Monday, April 26, 2010

Don McKay (2010)

At a glance:
Despite moments of originality, Don McKay is undone by its combination of comic tone and glacial pacing, and by its unbelievable conclusion

Our review (with spoilers):
Thomas Hayden Church’s Don McKay is a quiet, studious, sensitive man. His voice is calm but his face is always worried. Years ago, his affair with Sonny (Elisabeth Shue) ended, and he retreated into a lonely existence, far from the town where he grew up. But his love never died; each year he sent a letter to her, filling her in on his boring life, and not caring if no letters ever came back from the other direction.

So when, out of the blue, Sonny asks him to come to visit because she is dying, he’s there in a moment. It’s fairly obvious (to the viewer, anyway, though if it is obvious to Church, he hides it well behind his inscrutable mask-like face) that something is amiss with Sonny’s mystery fatal illness, Sonny’s live-in caregiver Marie (Melissa Leo), and Sonnny’s not-quite-right doctor, Dr. Pryce (James Rebhorn). Things get crazier very quickly with an unexpected attack and an accidental murder.

Glacially paced (or you could call it ‘unrushed’) and quiet, Don McKay the movie shows that director Jake Goldberger is in no hurry to tell his story. I’m not sure if there is quite enough style, or if the characters are strong or portentous enough to carry this pacing, since for the most part there’s a slight comic feel to the material. So the result is a bit like watching a screwball comedy played at half speed. A batch of clever and unlikely twists is shoehorned into the final ten minutes, but it’s way too late to redeem this watchable and unique but ultimately disappointing film.

Rating:  2.5 of 4

Other reviewers said:
"The tone and the pacing always seem a little off and as a result, we become all too aware of mechanics of the screenplay grinding along towards a finale that is simply too complicated and unbelievable for its own good."
- Peter Sobczynski (

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Missing Person (2008)

At a glance:
Michael Shannon gives an award-worthy, natural performance as an alcoholic private detective dealing with grief and loss while trying to solve an intriguing missing person case

Our review (with spoilers):
It is completely understandable that Michael Shannon, the star of The Missing Person, was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his work in Revolutionary Road. In a perfect world, he would probably get a Best Actor nomination for his work here in The Missing Person. Shannon is that rare actor who can emote solely with his body. Here, as John Rosow, he feels the pain of loss – his wife died in WTC  2001 – and his life and career exploded along with the towers. He was a vibrant, healthy police officer in New York City, but now, he is a drunken, depressed private detective on the other side of the continent. LA suits him, because no one cares, least of all him. But a new case comes his way: he is asked to find Harold (Frank Wood) a missing person, a man whose wife longs for him to come back – a man who used his own near death experience in the WTC to keep running, also to LA, but for different reasons.

Rosow is a caricature of the hard-boiled dick from the 1950s – he’s even aware of this, as are the people on whom he tries to use his typical sardonic one-liners. This is a make or break case for Rosow: if he brings Harold home, he could be set for life. But there’s so much more to the story than that – so many gray areas, and much growth for the inhabitants of this story – especially Rosow, who through the eyes of Harold and his family, comes face to face with his loss.

The Missing Person is in no hurry to tell its tale, which might frustrate some impatient viewers. The movie inches along as slowly as Rosow’s awkward gait. But Shannon’s performance is well worth every step. Shannon inhabits his character – this is not acting, it is being. He appears to be drunk. His crinkled face exudes his pain. This tiny indie film will slip by the big awards ceremonies, so Shannon won’t get his Oscar – at least not from this performance. But he probably will get one soon.

Rating: 3.5 of 4

Other reviewers said:
"Sluggish, stylized and frequently washed in a bilious green tint, The Missing Person is yet oddly irresistible, its omnipresent anxiety like a musical chord that neither rises nor falls."
- Jeannette Catsoulis (New York Times)