Trance, directed by Danny Boyle
(R, 101 minutes)
In the thriller Trance, director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Shallow Grave) revives a mind-game film making style that was all the rage in the 1990s in which the bad guy doesn’t know he’s the bad guy and the real world is interchangeable with one that is surreal.
London art auctioneer Simon (James McAvoy) is busily trying to get rich by serving as the inside man for a group of semi-sophisticated thieves led by Franck (Vincent Cassel, by turns charming and threatening) in their quest to make off with an exquisite and expensive Goya. Everything’s going OK until Franck whacks Simon in the head in an attempt to discourage others from thinking there’s a connection between them. The too-enthusiastic blow leaves Simon unable to recall where he has stashed the stolen painting. So Franck takes Simon to hypnotherapist Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson) on the slim chance that she’ll be able to poke around in Simon’s head and discover the whereabouts of the painting.
This is where things get complicated and reality becomes difficult to separate from fantasies and dreams. The violence level is hefty (it’s a Danny Boyle movie, after all), and wisecracks abound. Your attitude toward McAvoy’s character, and therefore your belief in him, is the key to whether you’ll find Trance entertaining, as the other characters don’t give you much reason to care about them.
The Company You Keep (R, 125 minutes) The 1960s, for those who didn’t live through them, were unimaginably exciting, divisive, inspiring, horrifying, game-changing and loaded with possibilities. Americans were at odds with each other over the struggle for civil rights, and the government was pursuing what many thought was a pointless and unjust war in Southeast Asia.Protest groups went beyond walking down the streets holding signs to become militant organizations such as the Black Panthers and the Weather Underground. They were dangerous.
The Company You Keep is an earnest drama about sixty-something former radicals who have been living quietly in the mainstream for years. Among them is Sharon Solarz (Susan Sarandon), who gets the action going by being arrested in New York for her long-ago involvement in a bank robbery, and Jim Grant (Robert Redford, who also directs), a lawyer who’s actually Nick Sloan, also a suspect in that robbery. Fearing for his future and that of his young daughter, Sloan makes a run for the Midwest to search for yet another old radical (Julie Christie) who can clear his name.
While the plot is a jumble, and the end rushes in a little too quickly and conveniently, overall it’s satisfying. And the film will stir up plenty of memories for those who lived through those tumultuous years.
Special features include a history of the Weather Underground, a behind-the-scenes featurette, and a news conference with Redford and other cast members.
What Maisie Knew (R, 99 minutes) Julianne Moore isn’t all that convincing as a rock ’n’ roll singer. But she sure can play a monstrous mom. In What Maisie Knew, Moore’s Susanna is not famous enough to be recognized on the street but has a strong enough fan base to afford a glamorous Tribeca apartment, complete with a recording studio and a uniformed doorman. With the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle comes a narcissism that is rivaled only by that of her partner, obnoxious art dealer Beale (Steve Coogan). The nasty pair spend their time together hurling brutal insults, accusations and put-downs at each other.
In the midst of their ongoing war is 6-year-old daughter Maisie (Onata Aprile). She’s being raised by selfish parents who forget to pick her up from school, drop her off without notice on doorsteps of people who may or may not be home, and only seem to be aware of Maisie when she’s standing in front of them. She takes it without complaint. It’s the only life she knows.
When the miserable pair split up. Beale bounces back by moving Margo (Joanna Vanderham), Maisie’s kindly Scottish nanny, into his new apartment (and bed), and Susanna retaliates with Lincoln (Alexander Skarsgard), a sweet-natured bartender.You’d think this fresh air would dilute the poisonous atmosphere, but no; Susanna and Beale continue to use Maisie as a weapon against each other while Margo and Lincoln become unwilling pawns in the battle.
Although Moore’s natural elegance detracts from her portrayal as a fast-fading rocker, her potent emotional range pays off in creating a dreadful parent who is likely to raise everyone’s blood pressure whenever she appears on the screen. Onata delivers one of the best film performances ever. Somehow she’s able to convey Maisie’s helplessness at controlling the situation without making her seem pathetic.
The Place Beyond the Pines (R, 140 minutes) From director Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine) comes this grim drama that isn’t quite as relevant as it seems to think it is. The film explores the consequences of a decision by arrogant motorcycle stunt rider Luke (Ryan Gosling) to commit a series of crimes to support his long-neglected girlfriend (Eva Mendes) and their newborn son. His actions bring him into contact with police officer Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper), a child of privilege who’s torn between being honest and caving in to the demands of his corrupt colleagues. Although the film follows separate threads that make it feel fragmented as it covers a period of years, it comes together here and there for moments of great strength.
MovieStyle, Pages 33 on 08/16/2013
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