By Steve Greene | Criticwire May 24, 2012 at 1:38AM
With many moviegoers tuned to the news from Cannes this week, it's a light time for number of new U.S. releases. Appropriately, two former Cannes films are tied for the top score among our Criticwire members with B+ averages -- one that took the fast track to theaters and another that stopped at many different venues after opening a year ago.
The first is Wes Anderson’s "Moonrise Kingdom," a film that’s already been covered extensively in these parts since it was the opening night selection at this year's Cannes. "Moonrise Kingdom" has also screened for critics outside of Cannes, providing a fuller picture of the film’s reception. ScreenCrush’s Jordan Hoffman calls it his favorite film of the year so far, extolling the virtues of Anderson’s attention to period detail. "His heavily art-directed frames have a fastidiousness that borders on the obsessive compulsive but – and this is what’s key – the hand-painted signs, false magazine covers and absurd costumes tell as much of the story as the words coming out of the actors’ mouths," Hoffman writes. Meanwhile, Kristy Puchko highlights the film’s elevating performances, which "deliver bittersweet but sharp performances that add a wonderful depth to their thinly sketched characters."
The other Cannes film finally hitting wide theaters is Joachim Trier’s "Oslo, August 31st." Trier tells the story of Anders, a man who takes his one day of leave from a drug rehab program and travels around the Norwegian capital. The stark approach to the movie, which is told mostly through Anders' eyes, drew raves from Twitch’s Ryland Aldrich, who called it "a deeply touching film that only serves to further bolster the assertion that Trier is quite simply one of the most talented voices of his generation." Hammer to Nail’s Michael Nordine was quick to praise Anders' plight is deftly intertwined with the depiction of the city around him. "Anders is sensitive not just in the emotional sense but also in how exceptionally attuned he is to the needs and wants of those around him—a result of these constant observations, no doubt...but also an effective means of connecting setting and character."
Eric Kohn describes one of the film’s potential shortcomings in his Indiewire review. While giving the film high marks, he adds that "Anders is such a great character that the thin story surrounding him just can't compete. As a result...although it never becomes tedious, many scenes suffer from redundancies."
"The Intouchables," the next strongest opening of the weekend with a B average, has has already destroyed box office records in various European markets. Based on a true story, the film follows the friendship of Philippe, a wealthy quadriplegic, and Driss, the young man who becomes his caretaker. The unconventional pairing leads to a contrast in tastes (Philippe is an opera devotee, while Driss is more of a 70s pop funk kind of guy). Through this central relationship, the film addresses France’s racial divide, but the extent to which that examination succeeds is a point of contention among critics.
The Atlantic’s Jon Frosch offers that "it's certainly refreshing to see the overwhelmingly white world of French cinema start opening itself up to the possibility of greater diversity. But it's hard to muster much enthusiasm for a movie that leans so heavily on regressive culture-clash shtick and unimaginative stereotypes (a soulful black guy from the ghetto, who laughs all the time but knows nothing of the finer things, helps an uptight, disabled, filthy-rich white guy learn to love life and hip-hop), and examines thorny topical issues in only the most superficial, conventional way." Even to the film’s detractors, Chris Knipp argues that "it's hard to condemn this movie without ignoring the infectious way Omar Sy possesses and enlivens it." As Driss, Sy took the Best Actor prize at this year’s César Awards (the French equivalent of the Oscars), beating out no less than Jean Dujardin.
Criticwire: Films Opening This Week
NOTE: The averages listed here are current as of the publishing of this article. They are subject to change as new grades come in and will be updated in next week's edition of this article.