The upshot is a film that is stunning to look at, even inspiring at times, but dramatically bizarre. Obviously, this technology has its place, but it makes too strong a statement to be casually used in remakes.
Written and directed by Riley Stearns, The Art of Self-Defense brings out a particularly skillful performance from Eisenberg, whose job is to harmonize the film’s odd shifts in tone and make something real and heartfelt of the central character’s journey.
Indeed, it's hard to figure out why this film was even made, beyond the fact that it could be made, that there was a loose idea and talented people willing to join in the fun. It's neither serious nor funny enough, and it adds nothing to Jarmusch's reputation. If anything, it might hurt it retroactively.
The film is mildly diverting, occasionally engaging, certifiably workmanlike and altogether too flat an experience to inspire any strong feelings, positive or negative. It’s just there. Some people watch movies for the same reason others climb mountains, because they are there. Well, this is a movie for that audience.
To an extent, the movie waters down its moral complexity by introducing a flat-out villainess, who begins to guide Jean’s actions, thus absolving Jean of some moral responsibility. Still, it’s hard to complain when the villainess is played by Jessica Chastain, the best person in the world to play a cool, coiffed, composed entity of evil, looking for a new planet for her displaced people.
With Pavarotti, director Ron Howard serves up a straightforward documentary about the great tenor’s life and career. It’s just a birth-to-death saga, featuring interviews with colleagues and loved ones and a catalogue of greatest hits, so nothing fancy here. But if you can find a better way to spend two hours, take it — I’ll stick with this.
Audiences will walk out with that good chiropractor feeling, the one that says, “Yes, I have been manipulated. I have been nothing but manipulated and pounded on for the past 90 minutes. And it was a very satisfying thing.”
You know what movie is even better than this? “Never Goin’ Back” (2018) from writer-director Augustine Frizzell, about two 17-year-old girls trying to raise money for a weekend getaway. It’s something like Booksmart, minus the rich Californians and the faint whiff of politically correct self-congratulation. Unfortunately, no one saw “Never Goin’ Back,” because it’s about working-class girls in Texas.
Aside from the defection scene, the only tension in The White Crow concerns whether Nureyev will achieve the renown he deserves or whether his career will be killed in the crib. That’s not nothing, but it’s small stuff to peg a two-hour movie on, especially one with an unsympathetic protagonist.
It’s rather amazing that Sophie Cookson, who has most of the screen time as young Joan, isn’t detestable in the role. It tells you that she’d be perfectly charming in another movie. Actually, Dench is more off-putting here, if only because destructive naivete is more forgivable in the young.