Thursday, October 11, 2018

THE OLD MAN & THE GUN

Robert Redford     Casey Affleck     Sissy Spacek     Danny Glover
Tom Waits     Keith Carradine     Tika Sumpter     Elizabeth Moss


     Charming, but incorrigible, Forrest Tucker’s sociopathic personality comes through when he meets a woman in a diner, and quickly wins her trust.  The woman is Jewel (Spacek), a lover of the simple life, horses, and the rolling fields surrounding her property.  He is evasive when she asks his name and what he does for a living, and he gives her his real name, which, at this point, is not broadcast in the stories about him, and finally lets her know that instead of “makin’ a livin’”, he believes in “livin’”.  It’s obvious that he has an admirable way of blending together truth and fiction into a believable story.  And like many who encounter Forrest, many suspect he is lying, but it doesn’t seem to bother them…because he’s so nice!
     The truth is that Forrest is a bank robber who has been imprisoned and escaped 16 times, beginning when he was just a kid.  It’s noteworthy that all the tellers who get robbed describe him as “such a gentleman”, “very polite”, a “nice-enough fellow”, and “happy.” He’s always well dressed and charming, encouraging them, and thanking them for accommodating him.  He and his pals, Teddy (Glover) and Waller (Waits), manage to get away with thousands of dollars.  They’re in the news, and even the police shake their heads, finding it preposterous that these old men are so capable.  
     Detective John Hunt (Affleck) is the beleaguered policeman charged with apprehending Tucker.  Although he seems to be as obsessed with being a good policeman as Tucker is about being a good robber, he is different in his self-doubts and struggles with his occupation.  His wife and superiors give him room to quit the force, but he determinedly stays on.  Even when the FBI intrudes itself into the case and he has a chance to step back, he doesn’t. Then he gets a tip that tells him exactly who Forrest Tucker is.
     Robert Redford pulls off this role in his usual expert fashion; probably no one else would be up to his personal aptness and level of skill.  It’s rewarding to see Sissy Spacek again in a role that suits her to a T as well.  Finally, Casey Affleck likewise performs as the kind of brooding character he has done so well in other films.  Danny Glover and Tom Waits make great sidekicks for the Redford character.  I was a bit disappointed there is not one of Tom Waits’ songs in the music.  Elizabeth Moss has a wonderful cameo at the end.  In a way, this film reminded me of David Mackenzie and Taylor Sheridan’s Hell or High Water in the nobility of the robber, but it kept up a level of excitement and humor a little more than is the case for this film.
     The script for The Old Man & the Gunis based on a true story, which was written up for The New Yorker Magazine by David Grann, who subsequently penned the script for this film.  Grann has a way of capturing his audience’s interest and maintaining suspense in his writing, just as he did for The Lost City of Z, The Devil and Sherlock Holmes, and Killers of the Flower Moon:  The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI.  In Director David Lowery’s capable hands, the movie becomes worthy of Robert Redford’s distinguished reputation in filmmaking, and a fitting tribute if it is indeed his last acting role.  Daniel Hart’s lyrical, moving score puts finishing touches on this fine production.

Charm is the name of the game in this engaging, suspenseful story.

Grade:  B+                                              By Donna R. Copeland

Thursday, October 4, 2018

LOVING PABLO

Javier Bardem     Penelope Cruz     Peter Sarsgaard


    Despite its title, this film is not essentially about Pablo Escobar; based on the TV anchorwoman Virginia Vallejo’s memoir about her love affair with him, it covers her gradual realization of who he actually was and the ways in which their relationship affected her life.  In the beginning, she is so charmed by him and impressed with his philanthropic goals, she says to herself she doesn’t care how he makes his money.  But after his dangerous operations become more and more obvious, disillusion sets in.
     My understanding of the public’s continual fascination with Escobar through the years (as shown by the popularity of movies and TV series about him—such as El Patron, Paradise Lost, The Infiltrator, and Narcos, as well as more than 15 books—has more to do with interest in the risky business of selling drugs—especially in a cartel—rather than in the man himself.  Penelope Cruz as Virginia narrates much of the film in a voice-over, so it is clearly from her point of view.
     In this sense, Loving Pablo falls far short of previous renditions of the famed drug lord because it really is about the romance, and doesn’t get much into Pablo’s business dealings.  There are definitely very violent scenes (and one notable distribution scene that takes place on a blocked highway) meant primarily to illustrate what made Virginia Vallejo anxious, but these scenes are not explained very well, and Pablo (Bardem) is shown much of the time as a passionate lover and family man and his brief flirtation with politics.   
     The affair lasted for five years, but the movie omits some events and insights that could have made it more compelling.  For instance, there was the impression that Escobar was using Vallejo’s television popularity to advance his standing in the country and provide him with a philanthropic cover to conceal his drug dealing.  Second, one reason for their break-up was his becoming so incensed when he learned that she had other lovers, he refused to see her again despite her wish to reunite.  Finally, little is made of the fact that Escobar was married, although there are a couple of scenes where his wife expresses her discontent with the situation.
     As an account of an extra-marital romance, there is little of interest here, so viewers expecting more of the Pablo Escobar story will be disappointed.  As fine actors, Bardem and Cruz elevate the film to make it a little more entertaining, but there is not much of a reason to see the film. 

Pablo Escobar’s five-year romance with a popular television personality and what came of it.

Grade:  D+                                    By Donna R. Copeland