Sunday, September 2, 2012

Film Round-Up, September 2012: You've Been Trumped, For A Good Time Call, Arbitrage, Keep the Lights On

The appealing stars of the delightful For A Good Time Call...
And with these four films, I bid a sweet adieu to a fun, eventful summer movie season and greet the fall movie season with a firm handshake and a slap on the back.  Do you know that The Master opens in Philly in less than three weeks? I was shocked when I saw that. Stuff with that kind of buzz usually premieres with the turkey and garland. 

These reviews were previously published in the September issue of ICON and are reprinted with permission. 


You’ve Been Trumped (Dir: Anthony Baxter). In the Scottish village of Aberdeenshire, real estate magnate/reality TV buffoon Donald Trump has bought hundreds of acres of beachfront property to build a luxury golf resort that should serve as a gaudy monument to conspicuous consumption. Local residents, led by the defiant, blunt Michael Forbes, are outraged. The project was originally denied on the local level until the federal government, seduced by dollar signs, granted approval. Now, townspeople could lose homes in a place they cherish. Scientists are appalled at Trump for treating an environmentally precious swath of land with the tact of a brat in a sandbox. Baxter, who gets arrested by local police for no reason and evaded by Trump (who only wants to answer questions from “real journalists”), captures the bewilder- ment of the little guy and his determination for justice. But what stays with you is how in the hands of a wannabe titan like Trump, celebrity and money can smash decency, logic, and legal rights into a million pieces. [NR] ***1/2

Tim Roth, the best part in the overblown Arbitrage

Arbitrage (Dir: Nicholas Jarecki). Starring: Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth, Brit Marling, Laetitia Casta, Nate Parker, Stuart Margolin, Chris Eigeman, Bruce Altman, Graydon Carter. Latest modern-day mo’ money, mo’ problems parable stars Gere as Robert Miller, a financial maven facing two competing, life-altering crises. The sale of his business keeps getting delayed, a potential disaster since Miller’s trading empire is built on fraud and Madoff-like maneuvering. Meanwhile, an overzealous, rumpled NYC detective (Roth, who steals the film) is intent on nailing Miller—who cannot afford any negative publicity—for his role in a fatal late-night car accident. Writer Jarecki (The Informers), in his directorial debut, lets the story unfold in a way that resembles a dripping faucet: slow, predictable, and with nothing of substance ac- cumulating. For all of Arbitrage’s twisty moral ambiguity and crumbling ivory penthouses, Jarecki’s talky original script keeps suspense at arm’s length, explaining away twists and giving us covert conversations as conspiracy. Solid performances by everyone, including Vanity Fair editor-in-chief Carter (as Miller’s skittish buyer) and model Casta (as Miller’s impatient mistress), gives the film some juice. [R] **

For a Good Time, Call... (Dir: Jamie Travis). Starring: Ari Graynor, Lauren Anne Miller, Justin Long, Mark Webber, James Wolk, Nia Vardalos, Mimi Rogers, Don McManus. New York City’s unforgiving real estate market forces disorganized aspiring writer Katie (Graynor) to take in recently dumped straight arrow Lauren (Miller) as a roommate, even though the women’s hatred for each other goes way back. The arrangement proceeds as expected until Lauren applies her business savvy to Katie’s skill as a phone sex operator, creating a lucrative partnership that leads to an unforeseen development: friendship. Funny, smart comedy avoids reveling in odd couple clichĂ©s and dirty talk shock, honestly exploring the difficulty that comes with making friends in adulthood, when change becomes harder to embrace. Graynor and Miller, sparkly and witty and with zero starlet posing, are terrific as the two young women coming to terms with a new kind of love. Miller served as a producer and co-wrote the script with longtime friend Katie Ann Naylon. Seth Rogen, Miller’s husband, and director Kevin Smith have memorable cameos as two of Katie and Lauren’s “customers.” [R] ***1/2

Keep the Lights On (Dir: Ira Sachs). Starring: Thure Lindhardt, Zachary Booth, Julianne Nicholson, Souleymane Sy Savane, Paprika Steen. Struggling documentary filmmaker Erik (Lindhardt) meets Paul (Booth), an attorney for Random House, on a phone sex line in 1998. And so begins a lengthy, loving, and overall tumultuous relationship. Distrust, drug use, and fighting make frequent appearances as the men appear and reappear in each other’s lives. There is plenty to like in this award-winning, semi-autobiographical drama. Director-co-writer Sachs’ minimalist, low-key approach to the material is perfect. Veteran actors Lindhardt and Booth deliver performances without pretense, allowing us to see a situation where both parties share some blame in the dysfunction. Since no one is a clear-cut villain, and there’s such a history between the two lovers, neither man (especially Erik) can leave for too long. Moments and accents only take us so far, unfortunately, and Sachs (the over- looked Married Life) uses these to stretch the movie to a length that isn’t sustainable. Keep the Lights On never comes together, though you keep hoping it will. [NR]  **1/2

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