Sacha Gervasi’s much-anticipated Hitchcock was supposed to deliver a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the Master of Suspense’s masterpiece (Psycho) and its improbable success. Instead, this disaster became an outlandish fantasy around the film’s crazed director (Anthony Hopkins) and the strained relationship with his wife (and uncredited collaborator) Alma Reville (Helen Mirren, in one of the film’s few bright spots), as it fabricates that their marriage was saved only by working together on the film.
Sure, most know of Hitch’s lust for his leading blonde actresses, but this film turns the legendary auteur into nothing short of a demented pervert, while he interacts in imaginary conversations with Ed Gein (the real-life killer for whom screen villains Norman Bates, Leatherface, and Jame Gumb have all been based). When the film focuses on the production of Psycho it remains interesting, and James D’Arcy is fantastic as Anthony Perkins, though his screen time is much too brief. A better title for this film might have been Dial M for Monotonous Misrepresentation. (*½)
In Killing Them Softly, Brad Pitt stars as a professional killer entrusted with taking out two amateur-level crooks who were dim-witted enough to knock off a Mob-enforced card game. If only writer/director Andrew Dominick had laid off the political commentary just a bit, then in time we might have looked back at the film as a sleeper hit in the crime genre. As much as the message portion of the narrative hurts the film, I don’t think it is nearly as bad as many are saying (it scored an undeserved “F” from CinemaScore), it just has a dull pace (I mean, how many slow-motion scenes does a hit film need?) and is filled with verbal exchanges that feel like a cheapened Tarantino rip-off. The bright spot, however, is the performance of Scoot McNairy, with whom I feel a star has been born. McNairy – who plays one of the hapless crooks – was seen earlier this year in Ben Affleck’s Argo, and will be seen in next year’s Steve McQueen film, Twelve Years a Slave. His performance – and potential future stardom – was not only enough for me to recommend Killing Them Softly once on video, but was sufficient for me to enjoy the film as a whole despite its overly preachy themes of dog-eat-dog mentality. (**½)
Any Day Now (***½) review by Joseph Braverman
Actor-turned-director Travis Fine demonstrates his social and directorial relevance with his inspirational indie film, Any Day Now. This original story, set in the 1970s, focuses on two gay lovers – one closeted, the other out and proud – that unexpectedly find themselves at impossible odds against a justice system that deems homosexual parents more dangerous than drug-addicted, abandon-prone mothers. When nightclub dancer Rudy (Alan Cumming) finds his Down syndrome neighbor left home alone by his mother, who is subsequently arrested after a late night of drug-binging, Rudy makes it his mission to take care of the deserted teenager at any cost. Rudy’s attorney boyfriend, Paul (Garret Dillahunt), uses his knowledge of the law to persuade the court to place the boy, Marco, into the custody of himself and Rudy: a loving, emerging family that Marco happily considers his own. The film’s conclusion will leave you stunned beyond words, reflective on how far and how little we’ve now come in the fight for gay rights and human equality in America. Alan Cumming — flamboyant but never a gay stereotype — delivers a career-best as Rudy, a character who could go down in history as one of the great LGBT movie icons a la Rocky Horror Picture Show’s Dr.Frank-N-Furter and Brokeback Mountain’sEnnis Del Mar. However, the real awards attention should go to Garret Dillahunt, a character actor who has been marvelous throughout his career but never as impressive as he is in Any Day Now. As the closeted, “scared-to-be-who-he-is” Paul, Dillahunt will move audiences to tears in one of the film’s pivotal courtroom scenes. Aside from Beasts of the Southern Wild’s Dwight Henry, Dillahunt delivers the finest supporting performance of the entire year. Oscar will likely ignore, and that is a true shame. Barring some occurrences of villain caricaturing, Any Day Now is a triumph of a film that stands as one of the year’s best, and certainly one of its most necessary.
Travis Fine’s Any Day Now, distributed by Music Box Films, will be released Friday, December 14th in Los Angeles and Orange County. A national rollout will soon follow, so please be on the lookout for this sensational independent drama that is sure to fall through the cracks without audience support.