David Chase’s anticipated Not Fade Away not only jumbles itself into an indulgent story, constantly keeping the audience at an arm’s length but it’s overly stretched and uneven not utilizing the strong talents in the film like James Gandolfini, Jack Huston, and John Magaro.
A natural comparison to Almost Famous (2000), the film doesn’t hold a candle to Cameron Crowe’s homage to music. Showcasing outstanding music of the 1960’s and 1970’s, Chase manages to capture moments of the young adolescent mind longing to be more. Lead Magaro delivers a character transformation of mind and body, a turn that elevates the film considerably. The great Jack Huston, an actor that will likely be one of the biggest things in Hollywood any minute now, delivers an aggressive supporting turn reminiscent of Channing Tatum’s work in A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints (2006). Bella Heathcote shows tenderness and promise but undervalued and virtually unused. James Gandolfini, stands out with charisma and garners much of the big laughs. A great character actor like Gandolfini should be given room to move.
The film ultimately fails because it never feels like Chase knows his film or where he wants it to go. The last twenty minutes feel unneeded, unearned, and thrown together for an “artistic” catalyst with no emotional or technical effect whatsoever. A large disappointment.
It was bound to happen. A film encompasses the soul and meaning of love and executes the physical and emotional demand it requires to be told effectively and correctly. That film is Michael Haneke’s Amour. Haneke steers the film effortlessly, as if he were telling a shot-for-shot story of his own experiences. He constructs and creates two real and authentic people, Georges (Jean-Louis Tringnant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva). It’s wonderful to see Haneke allow the powerful leads to feel and interpret these people of their own accord. It’s one of his finest writing efforts of his career.
Tringnant’s heart is visible and available for all the viewers to see. He’s fearless as he walks through the film frail and broken yet confident and composed. He challenges the audience to empathize and question our own reactions and reality. Same goes Riva, who does everything right that was wrong with similar performances like Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby (2004). Riva goes above and beyond the call of duty, wearing Anne on her skin with vulnerability. It’s one of the great performances of the year by any woman in any category.
The two leads together is even more brilliant than when they’re apart. Adding in the talents of Isabelle Hupert as Eva, the daughter of our married couple who finds her own love tested, is wonderfully operational.
While many will chalk this film up to depression and elderly inevitability, I don’t share the same sentiments. The film is front to back about love, pure and simple. The events circle a morose and saddened sequence but Georges and Anne is the great love story of the year. The film dares you to find someone you love that much, in both perspectives. Haneke focuses on the couple with no outside stories of their neighbors, life before these events, or extra characters. He puts them in the spotlight, front and center.
Amour could be the best film of the year and is the best film of the New York Film Festival so far.