It’s that time of the year again when, if you’re very lucky, you get to spend some time with the family. Of course that can unfortunately lead to some family dramas, but hopefully not like these four…
You Can Count On Me
dir. Kenneth Lonergan – ★★★★★
Laura Linney plays a single mother quietly trying to get on with raising her son and working in her mundane job in the bank when her long-time-no-see drifter brother (played brilliantly by Mark Ruffalo) shows up after running out of money. She cautiously agrees to let her brother stay in the family home and it’s not long before their differing viewpoints on life start to cause conflict, even though they’re more similar than think. The film is brilliantly low key and perfectly observed, mixing comedic moments with the dramatic with seemingly little effort. Written and directed by Lonergan whose film “Margaret” was on every film critics list last year. Matthew Broderick also does a fantastic turn as the bank manager who takes a liking to Linney’s character.
dir. Nicholas Jarecki – ★★★★
Richard Gere is great when he’s playing someone a bit shady and in Arbitrage he’s hiding way too many secrets for one man. Gere plays a very successful hedge fund manager, seemingly happily married and with his daughter about to take over the family business, he seems like a man who has it all figured out. Unfortunately for him the life he has built up for himself comes under threat for a number of reasons. Arbitrage goes at its own pace and is all the better for it, while never losing sight of being dramatic and engaging it allows you to fully understand what’s going on, particularly helpful if, like me, you know nothing about hedge funds. The cast again is great, Tim Roth plays a cop investigating Gere, Susan Sarandon plays the wife and indie darling Brit Marling (currently starring in Channel 4’s Babylon) plays his daughter.
What Maisie Knew
dir. Scott McGehee, David Siegel – ★★★★
A breakup of a marriage as seen from the point of view of a seven year child is a surprisingly absorbing melodrama and features Steve Coogan who proves himself to be a better actor with every new project he takes on. Based on a Henry James novel, Coogan plays an art dealer and Julianne Moore a rock singer who both seem more interested in their own careers than raising their child, but when a decision is made to separate suddenly Maisie becomes a pawn in a game of spite between the parents. Some may find the gimmick of the film being from the child’s point of view tough going but I personally think it elevates it into something special. Alexander Skarsgård and Joanna Vanderham round out the cast as Moore’s post marital boyfriend and Maisie’s babysitter respectively.
Rachel Getting Married
dir. Jonathan Demme – ★★★½
A brilliantly acted, claustrophobic, heartwarming family-are-hell-but-we-need-them-the-most movie. Anne Hathaway is great as Kym, who gets a temporary release from drug rehab so she can attend her sister’s wedding (played by Rosemarie DeWitt). While initially everyone seems to be happy to see each other, some huge past issues bubble up very quickly. Demme, working from a script written by his daughter, assembles a very impressive and eclectic cast with Bill Irwin and Debra Winger playing the parents and an interesting list of musicians turning up in roles throughout the film including Tunde Adebimpe (from TV on the Radio), Robyn Hitchcock and Fab 5 Freddy.
Merry Christmas & New Year folks.
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