Films I Saw This Week 25/05/2015
The term ‘food porn’ has never been more appropriate than Jon Favreau’s Chef, in which the actor-director stars as the titular cook who takes his young son on a country-wide food truck tour to rediscover his passion for food. Favreau is great as the absent father trying to connect with his son, while there are enjoyable cameos from Dustin Hoffman, Robert Downey Jnr. and, especially, Oliver Platt as a critic who, surprisingly, is not just a cliché antagonist. While Chef may not have particularly high stakes or any real drama other than the relationship between a father and son, it’s a refreshingly positive and amiable comedy drama as warm-hearted and likable as any film in recent memory.
Despite the always dependable Robert Carlyle chewing as much scenery as he can fit in his mouth, in one of the most spectacularly hammy villain performances of the 90’s, Ravenous is a disappointingly dull film. Antonia Bird’s black comedy horror feels tonally confused from the get-go, struggling to decide if it wants to be a stylish Civil War film or a full on Sam Raimi gore flick. In the end, it’s neither; not funny enough to be a good comedy, not scary enough to be a horror. Even with Carlyle going more and more insane, and the incredibly gory body count piling up, Ravenous never truly comes to life, with the usually reliable Guy Pearce curiously stilted in a flat role. There are flashes of fun, but not nearly enough to sustain its 100 minute running time.
While not quite as intensely fascinating as Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer, Nick Broomfield’s Tales of the Grim Sleeper is a disturbing look into the life of Lonnie Franklin Jnr., a seemingly well liked LA citizen currently on trial for the murder of over 20 women. Broomfield secures some great subjects to interview, and the documentary casts a damning eye over a neglected part of the state of California. The endless interviews do start to get monotonous after an hour, and Broomfield should have perhaps considered using recreations or more news footage to make this a more gripping film. Tales of the Grim Sleeper houses some excellent material, yet never feels like a truly important documentary.
The first dramatic film of Peter Jackson, and the first film to truly show off his directorial talents, what Heavenly Creatures lacks in subtlety (melodrama is something that has plagued Jackson’s career), it more than makes up for in raw intensity and dazzling invention. In their debut roles, Melanie Lynskey and Kate Winslet are both superb as the difficult, dangerously imaginative teenagers who begin to retreat more and more into their own fantasy world; a world brought to life by creative living statues and stunning cinematography. After his early low budget comedies, Peter Jackson proved he could make a proper ‘grown up’ film in Heavenly Creatures. Over two decades on, it still stands up as a career highlight.
Morgan Neville’s Oscar-winning look into the world of backing singers presents innumerable scenes of big name interviewees and truly outstanding vocal performances (the goosebump-inducing scene of Merry Clayton and Mick Jagger listening to Gimme Shelter is the clear highlight). Though the film never rises above a nice, amiable chat with talented vocalists, and the documentary’s victory over the incomparable The Act of Killing at the Academy Awards is frankly ludicrous, 20 Feet From Stardom is a very pleasant and enjoyable watch.
Frank Oz’s black comedy farce Death At A Funeral has a talented ensemble cast and a hilarious first half, so it’s a shame the jokes slow right down in the second. The cast of British stalwarts (and Peter Dinklage) are very game, with standout turns from Alan Tudyk as a nervous boyfriend suffering through a hellish acid trip, the perennially underrated Andy Nyman as an irritable neurotic, and Dinklage as the visitor spoiling all the fun. It’s entertainingly ridiculous throughout and there are more than enough laughs to fill its 90 minute running time, but with a stronger third act, this could have really knocked it out of the park.
The Duplass brothers’ laidback comedy drama Jeff Who Lives At Home is one of the most bizarre film-watching experiences I can remember. For at least an hour, I was pretty underwhelmed. The story of Jeff (the always likable Jason Segel), a thirty year old man child living in his Mother (similarly likable Susan Sarandon)’s basement whilst trying to find his purpose in life, is fitfully amusing, and there is a lot of chemistry between Segel and on-screen brother Ed Helms, but it also, like most of the Duplass brothers’ work to date, felt a bit empty and pointless. However, the climax of Jeff Who Lives At Home won me over; not only is it the finest sequence Mark and Jay Duplass have ever crafted, but the ending scene is the puzzle piece that fits the film nicely together. Jeff Who Lives At Home is by no means a great film, but stick with it and you will ultimately feel rewarded.
By Harry Ford
- Posted in: Films I Saw This Week ♦ Reviews
- Tagged: 1994, 20 feet from stardom, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, aileen life and death of a serial killer, alan tudyk, andy nyman, british, chef, comedy, death at a funeral, documentary, drama, duplass brothers, dustin hoffman, guy pearce, heavenly creatures, horror, jason segel, jeff who lives at home, jon favreau, kate winslet, melanie lynskey, oliver platt, oscars, peter dinklage, peter jackson, ravenous, robert carlyle, robert downey jnr, sofia vergara, susan sarandon, tales of the grim sleeper, the act of killing