Meewella | Critic

According to P

Tag: Paul Giamatti

QuickView: Jim & Andy – The Great Beyond (2017)

Jim & Andy poster

“At some point when you create yourself to make it, you’re going to have to either let that creation go and take a chance on being loved or hated for who you really are, or you’re going to have to kill who you really are and fall into your grave grasping a character you never were.”

Jim Carrey

Ostensibly a documentary centred around Jim Carrey’s portrayal of Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon, in drawing parallels between them it actually becomes a superior examination of Kaufman’s work with some interesting musings about the nature of identity. Carrey is reflective about what he discovered that people responded to in his successful comedies, but Man on the Moon was a departure, a role Carrey pushed for because of the kinship he felt with the misunderstood Kaufman. There was something decidedly Kaufmanesque about Carrey’s insistence that was Kaufman during filming, possessed by the deceased comedian. Whilst this caused familiar method acting disruption, it went further as Carrey appears to have developed genuine connections with Kaufman’s family, who treated him affectionately rather than with horror. It is fascinating to see the rare moments when Carrey does break character — after one actor storms out and a crew member is brought to tears remembering her father, he opines, “I’m a terrible person” — and yet, through that fiction, people were connecting with something real; it was precisely what Andy Kaufman sought to achieve.


QuickView: Private Life (2018)

“You know what? Don’t knock denial. It comes in very handy. You should try it sometime.”

Richard Grimes

The problem with the Netflix distribution model is that its limited promotion meant I could very easily have missed one of the best films of 2018. Private Life sheds light on a couple engaging in fertility treatment — a subject that remains needlessly taboo, meaning that many couples have to battle it in near isolation. I am lucky that several friends have felt able to confide in me, but that has served to highlight the clear lack of support for the inevitable disappointments along the way. Private Life approaches this openly but with a wry sense of humour. Paul Giamatti and Kathryn Hahn are both excellent, with a witty and honest portrayal of the frustration and emotional toil. Even when addressing wider familial implications, there is no melodramatic artifice — just an engaging and endearing view of difficult personal experiences.


The Ides of March (2011)

director: George Clooney
writer: George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon
starring: Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood
running time: 101 mins
rating: 15

I’ll do or say anything if I believe in it,
but I have to believe in the cause.

The portrayal of politics in The Ides of March (its title an overt reference to the betrayal and assassination of Caesar) is unrelentingly cynical, but it has little need to convince its audience: while the twists and turns of the plot are compelling, there is no shock or disbelief because this world is so instantly recognisable in its realism.

Stephen Myers [Ryan Gosling] is an idealistic staffer on the Presidential campaign for Governor Mike Morris [George Clooney] in the Democratic primaries. With only two candidates still in the running, Ohio is the crucial state that will decide the race, but Morris refuses to compromise on his principles by making deals to win. Myers finds his own integrity tested as the campaign continues.

Many will mistake this for a political film when really its focus is on single character’s struggle with integrity set against a political backdrop, perhaps highlighted best by a shot of Myers’ small silhouette against the backdrop of a gigantic US flag. There is no strong political message here — the campaign is between two Democrat senators; comments on the Republicans are merely asides. Images such as a Shepard Fairey inspired campaign poster for Morris are more to ground the proceedings in the present day political atmosphere than to designate targets. Notably the source material, Willimon’s play Farragut North, was based on the 2004 primaries and not the Obama campaign.

Instead this is a powerful thriller with not a single bullet fired, yet many scenes have a heightened intensity as a result. One lingering exterior shot of a van — we know the conversation ongoing inside though we are not privy to the dialogue — is as taut as any execution scene and in its precise construction we half expect to hear a muted gunshot accompanied by a cloud of red mist. To cultivate this atmosphere without need for violence or exploitative tricks is a testament to Clooney’s assured, yet understated, direction.

The central cast is incredibly strong and all turn in excellent performances. Gosling has the most nuanced role even if his character’s shift is ultimately in a single direction. Meanwhile the rest of the cast tend to be reacting more to the machinations of others. Clooney oozes crowd-pleasing charm, while Hoffman and Giamatti make great rival veteran campaign managers with differing styles, one prizing loyalty while the other is more jaded. Wood may be the least prestigious name amongst the leads but her ability to switch between seductive confidence and vulnerable naïveté sells her character.

Ultimately, while non-partisan, The Ides of March is still a scathing condemnation of the political process, moreso because we are treated to the damage caused on a personal level as well as the overarching hypocrisy. The latter will not surprise the audience, but the former still brings home the message in a powerful fashion.

rating: 3.5/4

"A film is a petrified fountain of thought."

(CC) BY-NC 2003-2023 Priyan Meewella

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