This film is extraordinary. It follows six weeks in the life of a female film director and how she deals with the ordinary tribulations of her life. She’s got a dying mother in a hospital. She’s got a brother who inexplicably quits his job. A daughter from an ex-husband…and she’s juggling these strands while trying to make a film in Rome. The American star (John Turturro) is a neurotic egotist who causes her no end of trouble. In the middle of all this, she has to be emotionally supportive of her teenage daughter and… well, it’s just like life. And that’s the point. And as we go along, we feel for her as she gamely keeps her head above water, and we realize that unlike an American picture – picture does not have an arc…and that’s exactly the point. We are witnessing a life in progress without a beginning, without an end. And the director is telling us, “that’s just the way it is.” And when we realize that’s the message of this film, it becomes unutterably moving. The film has no finish. It just ends. See it. It won’t be here long.
Saw The Descendants yesterday, was really impressed: it’s about a woman in an irreversible coma and how her husband deals with it. George Clooney plays the husband -and without his particular, ironic performance, the picture wouldn’t work. Because it’s a dark comedy, almost Chekhovian in feeling, and the actor needs to be able to bring out the comic aspects of the story. Otherwise it would be an unrelieved downer. Very brave of Fox to green-light this picture, it’s not major studio fare by any means, feels more European in fact. My respect for Clooney soars, he’s one of the few American actors who can play on two levels simultaneously…and believably. Kevin Spacey is another, Frank Langella a third in a very small data-base. I mean Ben Affleck in this part wouldn’t work. With this picture, the writer/director, Alexander Payne, has established a baseline, his first flick being the very funny Sideways with Paul Giamatti. I will anticipate whatever else he chooses to give us.