Meewella | Critic

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Tag: Jason Schwartzman

QuickView: Asteroid City (2023)

“I still don’t understand the play.”

Augie Steenbeck

Wes Anderson’s recent films have begun to feel like pastiches of his own work. Asteroid City trades his usual literary trappings for theatrical ones, a meta narrative providing monochrome sequences — narrated by Bryan Cranston — about a play that is represented by a full-colour film in traditional Anderson style. The increased artifice makes it more difficult to connect with these characters who are now characters being portrayed by actors who are played by actors (with nothing quite so pithy as Tropic Thunder’s “I’m a dude playing a dude disguised as another dude.”). Ironically the most nuanced performance within the play is probably Scarlett Johanson’s… as a famous actress. The location, a desert town known only for its crater, feels less like a populated location than the empty shell of a theatrical set. It is unclear whether the 60s-era sci-fi technology is a deliberate anachronism or simple suited to Anderson’s aesthetic preferences. Although he blurs the edges at times, Anderson’s approach is neither as convoluted nor as ambitious as, say, Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York. That makes it easier to switch off and enjoy the contrivance for what it is, but there is little substance here.

6/10

QuickView: Spider-Man: Across the Spider-verse (2023)

“Everyone keeps telling me how my story supposed to go.”

Miles Morales

Across the Spider-verse embraces its multiverse glitching conceit from its opening logos which flash between styles, displaying a time-consuming attention to detail that is the hallmark of this bigger and bolder sequel that once again outdoes the majority of its live-action counterparts. Whilst Miles Morales originally took us Into the Spider-verse and remains front and centre in the marketing, Across the Spider-verse feels as much Gwen Stacy’s story. She embodies the themes of isolation (“This line of work, you always end up a solo act,” she explains after quitting her band) and Hailee Steinfeld’s voice acting captures a yearning for the understanding and acceptance she found in Miles. In a more overt way than the Loki TV series, we are presented with an interesting view of “the canon” as either inescapable destiny or a restrictive refusal to try to change things — it reflects the artistic conundrum of entertaining audiences with nostalgic familiarity retold in a new guise or seeking growth with something new that could result in disaster. Lesser-known, bumbling villain Spot provides the story’s catalyst, but it is Miguel — the severe leader of a Spider-Society working to protect the canon — who acts as Miles’ chief antagonist. Unfortunately, Miguel remains largely unknown even as the credits roll and this feeds into the film’s structural weakness as an incomplete story: by not marketing itself as a two-part story, Across the Spider-verse is likely to leave many unsatisfied by a truncated ending to be concluded in next year’s Beyond the Spider-verse. Everything else is an elevation of its predecessor’s artistic flair, irreverent comedy, and earnest narrative. The anarchic Spider-Punk is a perfect example, initially feeling about four decades out of date with his newsprint styling, but becoming both characterful and plot-relevant in his anti-authoritarianism. Deeper and perhaps less joyful than its predecessor, Across the Spider-verse is another high water mark that highlights the staleness of the live action superhero genre.

9/10

QuickView: The Overnight (2015)

“If you’re uncomfortable, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to.”

Emily

A couple newly moved to LA at a dinner party with gregarious new friends is a familiar lens through which to explore the awkwardness of learning and engaging with new people outside of our comfort zone. Produced by the Duplass brothers, The Overnight bears tonal similarities to Cyrus and is similarly somewhat missold as a comedy. The uneasy atmosphere is more successful maintained here over the course of a single evening rather than a protracted relationship, though the film oversteps on a few occasions, breaking the tension with the unnecessarily “outrageous”, like a scene with risible prosthetic genitalia. Its chief strength is Jason Schwartzman’s shifting energy between eccentric generosity and manipulative coercion, keeping the audience — as much as his guests — guessing as to his motives.

7/10

"A film is a petrified fountain of thought."

(CC) BY-NC 2003-2023 Priyan Meewella

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