Director Roger Michell is obviously in love with the story and the characters, but it is hard to discern why. Michell treats his material with a sort of reverence too honorable for the drivel which it is.
As expected, Day-Lewis breathes life into Abraham Lincoln. And, as expected, he’s fantastic to watch, even if this isn’t a “call the Academy Award race for Best Actor over!” performance. From his work alone, Day-Lewis gives a humility and humanity to the ex-President that the script by Tony Kushner simply cannot achieve.
However, what defines Cronenberg’s nearly 40-year long career is his obsession with, well, obsession. Whether getting hooked on bug poison, intermingling sex and car accidents, developing bizarre gynecology instruments, protecting one’s family/identity, solving a mystery, or stopping a crime syndicate, his best characters tend to showcase the alluring and destructive passion of obsession without serving as a cautionary tale.
In an interesting twist, the movie calls its own account of history into question, and that sustained sense of ambiguity keeps the movie surprisingly balanced. J. Edgar affords its audience the dignity of drawing their own conclusions.
What do you call a two-hour movie with forty-five minutes of wholesome, inspirational tearjerking and a buck-fifteen of dead weight? No, not The Blind Side. This year, you may call it Machine Gun Preacher.
Jonah Hill shows that he can do more than broad comedy. Although awkward and nervous, Brand is severely dialed back from what we’ve seen Hill play before, and Moneyball utilizes his strengths without showing his weaknesses. The movie also wisely doesn’t make this math genius some sort of Beautiful Mind-esque, socially incompetent robot. He’s good at statistics, but he’s still a human who gets caught up in the excitement of the game.
Uday is a prince who has everything and can get away with anything. He rapes, he murders, he beats people, he has the best clothes, the best cars, the best liquor, a torture staff on call, and an endless supply of cocaine, yet there is an energy missing to the film that would be amenable to such a lifestyle.
It’s these moments that comprise the film’s greater theme, that in his final (127) hours even the most confident loner regrets the people he leaves behind. Not calling his mother back is more than a guilt trip, it’s a genuine tragedy, and the fact that this lack of communication will prevent anybody from ever even finding his body is just the punchline to one of life’s most malicious jokes.
He brings up his 1600 SAT score, his obsession with Harvard’s final clubs, betrays his jealousy of the “world-class athletes” who row crew, and condescendingly tells Erica that she doesn’t have to study because she goes to BU. As Erica leaves, she predicts his success as “some kind of computer person,” then delivers the line that sets up the entire movie: “You’ll think everyone hates you because you’re a nerd, but it’ll be because you’re an asshole.”