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Tag: bad bromance

Genius (2016)

You Can Leave Your Hat On

As fake as a true story can be rendered through awkward writing and ill-advised directing choices, Genius is a movie about language and writing. It deals like difficult subjects like the nature of art, the mysteries of inspiration and what it is like to live a literary life; quite unsuprisingly, it’s rather stiff and academic. It’s based on the relationship between Thomas Wolfe, the titular genius writer (Jude Law, somewhere between excessively Method and high camp) and his lifetime publisher Max Perkins at Scribner’s & Sons (Colin Firth, typecast in yet another majestic biopic). The publisher, who discovered Fitzgerald and Hemingway, helps the writer to spruce up his diluvial prose (one of his manuscript, apparently half writen on the top of a fridge, is 5000 pages long) and the writer helps the publisher loosening his tie and therefore live a little.

Both men have a pivotal woman in their life, Perkins a wife (Laura Kinney, good as usual) with whom he had many daughters, and Wolfe a mistress who left her stiffling marriage for him (Nicole Kidman, great in a scene which should never had been writen in the movie at all). The women lose patience while the men exchange the literary equivalent of sextos across a long period of time, so the men lose the women. They both know their Shakespeare, see, but neither of them has the singlest clue about relationships. It’s a passion of the mind, which leaves everyone involved embittered.

And so it goes as these things go, with lengths of cryptic voiceover quoting Wolfe’s novels, tongue-in-cheek cultural exchanges and meaningful silences. Colin Firth, flegmatic to the point of flatlining, never takes off his thinking hat to make sure the message he’s an intellectual comes across; Jude Law rampages through dialogues as long as his books and diverse states of agressive or ecstatic inebriation. Some namedropping cameos pop up to enliven what would have been better, should it have been a play. Guy Pearce makes a good Fitzgerald; the Hemingway scene is straight out of Midnight in Paris except it’s noon in California.

There is an inexplicably long scene in a jazz club, the mandatory setting for a breakup artist to nourish his inspiration and for a businessman to start tapping his foot, which is neither revealing about the characters or even interesting. There is a very good one during which one can understand what the job of a publisher is, editing a love scene to its bare minimum without ruining the author’s purpose (“He falls in love and his mind go to submarine life?” being the best dialogue by far, together with Wolfe recriminating that if Perkins had edited Tolstoi, his masterpiece would have been titled “War and Nothing”).

Good looking in its period details, Genius has failed at providing Oscar nominations for its two male leads. If only the writer had a publisher as good as Perkins, it might have ended otherwise. Eminently avoidable.

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The Accountant (2016)

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Never Mind The Pollock

They say there are two sure things in life: death and taxes. Well, add to that terrible movies starring Ben Affleck. When he’s not multi-hyphenate and playing in movies he wrote/directed, the man’s filmography is a dumpster. Please consider the latest exhibit for now, a movie with a title so dull Bill Dubuque, the writer, felt compelled to overcompensate its lack of appeal with such a saturation of content that the result feels like a game of checking Hollywood boxes. Shall we?

1. Asperger genius hero, check. Benaffleck is such a wizz kid that he does puzzles face down in completely useless flashbacks and has an eidetic memory for numbers so he becomes a forensic accounting consultant, able to track the one inconsistant line in 15 years of fiscal declarations, providing you let him write on the doors and windows. Also, he has Asperger because he finds his Pollock so soothing he hung it on the ceiling of his secret trailer. Also, he’s a genius because he listens to the Bach cello suites. Also, he’s a sniper and a ninja. Also he has no sex life. Genius.

2. Dysfunctional family, check. You would think that after an Asperger kid or two, an average American couple would stop procreating, but no, this one give birth to a contract killer as the cherry on the cake. This, at least, allows the movie to end up on a bad bromance instead of a happy family reunion. John Bernthal plays a convincing thug, in turns threatening and childish. He’s, let’s face it, much better than Benaffleck, who robotically goes through the moves like he’s holding a fart. “Heavy sigh”, as would say the mysterious female voice on the phone Benaffleck keeps calling. Let’s call her Siri not to spoil the ending.

3. Violence but no sex, check. Benaffleck, for all his big guns and pairs of grenades, doesn’t have genitalia, so cue in mousy Anna Kendrick, typecast, playing, yes, a kooky accountant who first got a whif of the fishy play supposed to propel the inexistant plot. She’s Plain Jane, talking about her prom dress when he brings her in a hotel suite and she gets all titillated, or counter-asking “Tell me it’s not an original Pollock?” when she invades his privacy, overlooking the Renoir as if was a Pirelli calendar. Also, everyone knows everyone else in the fiscal business, proof is there is another woman in hot pursuit of Benaffleck, but didn’t we all know about that already?

4. Vicious villain in power, check. The problem with casting John Lithgow is, there is no big suspense about who’s the rotten apple in the fruit cart. So the movie can hilariously attempt at A Beautiful Mind in the company conference room, bring out the big guns with Jeffrey Tambor in an orange jumpsuit or, even better, JK Simmons uttering the best line of the movie, “I was old ten years ago” (which he could print on his business card as an abstract of his resumé), well, the villain is still John Lithgow. Who got shot in the face for interrupting the bromance between Benaffleck and his younger brother. Take that, evil John Lithgow!

Full to the brim with gratuitous violence and heralding a multiple Oscar winner sex symbol as the anal retentive hero who never gets laid, The Accountant is Hollywood at its best/worst. Ladies and gentlemen, we just got our new Clint Eastwood, may he live long and direct.

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