NYFF: ‘Club Sandwich’, ‘The Dog’, and ‘Jimmy P.’ All Have Their High Points


club sandwichClub Sandwich (★★★)

A rather unique take on the coming of age tale, Club Sandwich is a very slow burn comedy that embraces the awkwardness of being a certain age, though it’s going the bold extra step of being about two ages. Filmmaker Fernando Eimbcke has a distinct eye for the type of movie that he wants to tell and makes sure that he tells it. The pacing here will likely test the patience of some, especially since it veers towards an almost mumblecore way of doing things, but there are lots to like underneath that. I did appreciate the added layer to what’s essentially a three character piece here, though it definitely drags a bit from time to time. Overall though it’s in the upper tier of things I’ve seen at the New York Film Festival so far.

The film details a boy dealing with his first opposite sex attraction and a mother learning to back off. When we meet Hector (Lucio Gimenez Cacho Goded) and his mother Paloma (Maria Renee Prudencio), they’re relaxing at an empty hotel that’s on the cheap side and looks it. Paloma is young to have a teenaged son and tries to be a cool mom to a certain degree, but Hector is at the age where he’s starting to rebel against her. They spend a lot of time together (basically every moment except when Hector sneaks away to masturbate), but that begins to change when he meets Jazmin (Danae Reynaud). She’s there with her older father (Leonel Tinajero) and her stepmom (Carolina Politi), apparently the only other folks at the resort. Jazmin is very interested in Hector and he’s interested in her too, though he’s not too sure just how to show it. Things progress slowly until Paloma finds out about Jazmin, which leads to some complications for Hector.

Everyone in the cast is pretty solid and Eimbcke’s writing and direction are on the same level, so this is clearly a film with a cap on it in terms of how much it can impress. Still, Club Sandwich is a cute little comedy that probably won’t impress you, but also likely won’t let you down. I suppose it literally is a club sandwich in that way.

thedog_00-620x350The Dog (★★★)

Fans of the film Dog Day Afternoon will be very interested in this documentary. The Dog is a look at the real man behind the character essayed by Al Pacino in that classic movie. Directors Allison Berg and François Keraudren are rather infatuated by the late John Wojtowicz, which both helps and hurts the doc. On the one hand, you’re learning about someone you’d likely never know about otherwise, but on the other hand, you don’t quite get the well-rounded tale that you’d probably prefer. The good does outweigh the bad though, so this NYFF title does get a thumbs up from me.

Essentially, the documentary centers around the true story of John Wojtowicz, as told by John himself. Most of us know him in terms of Pacino’s interpretation of him in the dramatized tale, but here we get the whole shebang from him. Yes, John robbed a bank to try to pay for his lover’s sex-reassignment surgery, but he’d argue that there’s far more to him than that. We then get a look at his participation in the early gay rights movement along with where his life went after the events of the movie ended (without those dramatizations of course). A lot of whether you’ll enjoy this flick or not is if you can spend over an hour and a half with Wojtowicz, who’s essentially like a friend’s creepy uncle. He’s interesting to listen to, but you kind of wish he was talking to someone else.

I think I’d be more enthusiastic about this doc if Berg and Keraudren had developed more of a style, but it didn’t keep my thumb from being up. I do wish they’d made this look a little more polished, but I suppose that fits their subject’s style. If you’re a fan of Dog Day Afternoon, I’d imagine this one will be of some interest to you. If not, The Dog might still be worthwhile, but then again…maybe not.

jimmy pJimmy P., Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian (★★½)

I think it’s pretty clear now that it’s hard to make a “talking cure” type of film successfully cinematic. It works from time to time, but much how the even more compelling seeming A Dangerous Method failed to fully capture my interest, the drama Jimmy P., Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian suffers a similar fate. Director/co-writer Arnaud Desplechin basically gives us something that resembles the beginning of Paul Thomas Anderson‘s The Master, just with Benecio del Toro standing in for Joaquin Phoenix (and I suppose Mathieu Amalric substituting for Philip Seymour Hoffman in that equation). It’s far from a bad film, but it simply left me cold.

This is basically one long depiction of one man’s experience with psychotherapy. Native American Jimmy Picard (del Toro) lives in Montana with his sister after returning from war with horrible headaches and periodic instances of going blind. Essentially useless, his sister worries about him constantly. She eventually decides to make use of his status as a veteran and has him taken for treatment at a well-regarded hospital in Kansas. Initially, the numerous doctors at the facility find Jimmy to be in perfect health, which leads to them eventually diagnosing him as schizophrenic. Their long shot solution then involves calling on Georges Devereau (Amalric), an anthropologist. They want him to see if perhaps they don’t understand Jimmy because of his identity. From there on, bonding and healing slowly begins to occur.

There’s terrific acting on display from del Toro and Amalric along with a tremendously good score by composer Howard Shore, but ultimately I was left wanting slightly more than I got. Desplechin’s direction is clear eyed and the script he co-wrote with Kent Jones and Julie Peyr is far from bad, but this drama just is missing the extra bit that pushes my thumb upwards. I’ve seen worse films here at the festival, but I’ve seen better ones too. Jimmy P., Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian is decent enough, but I’d rather just watch that part of The Master again.

Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!