William Friedkin is a name you know, but not one you hear much about these days. The “French Connection” and “The Exorcist” director hasn’t delivered anything of that quality since those days in the ’70s, but he shows he’s still a skilled and relevant filmmaker with his film version of the Tracy Letts play “Killer [...]
Category: "Independent Drama"
It’s hard — impossible really — to understand why a person would commit an atrocity like a mass killing. We understand loneliness, anger, desperation — but what pushes someone that far over the edge? So often we chalk it up to mental illness, often to avoid the discomfort of attempting to fathom that kind of [...]
Sex addiction has yet to get a serious film treatment until “Shame,” the sophomore feature from filmmaker Steve McQueen. Generally we feel inclined to put a comic spin on anything that taboo (see the adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s sex-addiction novel “Choke”), but here we see how it ruins lives and relationships.
So often the most powerful card in a brooding character study ends up the one never played. The mystery lying behind the on-screen display of social perversion, which in the case of “Martha Marcy May Marlene” comes as a manipulative cult, can drive intense interest just through sheer curiosity as to what possible force in [...]
Terrence Malick can’t count himself among the most popular directors working today, but he can certainly count himself among the most respected. His work tends to follow suit, and “The Tree of Life” is no exception. This meditation on life, death, God and the origin of the universe can be described as nothing short of [...]
We are most often drawn to two types of great performances: the believable expression of extreme emotions in powerful circumstances and the impersonation. When an actor playing a person for which we have a point of reference convinces our imaginations so completely that this is in fact what the real-life figure was like, we are [...]
Actor-turned-director Thomas McCarthy came off as a natural in his first two features as a director: 2003’s “The Station Agent” and 2007’s “The Visitor.” That put a fat old earmark on latest effort “Win Win.” All three films demonstrate an understanding of human motivation and how more often than not, things do not turn out [...]
When Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody struck gold with “Juno” in 2007, they did so with a rare combination of contemporary wit, quirkiness and heart. Their four-year reunion in “Young Adult” won’t be nearly as heralded, but it might arguably be a better film.
Often times a change of scenery can make a big difference. Independent filmmaking has become as inextricably tied to relationship and family drama over the years as it has to New York City, Los Angeles and generic Suburbia. So taking place in Hawaii gives “The Descendants a unique presence, not that Alexander Payne’s outstanding film requires [...]
When done right, few tales are more riveting than a person’s descent into madness. Alfred Hitchcock proved this time and time again and Jeff Nichols reinforces it in “Take Shelter,” a film likely to have been lauded by the master of suspense himself. Anchored by the performances of Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain, “Shelter” broods [...]
The love story takes many forms in film. Many would argue “Blue Valentine” takes the more “realistic” approach in that it depicts the fracturing of a relationship amidst a sea of flashbacks to more idealistic and happier times. “Blue Valentine” might not have a traditional happy ending, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a depressing [...]
Never has a coming-of-age story been crossed with dystopian historical fiction, or however you might describe the world of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel “Never Let Me Go” and its film of the same title. The contrast in narratives works in an effectively haunting manner here: the youthful idealism of growing up with the exposed underbelly of [...]
Charlotte Brontë’s seminal literary work “Jane Eyre” has been adapted countless times and prepared in a myriad of ways from the 1943 Joan Fontaine/Orson Welles version that was whittled to an hour and a half to the 1983 BBC mini-series with Zelah Clarke and Timothy Dalton that spans five-plus hours. That certainly begs the question [...]
A harrowing portrait of a teenager forced to be an adult out in the Ozarks, the epicenter of crystal meth activity, “Winter’s Bone” feels more harsh and real than any other film that brief summary evokes. Debra Granik’s film seems unequivocally true, so while I’m sure Daniel Woodrell’s novel paints an extremely accurate portrait of [...]
Family drama can be cliché, but not when that family consists of a teenage brother and sister and their two moms. Hollywood’s family dramas have yet to break out of the traditional family structure for obvious albeit not necessarily defensible reasons, but independent film promoter Focus Features has found a gem of one in Lisa [...]