When Great Actors Direct...

By enzian | Enzian Theater January 25, 2010 at 9:32AM

When Great Actors Direct...
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…it doesn’t always mean the results are going to be as exceptional as the performances we’ve come to expect from them. This thought came to mind today as I just so happened to catch the directorial debuts of Philip Seymour Hoffman (JACK GOES BOATING) and Mark Ruffalo (SYMPATHY FOR DELICIOUS) back to back. The results were as different as night and day, which was probably more a reflection of their source material (neither wrote their screenplays) than perhaps their skill behind the camera. They also both acted in their films and did a fine job, Seymour Hoffman in a lead role and Ruffalo in a supporting one. But more on them later…

The snowfall finally stopped and has given way to frigid temperatures ranging from high 20s during the day to around 10 degrees at night (or was that single digits? It sure felt like it!), but it is supposed to get a bit warmer for the week (mid-30s down to high teens, which is fine by me). Walking around without breaking your ass is still a challenge though.

My Vikings are done, having lost in OT to the Saints for the right to play the Colts in the Super Bowl. They had a big advantage in time of possession and yards gained, but 5 turnovers (4 in the Saints end of the field!) will kill you, not to mention an absolutely idiotic and inexcusable delay-of-game penalty with 20 seconds left in regulation that put them out of winning field goal range. Favre threw an interception on the very next play, the game went to overtime, the Saints won the coin flip, and that’s all she wrote. Minnesota just didn’t deserve to win with the way they played, and my guess is that Brett is one and done with the Vikes. What a shame…

More film short takes:

BOY (3 stars) – The latest from EAGLE VS. SHARK and sometime “Flight of the Concords” director Taika Waititi is an often charming and whimsical coming-of-age story set in mid-80s New Zealand. 11-year-old “Boy” is obsessed with Michael Jackson and lives with his Gran, little brother Rocky, and other younger kids since Mom passed away and small-time criminal Dad is largely absent. When his father suddenly shows up from jail to look for some buried loot, all of them have lots of growing up to do. Filled with childlike animation and Jacko inspired dance sequences, this is a heartfelt, often bittersweet tale.

CYRUS (3 ½ stars) – THE PUFFY CHAIR creators Mark and Jay Duplass are back with this hilarious and very uncomfortable dramatic comedy starring John C. Reilly as a depressed, 7-year divorced editor who meets an attractive woman (Marissa Tomei) at a party who seems interested in him. They hit it off, but he gets a lot more than he bargained for when he discovers she’s got an odd live-at-home son in his early 20s (Jonah Hill) who’s none too pleased about sharing “Molly” with another man. Catherine Keener (as the ex-wife/best friend) and Matt Walsh (as her new fiancé) co-star, and the film has some wonderful ad-libbed dialogue and great lines.

SPLICE (3 stars) – Don’t screw with Mother Nature! A very entertaining though not thoroughly logical sci-fi horror film about the perils of genetic engineering. Sarah Polley and Adrien Brody star as brilliant scientists who bring something new into the world, much to their ultimate dismay. Awesome special effects and cool creatures add to the creepy fun from Vincenzo Natali, the Canadian director of the cult hit, CUBE.

JACK GOES BOATING (3 ½ stars) – The directorial debut of Philip Seymour Hoffman in which he stars as a somewhat meek, unconfident, and shlubby limo driver in NYC who begins a relationship with a troubled woman (Amy Ryan) who works in his best friend’s wife’s office. Meanwhile, his friend Clyde and his wife Lucy are going through some relationship trials of their own. Hoffman gets terrific performances out of his cast, and this comedic drama about love and friendship in the big city is moving, funny, and incredibly authentic.

SYMPATHY FOR DELICIOUS (1 ½ stars) – Written by and starring Christopher Thornton as the Dave Grohl-looking homeless paraplegic turntablist who discovers he’s got the power to heal and becomes a rock star, this is one of the most jaw-dropping and absurd films I’ve seen in a while. It’s also the directorial debut of Mark Ruffalo, who co-stars as a helpful priest who sees a cash cow in DJ “Delicious” Dean. Juliette Lewis (Ariel!) and Orlando Bloom (as “Stain!”) are in the band, and a ludicrously tough Laura Linney is their manager. Unfortunately this fine ensemble can’t raise this ludicrous Christ parable (which actually ends with the Bee Gees' “I Started a Joke”!) above the level of bizarrely amusing. I would’ve loved to have been there for the Q&A after the first public screening—wow!

--Matthew

This article is related to: Sundance 2010