creepy dude who doesn’t really deserve Hannah. He spies on her with a telescope and picks through her trash for the artistic scraps that she throws away. Through the lens of the the telescope, Simon should be able to see that Hannah also isn’t the manic pixie dream girl he’s in love with in his head, but he’s such a blank personality that he can’t tell the difference.

Nor are we necessarily asked to identify with James, which is where the sneakiness lies. Ayoade keeps his distance from typicality, deflecting the identity question with a free riffing symphony of beautifully deadpan comedy (aided by a great supporting cast of Shawn, Cathy Moriarty, Noah Taylor, Chris O’Dowd, Paddy Considine, and Craig Roberts and Yasmin Paige who played opposite one another in Ayoade’s first film Submarine).

Ayoade and co-writer Avi Korine (brother of Harmony Korine) don’t seem to hold Simon in contempt, but they don’t hold back making him the butt of their film’s cosmic joke either. It’s an existentially cutting film. Even though we’re not manipulated into identifying with either Eisenberg, the divide of love and hate for this film might exist in whether you do or don’t. If you do identify with Simon or James, or at least with the central question of the film, it’s an insightful film; if you don’t, it’s a pretentious art school waste of time.

Fading Gigolo – John Turturro (2014)

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http://orlandoweekly.com/film/just-a-faded-gigolo-1.1681400

John Turturro is not, objectively speaking, a handsome man. You know this, and I know this. He knows it, too. Subjectively speaking, that changes. He’s confident, conversant, funny and has a hint of the maniac in his eyes. His face, you find as you take all of that into consideration, has real character.

In Fading Gigolo, which sees him play a mild-mannered florist turned reluctant (but rather high-priced) gigolo named Fioravante, that punim is the tool that Turturro wields as both actor and director. If he were handsome, it wouldn’t be a comedy; if he were without the many traits that give him character, it would just be a joke. But his face is the Goldilocks example: just right.

With Woody Allen as his pimp, Murray, Fioravante becomes the No. 1 loverman of his ZIP code – for a price, which they split. It’s all in practice for the initial request that comes to Murray from his therapist (Sharon Stone), who nervously wants him to arrange a three-way for her and her curious best friend, Selima (Sofía Vergara).

It’s a somewhat scatterbrained, novelistic film, though. The real plot is set off when Murray brings his adopted black child to the “lice lady,” a Hasidic widow named Avigal (Vanessa Paradis). Thinking she needs some comfort, Murray suggests Fioravante’s services under the guise of massage therapy. En route to her session with Fioravante, the Jewish neighborhood watchman (Liev Schreiber) with a lifelong crush on Avigal follows her to the appointment and susses out Murray’s plan, eventually kidnapping Murray to bring him before a rabbinical tribunal.

A complicated plot is fine for a novel, but in film, simple is almost always better. Each half of the plot is strange and funny in an entirely different way, but the two never mesh as a whole like they might in a novel, so the wildness of this storyline grab bag leaves the stitching far too visible.

But there is an almost perfect passage around the middle in which all of the extraneous elements part to the side and the film’s loneliness is examined. Fioravante and Avigal are characters from two different worlds, worlds that make it impossible to do anything about the budding connection they find together, but they smash face-first into the wall of love without worrying about it. For the briefest moment they find themselves. Not as a couple, but what they’re about as individuals.

It’s an elating, surprising piece of story, but it’s far too short-lived. Despite some funny moments, especially early on, before the film decides that it wants to be a little bit more than a straight comedy, you would have to say that the gigolo storyline doesn’t really fit into the film outside of the title. It’s a MacGuffin, but not on purpose. It was meant to be the funny part, but the story outgrew it and no one told Turturro. It’s brave to do something so different, but brave efforts don’t always work out. If they did, they wouldn’t require any bravery.

Can Girl Meets World live up to its original?

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http://blogs.orlandoweekly.com/the-gist/for-reels/can-girl-meets-world-live-original/

In our age of sequels, prequels and reboots, it’s the most fair-unfair question that exists: will it live up to the original? It’s a question that might not matter to those younger than the original, but to anyone of the right age for the original, it’s really the only question worth asking.

It’s a question we’ll ask a lot today between the opening of The Amazing Spider-man 2 and the just-released 60 second promo for the long awaited Girl Meets World.

The show sees the cast of Boy Meets World set 15 or so years along their journey in life, where Cory (Ben Savage) and Topanga (Danielle Fishel) have transitioned from high school sweethearts to an old married couple with two kids. The show centers on their oldest daughter, Riley (Rowan Blanchard), who looks to have inherited her dad’s quirky spunk more than her mom’s brainy practicality, but also on the family unit as a whole as the original did.

It will also feature Rider Strong, Betsy Randle, William Russ, Will Friedle and William Matthews in cameo roles throughout the series.

The show will not begin airing until the end of next month, but the anticipation has been building for months now as the cast have Tweeted out photos of the on-set reunions.

I was a little too old for Boy Meets World to have been my show in the same way The Adventures of Pete and Pete or Salute Your Shorts were. Those are the shows I feel possessive about. I remember Boy Meets World mostly existing in the background while stuck hanging out with younger cousins or friends with younger siblings. Through the casual osmosis of teenage ennui, it ended up seeping in though, and I eventually found myself idly watching reruns and becoming invested in the characters.

Strangely, I became most invested in Cory, the show’s main character. I say strangely because I usually find the main character to be the most boring. Maybe because he was already set in my brain as Fred Savage’s little brother Cory didn’t seem like the typical, boring main character.

The original show was done in the classic mold of zany comedy set up that ended with heart, not entirely unlike it’s Disney extended family cousins Step by Step or Full House, which ran the TGIF table in the 90s. But it was also entirely different. Entirely.

Part of the charm — maybe all of the charm — was that it was so dorky. Cory and Topanga were goddamn dorks, but they never slipped into clownishness like Steve Urkel or Balki Bartokomous. Shawn had his Fonzie thing, and Eric had his classic twist on the bimbo thing, but Cory and Topanga were dorks on a level I can’t remember seeing before. And of course they were backed up by the Father of Dorks in William Daniels, who finally had a body again after playing K.I.T. on Knight Rider.

The first promo for the show that Disney released last month showed none of that. If it’s unfair to question whether a show can live up to its predecessor, it’s cruel to release something so underwhelming as the first impression:

I almost expected an “oh, Mylanta” or “of course not, don’t be ridikulus” by the end of this clip. This clip had all of the appeal of Drexell’s Class or Thunder Alley.

It’s also a good example of how first impressions are sometimes pretty awful. Here is the spot-on promo that Disney uploaded this afternoon:

That’s a huge difference in approach and in general quality. It actually has the elusive feel of the original, but it’s removed from the original too — as an update should be. Riley and her best friend, Maya (Sabrina Carpenter), don’t have the dorkiness that made Cory and Topanga so special, but they seem to have something, and it’s kind of refreshing that neither of them are played by anyone’s younger sister (sorry Ben).

And, maybe most importantly, the show is not above a good nose pick joke, which bodes well.

That’s about as far as I was to go based on 60 seconds though. Sometimes second impressions aren’t worth that much either.

Dom Hemingway – Richard Shepard (2014)

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http://orlandoweekly.com/film/dom-hemingway-1.1677529

Bob Hoskins. Michael Caine. Terence Stamp. Clive Owen. Stephen Graham. When you think about the most noteworthy faces of English hard-men films, these are some of the names that come to mind. But Jude Law? That’s not a name that jumps out at you. Even when he’s played killers and criminals in the past (Shopping, Road to Perdition), you can still see the smiling pretty boy staring at you from under the makeup, hoping he doesn’t get caught out in a world he doesn’t belong in.

Except as Dom Hemingway, he does belong. As Dom Hemingway, he’s not a smiling pretty boy. He’s doughy and rude, bearded and maniacal – and damned funny, too.

Dom has been in jail for more than a decade, taking the time inside by himself instead of dropping the dime on his boss, Mr. Fontaine (Demián Bichir). In the intervening years, Mr. Fontaine has grown more rich and powerful while Dom’s life has become tattered. His wife has divorced him, remarried and died of cancer, and his only daughter, Evelyn (Emilia Clarke), hates his guts for the betrayal and for having to grow up without a father.

Now that he’s served his time and gotten out, though, he wants what is owed to him: money, a lot of it, and Evelyn back in his life. But neither are as easy as that.

The film is a black comedy in the tradition of Snatch and Bronson, though it comes in a tick below both. Its run of sight gags and one-liners are genuinely funny, but the American instinct to always add heart to the story keeps it from reaching the truly iconic-funny heights that Guy Ritchie and Nicolas Winding Refn reached in their films.

That’s not to say it was a move in error. Dom and Evelyn’s push-pull story works in the framework of the film, and director Richard Shepard gets touching, funny moments between Dom and his young grandson, Jawara (Jordan Nash), but it sticks out somewhat, hurting the depth of shading to a degree.

Emilia Clarke, in her first real film role since shooting to fame as Daenerys Targaryen on Game of Thrones, doesn’t have quite as meaty a role as she does when she plays the Khaleesi, but she is bright and believable. There is a lot of gravity to her character, and she holds it well, though her real standout scenes might be the ones in which she fronts a Pogues-esque band, including singing a cover of the Waterboys’ “Fisherman’s Blues.”

I’ve always been on the fence about Law. For every Gattaca or Closer, there are a handful of The Holidays and Cold Mountains to contend with. But if Dom isn’t his best performance, it’s certainly his funniest. I don’t know that it takes me off the fence, or makes me think he’s got a Matthew McConaughey streak coming, but he’s got three in a row now between this, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Anna Karenina and it could easily become one.