Clint takes a look at two new releases that come out each week –just a short look at what’s being released in theaters, along with some drinking rules for your own perusal.
Getaway / dir. Courtney Solomon / Warner Bros. Pictures
(Getaway comes to us from the director of Dungeons & Dragons; this should really be all I need to say about it, but I’ll go ahead and elaborate anyway.)
Do you remember in 2011, around when the excellent Nicolas Winding Refn movie Drive came out, and that woman sued the distributors and filmmakers for false advertising, given that the trailers make it look like Fast & the Furious when it’s more like if 80s Michael Mann got the arthouse bug? Getaway feels like the movie that woman wished she saw; it has exactly as many car chases as Drive didn’t, and it honestly suffers greatly for it. The story is high-concept and simple like many of these kinds of thrillers: Ethan Hawke plays a former racecar driver-turned-wheelman whose wife is kidnapped on Christmas by a mysterious Bulgarian voice on the end of a phone (played by Jon Voight’s stubbled lips). In order to get his wife back, Hawke must steal a fancy Mustang with a bunch of car-mounted cameras and go on a rampage around a Bulgarian city – Voight’s literal instructions are “Wreck everything.” That’s what the movie does for 90 minutes.
At first glance, that sounds really fun; car chases and crashes are phenomenal, and Getaway does something right by taking so much effort into making the stunts and chases with as many practical effects as possible. Cars tumble and crash in mid-air, motorcycles flip, bullets ricochet, and it’s all very superficially exciting. The problem, however, is that it’s filmed like absolute dogshit; the gimmick of filming most of it through the GoPro car cameras is combined with extremely disorienting and hyperkinetic editing to make the car chases nearly incomprehensible. With the cameras hugging so close to Ethan Hawke’s face and various parts of various cars, there are too few instances where the camera pulls back to give us a tight sense of space. Not only that, there’s a sameness to the environments that make many of the car chases difficult to distinguish from each other. It gets exhausting after awhile, and you have no idea what’s going on.
The script and characters don’t help make it easier to figure out what’s going on, or to care even if you have it down. Hawke does what he can to inject energy into his lifeless wheelman role, but can only go so far. Eventually, he has to recruit spunky teen genius Selena Gomez, who takes the passenger seat for the majority of the film. I’ll give it to Gomez, she is also trying really hard to make herself interesting, but the character is the same annoying, laptop-hacking, hoodie-wearing techie sidekick we all got sick of in the 90s. The plot involves LED-lit flash drives, encrypted live feeds of the rotating IP address in government servers and so much more 24-esque technobabble that all, unfortunately, has to come out of Gomez’s mouth, and Voight’s motivations are still somewhat murky, other than his eventual admission that he’s just a “big fan” of Hawke’s driving, and wants him to realize his potential doing this kind of crime work. It’s an incredibly limp story, which I wouldn’t mind as much if the chase scenes were entertaining.
There is, admittedly, one shot that fully realizes the potential of the film’s gimmick – the film’s final chase eventually straightens out into one extended, unbroken shot from Hawke’s dashboard following the SUV he is chasing. This goes on for minutes, and achieves almost a zen-like sense of peace and calm in the midst of all the chaotic editing the film otherwise contains. Hawke (and the audience) feel like a predator stalking its prey, which is desperately trying to get away, and I find that really interesting. I wish more of the film was like that, or that the concept was more fully realized (it would have been better if the whole chase was this one shot). Instead, it all feels like a low-rent Transporter cash-in, about a decade too late.
Clint’s Verdict: Skip It
Drinking Rules for Getaway:
1) Drink whenever someone says “My wife!” or “Your wife!”
2) Drink every time you see a gaudy, only-in-the-movies screen graphic
3) Drink for every gruesome closeup of Jon Voight’s lips
Finish Your Drink When:
Selena Gomez says, “You are the shittiest driver I’ve ever seen!”
The Spectacular Now / dir. James Ponsoldt / A24
Now that summer movie season is dying down, I’ve got more time to hit up some indie films like I did earlier this year; after seeing The Spectacular Now, I’m glad I did. Based on the titular book by Tim Tharp, the film is more or less your typical independent coming-of-age movie, with misspent youth, troubled burgeoning relationships and, as the MadTV sketch goes, “Pretty White Kids with Problems.” However, James Ponsoldt’s film manages to stand above the rest with some excellent performances, a very sly hand in addressing its characters, and a very down-to-earth approach in its drama.
The Spectacular Now follows Sutter Keely (Miles Teller, who runs away with this movie), a disaffected youth who chooses to live in the ‘now’ as opposed to worrying about his future or regretting his past. This is all a smokescreen, of course, to ignore the specter of his deadbeat, alcoholic dad and his overly strict mother, as well as the potential dangers of taking anything seriously; however, that all starts to change when he meets and falls for clichéd nice-girl Aimee (Shailene Woodley), and he has to start confronting some ugly truths about himself.
The best part about The Spectacular Now is that, despite playing along with the normal self-absorbed trappings of sensitive teen movies, its sentiment never feels overly cloying or pretentious. Sutter’s high-functioning alcoholism never becomes What the Movie’s About, but is weaved in the narrative enough that it’s clear that this is his problem (which starts rubbing off on Aimee). Miles Teller’s performance is mesmerizing, as his laidback aloofness charms us (as much as it charms the people around him) into thinking that maybe he doesn’t have a problem. When the threads start to come unraveled, especially after a disappointing reunion with his long-estranged father (Kyle Chandler), Teller makes Sutter’s reactionary pain feel very real. It’s refreshing to see someone who is patently not conventionally handsome play the lead in a teen movie, as Teller’s facial scars (real-life scars from the actor’s brush with death in a car accident a year or two ago) actually contribute to Sutter’s self-destructive nature. Woodley’s quite good in this too, but the film doesn’t ask as much of her as I would like; she mostly becomes a case study for Sutter’s effect on people that are close to him, as she is both charmed by his charisma but led into a habit of regular drinking. A mid-film moment where Sutter gives Aimee a flask of her own as a prom gift elicits both a feeling of naïve romance and pathos, making the film feel (both literally and figuratively) like a car crash waiting to happen.
The rest of the supporting cast is strong, though they are little more than ciphers for Sutter to react to. Jennifer Jason Leigh has a fine scene at the end as Sutter’s concerned mom, but mostly nags and ignores him otherwise. Bob Odenkirk plays the benevolent boss who nonetheless plays hard with Sutter’s sense of responsibility, culminating in a very low-key but charged moment when Sutter must choose between his job and his drinking. Brie Larson is surprisingly layered as the ex-girlfriend who recognizes Sutter’s faults. Dayo Okeniyi’s Marcus would have been the asshole jock romantic competition in any other teen movie, but instead comes across as a well-rounded, desperately honest individual. Sutter’s effect on these characters is palpable, as everyone is drawn to him even though he knows not why.
In short, The Spectacular Now is a wonderfully unapologetic and emotional film about the realities of growing up and discovering the need for responsibility. It manages to avoid overt preachiness, despite the somewhat overwrought choice to frame the movie in terms of a college application letter, and strong performances elevate it over other movies of this type. The film’s depiction of teenage relationships and struggles feels realistic, as there is little unnecessary drama and few tragic twists that dramatically change Sutter’s fate – though there is one event near the end that absolutely shocks in the best way. Give it a look.
Clint’s Verdict: Liked It
Drinking Rules for The Spectacular Now:
1) Drink whenever Sutter or anyone else takes a drink
2) Drink every time you see an IM, call or website
3) Drink any time someone says the words “fun” or “serious”
Finish Your Drink When:
Sutter says, “I don’t see the point in being an adult. I mean, are you happy?”