Sunday, May 29, 2011

Week of May 27 to June 2 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann
     Have you ever been to a film festival? If so, you’ll recognize the mix of a major star vehicle, and a couple of small human interest stories that make up the Tropic’s program this week. The theater’s own little festival, just for us.
     The big movie is THE BEAVER, featuring Mel Gibson in his first return to the screen after his weird Mayan adventure story Apocalypto, and his even weirder drunken personal behavior that threatened to wreck his career. Jodie Foster, who directs The Beaver and plays Gibson’s wife in the movie, has told interviewers she cast him in the role because he had the unique talent to make this difficult script work.
The story is about Walter Black, a depressed alcoholic (Gibson) who manages to ward off suicidal behavior by ventriloquizing a beaver hand puppet who replaces his tormented self. There is an undeniable comic element to seeing the former Braveheart and Mad Max as a sagging shell of a man dependent on this alter ego, which speaks with a Cockney accent and reminds viewers of Senor Wences or the Geico lizard. But it’s also impossible to separate Walter Black from the real Gibson, whose travails gave him ample insight into the character.
     Balancing these story elements was not an easy task. The script for The Beaver was something of a legend, rated as the best unproduced script in town by a website that rates such stuff ( But Foster, looking for a third directorial project (after Little Man Tate and Home for the Holidays), was not one to be deterred by difficult material, not when she had Gibson. “There isn’t anybody—anybody—who isn’t blown away by this performance,” she says.
     She is also astute in her casting of Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone) and Anton Yelchin (Star Trek, Terminator Salvation) as the lead supporting actors. He’s Walter Black’s older son, a teenager so angry at his father that he fills a wall with post-it notes of his father’s behaviors that he must learn not to emulate. She’s his love interest, a superficially popular girl who has her own torments.
     It’s a dark movie, no doubt, but for Foster, and maybe for Gibson, too, it’s about getting through crisis and emerging stronger. That’s something we all can use. In any event, it’s “a film of power, wit and thought-provoking ideas.” (Orlando Sentinel)
     THE MUSIC NEVER STOPPED based on a case study by famed neurologist Oliver Sacks (Awakenings, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat) also deals with a troubled relationship between a father and son. Henry Sawyer (J.J. Simmons – Juno, Law and Order) is a straight-laced engineer whose son ran away from home as a teenager in the Sixties to follow the Grateful Dead. Now it’s twenty years later, and the son has an odd neurological condition that has so addled his memory that he can’t tell past from present. To bond with his lost son, Mr. Sawyer has to expand his musical tastes beyond Bing Crosby, to Dylan and the Dead. Full of wonderful music – if that’s your taste – and the neurological aspects are factual. “A powerful, even shattering look at music's power to unite where it once divided.” (Onion A.V.)
     HARVEST is also a family story. The well-to-do patriarch Siv Monopoli (Robert Loggia) is at the end of his days, but still full of vim and vigor. His wife (Barbara Barrie) suffers from dementia, but is cheerful. His children have gathered at the family place on the Connecticut shore. “Meticulously written and exquisitely acted,” it’s been gathering audience awards on the festival circuit and drawing big crowds at a New York opening earlier this month.
     The events calendar this week features a live performance from the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow. COPPELIA, the story of a doll come to life airs live on Sunday morning at 11:00am EDT (7pm in Moscow) with an encore showing at 7:00 EDT.
     Full schedules and info at or
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1 comment:

William said...

Ian, We always look forward to reading your movie reviews. Your the best. Bill Cimino