Tag Archives: Rain Man

Good Time

25 Aug

It’s “Rain Man” meets “Eddie Coyle” in this up-in-your-chest New York City heist flick. The film, by Boston University grads Benny and Josh Safdie, is imbued with the type of on-the-street grit that made Martin Scorsese’s “Mean Streets” so indelible, and the riveting electric score by Daniel Lopatin notches up the emotional disarray in every frame. If there’s one thing “Good Time” is not, is short on mood. The setup bookends the central narrative with scenes of a baby-faced young man by the name of Nick (played convincingly by Benny Safdie, doing double duty) under duress while in therapy sessions with a wild-haired psychiatrist (Peter Verby, whose face is a cinematic wonder in its own right). In the opener, Nick’s asked to give free association responses to random terms. His answers to “scissors and a cooking pan” (“You can hurt yourself with both”) and “salt and water” (“The beach”) are telling – not in the actual response, but how he responds. He clearly has some form of developmental handicap.

The scene smolders in tight closeups, but before the grim gravity of Nick’s prospects can take root fully – or the psychiatrist can dig any deeper – Nick’s brother Connie (Robert Pattinson) bursts through the door and extracts his sibling. Has Nick been saved? For the moment, yes, but not in the bigger scheme of things. The two are incredibly tight (the Safdies are clearly drawing on their own sibling bond) but pretty much have only each other to draw on and limited financial resources; to keep the pack together, Connie cooks up a plan to rob a bank in the middle of the day, the execution and choreography of which is so hauntingly reminiscent of “Dog Day Afternoon” you half expect Al Pacino to pop out with chants of “Attica.” The lads do make off with the cash, but matters with ride sharing, dye packs and Nick’s emotional instability provide steep obstacles. It’s a riveting game of cat and mouse as the brothers dash down littered alleyways and into a mall atrium with the police a hot breath away. Just as they look to be in the clear, Nick crashes through a glass pane and is taken into custody. Where the story goes next is as unpredictable as its protagonist. Continue reading

The Humbling

31 Jan

January 26, 2015  |  8:31pm
<i>The Humbling</i>

The translation of Phillip Roth’s words to the big screen has been a tricky feat for any filmmaker. You might recall the staid adaptation of The Human Stain (2003) or the bawdy spin on Goodbye Columbus (1969); many have argued that those leaps to a visual, more commercial, medium neutered the tone of Roth’s sexually torn, disenfranchised Jewish machismo. More affectingly and recent, the little-seenElegy (2008), adapted from Roth’s The Dying Animal, dug closer to the core of the author, and now The Humbling, which covers similar ground, launches another ambitious, if not quite righteous, go at the heralded American provocateur.

In the role of Roth’s alter-ego, Al Pacino plays Simon Axler, a well-regarded stage actor who struggles to remain relevant as he sails across the septuagenarian mark. Much of what Pacino has done on the silver screen over the past decade has tended towards warmed-over mush, which is cause for lament considering this is the icon of cinema who so indelibly barked out “Attica!” in Dog Day Afternoon and anchored Francis Ford Coppola’s timeless Godfather trilogy. (For the record, I’ll cite Jack and Jill and 88 Minutes and leave it at that.) The two endeavors in which Pacino has shone during that drought weren’t theatrical releases but the cable-produced biopics of Jack Kevorkian (You Don’t Know Jack) and Phil Spector, which is a fitting: Barry Levinson (Rain Man and The Natural) directed Pacino in Jack, and again steers him here.  Continue reading