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Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

22 Oct

‘Borat Subsequent Moviefilm’: Updated antics Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of America

By Tom Meek
Wednesday, October 21, 2020

People thinking back to Sacha Baron Cohen’s gonzo 2006 mock-doc “Borat” will certainly remember that pud-padded, shoulder-looped green G-string, but may have forgotten how the bold and experimental film pulled the mask off bigotry and entitlement in the United States. With “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” Baron Cohen’s back with more of the same, but this one’s more targeted, loaded and timely. It doesn’t pack quite the same zany eye-pop – that bud’s bloomed – but it is the first film in my mind to tackle both Donald Trump’s divisive presidency and the Covid pandemic.

The setup is fairly simple, though the execution is not: In Borat’s native Kazakhstan, just out of a gulag, the overly zealous (and clueless) journalist is tasked by authorities with delivering a gift to the Trump administration so Kazakhstan can gain favor among other strongman countries of the world – Russia, Syria and so on. The film’s extended title is: “Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.” The bribe? National treasure Jonny the Monkey is to be delivered to “No. 1 ladies’ man” Michael Pence – aka “the vice pussy grabber.” Jonny, a well dressed chimp, doesn’t quite make it to America, so Borat rolls with Plan B, which is to offer up his 15-year-old daughter Tutar (relative newcomer Maria Bakalova) as a child bride.

If you’re somehow not familiar with Baron Cohen’s “Borat” schtick, the major growl in his irreverence engine is the punking of everyday people – whom you’d think would see it coming a mile away, but 14 years is a long time and most targets are xenophobic types south of the Mason-Dixon Line where the name “Borat” might suggest cured meat or a cold soup from an enigmatic and heretical religious sect. In a bakery, Borat asks the counterperson to put the inscription “Jews will not replace us,” on a newly purchased confection. Later, at a debutant ball (how did he even get in there?) Borat and his daughter perform something of an Eastern Bloc jig with the daughter’s dress unfurling for a visible jaw dropper among the well-heeled upper crust. Getting closer to his mark, Borat takes the stage at a right wing rally, crashes a Pence speech and dons Klan robes and a Trump costume. The real grabber is Tutar, dressed up and looking eerily like Ivanka Trump, interviewing Rudy Giuliani and ultimately coaxing him into a compromising situation that not only raises eyebrows and questions of ethnics, but likely will fry what’s left of the former New York City mayor’s reputation.

The film was shot during the spring and summer as Covid raged across the country – Giuliani at one point says Trump saved a million lives because the Democrats would never have acted. Throughout the course of the film, use of masks increase and the disease quietly and slowly becomes a key player. The reveals of a divided America hopefully are nothing new to viewers, but the comic reframing is a healthy reminder with the election on tap. The real revelation here is Bakalova as Borat’s daughter, seamless in her audacious pranking. With Baron Cohen there’s always a puckish nod and wink in his eye; with Bakalova, it’s smooth and natural, with nothing contrived. As a result, the darkness of the candid camera moments is deeper and more visceral. “Subsequent Moviefilm” pokes us all in the eyes and exposes us to a new talent.

Honest Thief

18 Oct

‘Honest Thief’: There’s no particular set of skills on display in tale of Boston burglar done wrong

By Tom Meek
Thursday, October 15, 2020

For the past decade Liam Neeson has made nonstop B-level actioners, with the “Taken” series as the defining cornerstone; now we have “Honest Thief,” which feels like a B-minus version of a “Taken” entry. What’s more, it takes place here and adds to the string of recent Boston duds alongside “Ava” with Jessica Chastain unbelievable as a Charlize Theron-esque hitwoman, and Adam Sandler’s “Hubie’s Halloween,” set in Salem. They all make for good locale watching, but can the Hub please get a plot worthy of our time?

Here Neeson plays Tom Dolan, a debonair former military operative turned cat burglar. Despite the name and location, he’s no Thomas Crown. Dubbed “the In and Out Burglar” by Boston’s FBI bureau – a label he deeply despises – Tom has yet to tell his girlfriend Annie (Kate Walsh, “Grey’s Anatomy”) about his trade. His plan for coming clean? Confess to the authorities, cut a deal, get out early and marry his betrothed. 

What can go wrong, right? Well for starters, the FBI thinks he’s a crank caller, and a double-dealing agent (Jai Courtney, “Terminator Genisys”) and his conflicted partner (Anthony Ramos, “Hamilton”) want Tom’s stash and figure to frame him for a murder. 

Naturally things get ugly, and Annie gets caught in the middle. That’s when things get truly painful as Neeson, so far from his turns in “Schindler’s List” (1993) and even Martin Scorsese’s “Silence” (2016), uses his stately Irish baritone to mansplain violence. The dialogue feels mostly like screenwriting workshop leftovers. In one scene Annie, now aware of what Tom’s up to, reacts with, “The first surprise was ‘Let’s get a cute house in Newton’ and the second surprise is that you’re a bank robber?” Honestly?

The film disappoint too because it’s from Mark Williams, co-creator of the Emmy-winning Netflix series “Ozark.” There Williams helped cook up a genuinely dark crime drama imbued with character and nuance. If only some of that smartness had made it to Massachusetts.

Rebecca

18 Oct

‘Rebecca’: Much like the new Mrs. de Winter, gorgeous retake is haunted by earlier version

By Tom Meek
Friday, October 16, 2020

Ben Wheatley, the mind behind such dark endeavors as “High-Rise” (2015) and “Kill List” (2011), has said this “Rebecca” is not a remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 Academy Award winner (Hitchcock’s first Hollywood film) but instead a new envisioning of the gothic novel by Daphne du Maurier. The casting here is a tad off; in Hitch’s version the venerable Laurence Olivier played Max de Winter as a brooding yet debonair depressive, while in Wheatley’s re-spin we get a hunky Armie Hammer (“The Social Network,” “Call Me By Your Name”), who doesn’t seem quite as much in the throes of grief about his perished wife of the title. No, Wheatley fires this up as a stately love affair between two physically blessed people: Hammer’s widower and Lily James (“Cinderella”) as the new Mrs. de Winter. The two meet in Monte Carlo, Max just getting back into circulation after the death of his wife and James an American semi-stranded abroad. Sparks fly instantly, and Wheatley and his stars spend some time steaming up the screen before moving on to the psychological and mystery components of du Maurier’s work that Hitchcock and crew mastered so effortlessly.

For those unfamiliar with the work, once nestled at Max’s lush, seaside Cornish estate Manderley – cinema’s other big sweeping iconic manse, along with Tara from “Gone With the Wind” – the new Mrs. de Winter becomes haunted by the specter of the former Mrs. de Winter through Max’s aloofness, her own psychological delusions and the bitingly barbed politeness of the head caretaker, Mrs. Danvers (Kristin Scott Thomas). There’s also a revisiting of what really happened to Rebecca. Wheatley, adroit at dread and a master of dark, atmospheric effect, applies these talents to awkward effect here, with some working seamlessly and others lifting you out of the tale. It’s shot gorgeously by Laurie Rose, who’s worked on most of Wheatley’s other films and makes the most of the bigger budget and palette here. Hammer and James are fine, no matter how deeply handicapped they are by living in the shadow of Olivier and Joan Fontaine; but the film really perks up when Mrs. Danvers is on screen, with Thomas worthy to follow Judith Anderson, who earned an Oscar nod for the part in Hitch’s production. Also notable is Sam Riley (“Control”) as the devious Jack Favell, who had connections to Rebecca and an acrimonious relationship with Max. 

You have to admire Wheatley for taking on such a mantle. It’s a heavy one, and there was Gus Van Sant’s 1998, frame-by-frame remake of Hitchcock’s “Psycho” (1960) out there to warn him off. Right, it’s not a remake, but the comparisons are inevitable and the expectations sky high.

A Rainy Day in New York

14 Oct

‘A Rainy Day in New York’: Woody Allen’s latest, if you’re willing to see it, makes it into theaters

By Tom Meek

This may be going out on a limb, but can it be that one crisis covers for another? I mean, would Woody Allen’s “A Rainy Day in New York ” find a release if there wasn’t Covid, theaters were fully open and the ire of the #MeToo moment was still the poker-hot social issue? I wonder. Back in 2019, when #MeToo brought renewed focus on charges of sexual misconduct against Allen from his daughter Dylan Farrow, Amazon dropped the film and many of its stars – Jude Law, Timothée Chalamet and Elle Fanning – distanced themselves from the project and the director.

Allen, whose filmmaking career has spanned seven decades and employed some of the biggest thespian talents (Joaquin Phoenix, Javier Bardem, Cate Blanchett) and given rise to others (Diane Keaton, Meryl Streep), has had more recent misses (“Wonder Wheel, ” “Irrational Man,” “Magic in the Moonlight”) than hits (“Cafe Society ” and “Blue Jasmine”). Given his run in the ’70s and ’80s churning out comedy classics such as “Annie Hall ” (1977), “Sleeper” (1973) and “Hannah and Her Sisters ” (1986), one has to wonder if the tabloid controversies haven’t taken their toll on Allen’s artistry. 

The good news is, that after much ado (Allen had sued Amazon over the non-release) “A Rainy Day in New York ” is something of a solid-effort uptick. Nothing new or earth-shattering, mind you, just a nice revisit to the Allen universe where characters collide in a comically (dark) cloistered and privileged environment. “Rainy Day” is similar in atmosphere and scope to “Cafe Society.”

Allen’s alter-ego this time is a lad by the name of Gatsby Welles (Chalamet), something of a college-aged Holden Caulfield. He’s well-off, already flopped out of an Ivy League institution, simmering with discontent and adorned with an attractive arm piece named Ashleigh (Elle Fanning) who seems less interested in Gatsby than in celebrity. (Allen made a similarly named film in 1998 with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kenneth Branagh that not enough people lent their eyes to.) Gatsby also has a bit of a complicated relationship with his highbrow mother (Cherry Jones, biting deep into the juicy part). Much of what propels the film, besides the imposing event of the title that pushes players together – i.e., through a shared cab ride with someone you’d rather avoid – is the love triangle that develops when Gatsby runs into Chan (Selena Gomez), the younger sister of a girl he used to date and whose trickle-down tales of that former romance pin Gatsby in the 4-6 range for things such as romantic attentiveness and kissing.

The overly ambitious and greener pasture-looking Ashleigh remains in the dark, or uncaring, as she’s just scored a big journalistic scoop interviewing a famous filmmaker (Liev Schreiber) in the throes of late career melancholy. This leads to introductions to a neurotic screenwriter (Law) looking to step out on his wife, whom he things is cheating on him, and the hot actor du jour (Diego Luna) – think DiCaprio, Clooney or Phoenix. 

The windup comes a bit fast, and the revelations come out of left field, but be thankful Jones’ domineering grand dame holds it all together. Chalamet, still hot off his Academy Award turn in “Call Me By Your Name” (2017), feels a bit lost in the traffic here, as he did in “Little Women” (2019). Gatsby is swept along by the action, not driving it. The actor’s boyish good looks play to and against the part, and is best when he’s rocked on his heels either by mum or Gomez’s puckish challenger. 

For folks longing for a classic Woody Allen film, this is as about as close to the spot as it’s been in years, maybe even a decade. It’s not close to a classic, but also a film we might not have seen in a wide release if the latest James Bond film, “No Time to Die,” did not get pushed to 2021. Theaters, now closing because of such delays, need quality content, and there’s a dearth of it. (Just look at what’s playing at Kendall Square or in any AMC theater, while Regal Fenway is re-closing). “A Rainy Day in New York ” is not James Bond or “Tenet,” but it is the next best thing for now.

On the Rocks

1 Oct

‘On the Rocks’: Coppola’s back with Bill Murray, on the hunt for infidelity with a daughter adrift

By Tom Meek

Sofia Coppola’s one of the directors whose movies I eagerly await. She pulled me in with her gauzy debut of teen angst, “The Virgin Suicides” (1999) starring Kirsten Dunst, and cemented her status as a filmmaker to watch with her follow-up “Lost in Translation” (2003), a beguiling chapter of detachment and ennui abroad. With “On the Rocks” she re-teams with that film’s co-star, Bill Murray, for something similar but yet far less striking. Part of that may be the film’s gaiety in these times of debate madness and Covid spikes; also too, like “Marriage Story” (2019), which starred “Translation” co-star Scarlett Johansson, well-intentioned delves built around beautiful people with means who happen to hit an emotional speed bump can be a hard sell. “Translation” steered around that adroitly with deep, lonely portraits buoyed by meted measures of droll humor, and Coppola’s take on “Marie Antoinette” (2006) gave the blasé final French queen (“let them eat cake”) a soul.

Here we have Laura (Rashida Jones), a writer who thinks her husband, Dean (Marlon Wayans), is cheating on her. They seem like a free-spirited romantics when we meet them at their wedding and they blow off the party to jump in the hotel pool. But now, with two kids, a degree of detachment has set in and they’re hitting some of the snags Coppola’s clawed through before. There’s a general glumness in their spacious New York flat, but you can’t put your finger on the exact reason. Girl talk with BFF Vanessa (Jenny Slate) just underscores Laura’s writer’s block and obsessive suspicions. Enter Laura’s dad, Felix (Murray, who really has the smugly chummy thing down), an eternal hedonist, world traveler and serial philanderer. There’s no woman who doesn’t get a second look, and you can tell Felix was never really the greatest dad. If there was any doubt, the record gets set straight when Laura shares her fears about Dean with him and he comforts her with a gallon of gasoline and a flamethrower – telling her all the ways men cheat and citing examples of his devious skill at it.

Where does the film go from there? It’s kind of an “I Spy” bonding story with Laura making up fibs about where she is so Felix and she can spy on Dean and his lithe, eager assistant Fiona (Jessica Henwick), including air trips to foreign countries. A nifty, Woody Allen-esque development comes a bit late in the film and ties up too quickly; the film needs an extra stretch of runway to really stick the landing. Jones, Quincy’s daughter who was so good as a legal negotiator in “The Social Network” (2010), is an affable presence, but she doesn’t quite project writer. Murray, of course, is the reason to see the film. Those big, satirical eyes and rubbery mouth convey volumes in a look, and when he speaks, it’s usually to let the quills fly. “On the Rocks,” not just because of Murray, feels like a sequel of sorts to “Translation” – older man with status with a young woman in a drifting relationship under his wing. It’s not as complex or provocative, and you never feel like anything is truly at risk, but you’re happy to spend time with this daddy-daughter duo as they wrestle with their very first-world problems.

The Boys in the Band

1 Oct

‘The Boys in the Band’: Having a gay old time, from the stage to Netflix in over a half-century

By Tom Meek

It seems that 1968 is all the rage in 2020. Last week we had Aaron Sorkin’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7” about those held responsible for the 1968 Democratic Convention riots; over at the Roxbury International Film Festival there’s “The Sit-In: Harry Belafonte Hosts The Tonight Show,” a documentary about NBC’s socially minded response to race riots in the late 1960s. Now there’s this cinematic adaptation of Mart Crowley’s “The Boys in the Band,” a play weaving in and out of a gay birthday party in a New York City flat that’s thrown into chaos when a straight man shows up. The revisit is not so much fond nostalgia, but a dialogue about where we are now: divided, having seemingly made little progress.

Learning of the Ryan Murphy (“Glee,” “American Horror Story”) produced project, I wasn’t quite sure another film version of Crowley’s honest and open look at gay culture pressure-cooked by social judgment was necessary. The 1970 adaptation directed by Willam Friedkin (who would go on to do “The French Connection,” “The Exorcist” and “Cruising”) was a tight, clustered affair driven by anger and revelation. That’s somewhat less true here. There’s more bounce and ebullition before the sour turn of confronting one’s past and hard truths. The play was resurrected on Broadway in 2018 for its 50th anniversary, and the stage director there (Joe Mantello) and entire cast boot up for this Netflix production – with better sets, multiple takes and a bigger platform.

The cast is excellent, especially Jim Parsons as party host Michael, who inadvertently invites an old college friend, Alan (Brian Hutchison), who’s straight (is he?). Michael’s got a lot of catty sass – “Just because I wear expensive clothes doesn’t mean they’re paid for” – which peels away when Alan shows up and strikes another party member in the face for using female pronouns for men and being a “pansy.” And the guest of honor hasn’t arrived. From there the boozy evening spirals inward and downward, not so much because of Alan, but because of global self-hating that’s in frame from scene one. These are deeply carved characters that have been known and lived in. The masks get pulled off and you’re in, in deep.

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Kajillionaire

27 Sep

‘Kajillionaire’: Arrested-development daughter gets glimpse of growth from a family of grifters

By Tom Meek

I’ve always been piqued by Miranda July, a Renaissance human blessed with a cool name and an idiosyncratic presence who, it seems, effortlessly churns out witty short stories (“Roy Spivey”) and quirky but not quite nervy films (“Me and You and Everyone We Know,” “The Future”). Her works always bump up against mainstream sensibilities and veer toward the dark, like a Harmony Korine movie (“Trash Humpers,” “Spring Breakers,” “The Beach Bum”) without the extreme depravity. Her latest, “Kajillionaire” is more of the same, but also perhaps, the most accessible of her brief portfolio (in “The Future” an ill cat named Paw Paw narrates, the moon talks and a T-shirt drags its mangled form along a sidewalk). It’s a double clutch of sorts that centers on the Dyne family, a trio of lo-fi grifters in Los Angeles who run rickety “skimming” schemes – pilfering mail, and insurance and store-return scams. What’s clear is that the oddly named daughter, Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood), is a poster child of arrested development. At the age of 26, she has the sensibilities of a 14-year-old boy, wears a bright aqua blue jogging jacket that rivals that of Seth Rogen’s journo nerd in “Long Shot” (2019) and is possessor of bad dance moves reminiscent of Ben Affleck’s smooth wannabe in “Good Will Hunting” (1998). What Old Dolio is in need of is a mall run with some female besties, but mom and dad (Richard Jenkins and Debra Winger) have isolated her with their over-engineered ploys and meager living conditions; they squat in a warehouse next to a bubble factory where occasionally globular mounds of pink ooze cascade down the wall or hang from the ceiling like The Blob.

Old Dolio’s parents are caring enough. Even as they surreptitiously meander the seedy back alleyways looking for their next mark/opportunity, you can feel a solid family vibe, the same way you could in Hirokazu Koreeda’s “Shoplifters” (2018). Then the family runs into a perky opticians assistant named Melanie (Gina Rodriguez, so good in a small role in Alex Garland’s “Annihilation”) while in the midst of a ruse and she wants in on the action, even pitching a scam or two herself – grifters gotta be grifting. To tell much more how the film evolves would be to do July and company a disservice. The film does change gears, and Melanie becomes a vehicle for Old Dolio to step outside the box of a world her parents have kept her in. Melanie, in short, becomes Old Dolio’s guide to adult womanhood, and perhaps independence. The cast all around delivers nuanced performances, but Wood, so electric and edgy in Catherine Hardwicke’s “Thirteen” (2003) and the star of the hit series “Westworld,” finds a whole other thespian gear here. As Old Dolio she simultaneously conveys street wisdom and naïveté with a fluidity that’s nothing short of masterful. You can really feel the collaboration between the actress and July, something of a performance artist and a personality chameleon herself, to bring Old Dolio to life. For all its quirks and kookiness, I must say, “Kajillionaire” does, to a degree, feel like it should have colored outside the lines a tad bit more, but I’m enjoying July’s career arc. If I have anything to say about it, I’d love to see her make a film about “Roy Spivey.”

The Trial of the Chicago 7

27 Sep

‘The Trial of the Chicago 7’: They’re on the stand for taking a stand, and ’68 isn’t so far from 2020

By Tom Meek

Aaron Sorkin knows his way around a courtroom, as evidenced by his play “A Few Good Men” and its 1992 cinematic adaptation starring Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise. The tightly controlled dialogue between the two A-listers bristled with personality and ideology, and that’s even more true in “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” a dramatization of the trial of a diverse lot of famed counterculture leaders – student movement activists Tom Hayden and Rennie Davis, Black Panther Bobbie Seale and hippies Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin among them – charged under Nixon AG John Mitchell for inciting riots at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. At the epicenter of the riots and trial are issues of inequality, racism and police brutality; what’s old is new again, and timely in its arrival (now at the Landmark Theatre Kendall Square, and coming to Netflix in mid-October).

Sorkin, nominated for an Academy Award for “Moneyball” (2011) and “Molly’s Game” (2017), winner for his script on the biting take on Facebook’s ignominious Harvard origins (“The Social Network,” 2010) and the creative force behind “The West Wing,” takes on double duty here as director as he did on “Molly’s Game,” in which Jessica Chastain was a high-stakes poker host. He’s blessed with an impressive cast here, with Eddie Redmayne as the all-American Hayden, Sacha Baron Cohen (“Borat,” 2006) as the punchily comedic Hoffman, Mark Rylance (“Bridge of Spies,” 2015) as defense attorney William Kunstler and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (“Watchmen”), commanding and powerful as Seale, who was implicated in a murder in New Haven, Connecticut, around the same time. On the other side of the courtroom, Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives a deeply nuanced performance as conflicted chief prosecutor Richard Schultz, and Frank Langella is the specter of everything wrong with our justice system as control-minded Judge Hoffman. He and Baron Cohen’s crack-firing prankster own the screen while in frame – one makes you smile and raise your fist in the air, while the other makes you fume.

How the trial all works out is a matter of record. The contemporary relevance is haunting – leading to the bigger question of why we haven’t learned from the past. The film, with most of the drama unfolding in court (the riots is in flashbacks), is a lean, mean sizzler, taut at every turn. Given this spare, strange year, there’s a lot of Oscar timber here all around: Gordon-Levitt for one, the film and Sorkin on both ends, and three, if not four, supporting nods.

Tenet

14 Sep

‘Tenet’: Time travel caper by Christopher Nolan chooses its moment, masked against apocalypse

By Tom Meek

Well, I did it: I went to a theater and saw “Tenet.” Would I recommend you to? That’s a personal call. For me it didn’t feel too risky, but read on. I attended a 4 p.m. show at Landmark’s Kendall Square Cinema. I bought my ticket online, but still had to wait in line to show the usher behind a plexiglass shield my emailed barcode and get a printed ticket. I saw only three other people at the theater, all folks asking for senior discounts – in short, those in high-risk categories but clearly desperate for an in-theater experience, as was I. Landmark offered no snacks, and masks had to be worn 100 percent of the time. Every two seats in the theaters are blocked off, and management asks you to sit in alternating rows – something, I did not need to worry about. I was the only person at my screening. (Apple Cinemas near Fresh Pond and Alewife is showing it too, since reopening Friday.)

This being a Christopher Nolan film, seeing it on a big screen is kind of a must – in the very least for the imposing, driving score (by Ludwig Göransson, though it feels and sounds a lot like Hans Zimmer’s work on Nolan’s 2010 “Inception”) and the impressive camera work by Hoyte Van Hoytema, Oscar-nominated for Nolan’s WWII time scramble, “Dunkirk” (2017). Playing with time and space is Nolan’s thing; he did it with “Memento” (2000) to tell a murder mystery in reverse, and “Interstellar” (2012) as space travelers who go through a black hole where decades of Earth time pass in minute. Here time is imbued into objects sent back from the future. Sounds zany, right? It’s one of the things you just let wash over you, because no matter how hard Nolan and his characters try to explain, you feel like you’re just not getting it. The best I can do is that you can rewind history and insert yourself into the action – in essence, altering the future – but the catch is everyone else is moving in reverse while you’re going forward. People walk backward, cars go in reverse, and bullets get sucked back into their gun. 

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I’m Thinking of Ending Things

4 Sep

I’m Thinking of Ending Things’: Breaking up – hard to do even without a blinding storm of meta

By Tom Meek

The latest from the mind of Charlie Kaufman, the man who penned “Being John Malkovich” (1999) and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (2004), making his third directorial effort feels something of a follow-up to his trippy yet meandering 2008 debut, “Synecdoche, New York” if co-written by David Foster Wallace. Interestingly enough, Wallace is one of the many solemn topics discussed in “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” by Jake (Jesse Plemons) and his girlfriend (Jessie Buckley, whose character is never given a name and is referred to in the credits only as “the young woman”) on an arduous road trip. Other pleasant and not so pleasant subjects arise as the two sail through a brimming snowstorm: Mussolini, Wordsworth, the musical “Oklahoma!” and suicide bombers – routine stuff, in Kaufman’s universe.

Tellingly, as the sojourners dig intellectually deep into anything grim or arty, their seeming road to nowhere takes on an existential quality, an apt reflection of where the couple’s relationship is likely heading on their way to meet Jake’s parents. They’ve been dating for a few weeks and already the pairing seems doomed, if not done. The title, taken from Ian Reid’s novel (that the film is based on) is not about suicide, as one might think, but the refrain in voiceover asides by Buckley’s passenger about how she needs to end things with Jake each time he responds to her vibrant snark with glum counter offerings.

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