The steady stream of Oscar prestige movies has finally cooled, so with the end of an era come two last-minute Academy shut-outs, "Labor Day" and "Tim's Vermeer," as well as a romantic comedy for the guys, "That Awkward Moment." Trailers below.
Jason Reitman's Joyce Maynard adaptation "Labor Day" intercuts several plots and narrators in different time frames to reveal the back stories behind depressed Adele (Kate Winslet) living in New England solitude with her 12-year-old son Henry (Gattlin Griffith). On an outing to the store, the mother and son are commandeered by a threatening escaped prisoner (Josh Brolin). Reitman takes us on a ride that never flags and often surprises with real emotion, and Winslet gives a delicately sensual performance. Fair to say it's being creamed by mostly male critics. Clearly, this relationship drama plays better for women than men.
A fascinating look at one genius inventor's obsession with recreating Vermeer's "The Music Lesson" over the course of 130 days, "Tim's Vermeer" played well in fall fests, though it didn't make the Oscar feature documentary Oscar final five. Along with following Tim Jenison closely as he (re)creates a masterpiece, the doc offers revelatory new insight into the methods of the 17th Dutch painter's madness.
"That Awkward Moment" essentially takes the gal-pal romantic comedy conceit and thrusts it into the realm of twenty-something men. Instead of heartbroken women sitting around eating pints of ice cream, it's the guys, here in the form of Michael B. Jordan, Miles Teller and Zac Efron -- two Sundance breakthroughs and one heavy-hitting star. But the trio juggles buoyant chemistry in spite of a contrived plot with no wheels about what to do with a girl after a one-night-stand (or two or three). The fault is not in the stars, but in the shopworn toilet gags and cliches.
Labor Day Dir. Jason Reitman, USA | Paramount | Cast: Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, Tobey Maguire, Gattlin Griffith, Clark Gregg | 35% Fresh | The Wrap: "If 'Labor Day' teaches us anything, it's that the line between a prestige-soaked year-end awards bait movie and a Lifetime original with a title like My Captor! My Lover! is blurry at best." | Our Telluride review
Tim's Vermeer Dir. Teller, USA | Sony Pictures Classics | 93% Fresh | Film.com: "Teller manages a careful enough balance between painstaking technique and a larger cultural context over 80 brisk minutes to make even minor revelations feel like major moments." | Our TIFF review and interview with Teller
That Awkward Moment Dir. Tom Gormican, USA | Focus Features | Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Zac Efron, Miles Teller, Imogen Poots | 22% Fresh | SF Chronicle: Though it ultimately leans too much on genre cliche, it reveals some of the tensions that today's young adults experience in their romantic lives - the impersonality of hook-up culture in collision with the human desire and need for intimacy.