James Franco’s fine movie about a bad one; Woody Allen’s waning appeal and some Canadian sci fi
Alongside the few new films this week, consider the free screening on Tuesday at the Cinematheque. MANUFACTURING CONSENT: NOAM CHOMSKY AND THE MEDIA offers an alternative view of fake news from one of mainstream media’s strongest critics. Chomsky accuses them of pushing their ideology and argues his case eloquently with lots of archival footage as illustration. The film was a hit back in 1992 and is even more relevant now. The presentation is part of the Cinematheque’s ongoing Canada 150 celebration. Check their website.
And then mull over these new ones:
The Disaster Artist: 3 ½ stars
Wonder Wheel: 2
Radius: 2 ½
God’s Own Country: 4
Tom of Finland: 3
THE DISASTER ARTIST: James Franco has pulled off something quite remarkable here. He takes us inside the making of possibly the worst movie ever (The Room from 2003), abandons his usual irony and highlights with actual sincerity the passions that drive artists. Granted, the one he portrays doesn’t seem to have any talent except drive, but good or bad the creative impulse is the same isn’t it? He makes you recognize it even though you can’t help but laugh, and often, at the eccentric bumbling on display here.
The film gets very meta. Franco plays, and directs, and directs in the movie being made. He’s Tommy Wiseau, Hollywood dreamer, a self-styled James Dean (who Franco also once portrayed), a raging scene-chewer in the acting class where we first see him and eternal outsider. “I want my own planet,” he says. Along with a friend (played by Franco’s younger brother Dave) he sets out to make a movie. We’re there all the way through casting, tortuous filming (one scene took 67 takes, of which we get maybe four) and right to the premiere. Ultimately it confirms the value of doggedness. As Wiseau says “You have to be the best. Never give up.” His “bad” film found a cult audience. Franco saw it at the Rio here in town, optioned the book about it and brought in a bunch of pals to help, including local guys Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg to produce and Judd Apatow, Alison Brie, Melanie Griffith, Brian Cranston and others to appear in it. Stay past the end credit to see the real and the Franco Wiseau meet up. (Scotiabank and suburban theatres) 3 ½ out of 5.
WONDER WHEEL: Woody Allen’s detractors get a lot of supporting evidence in his latest film. The plot is a digest of much that he’s done before. He’s not an original anymore. His language is as glib as ever but this time it has no laughs to deliver. The story is a drab melodrama, though the backdrop, New York’s Coney Island amusement park shines in vibrant color in Vittorio Storaro’s cinematography. And most disconcertingly, there are so many echoes of the scandal in Allen’s own life that the film is in fact unpleasant.
Justin Timberlake offers a no-fun hint right at the start. He’s a lifeguard and aspiring writer, who dreams of creating serious theatre and the great American play. (A stand-in for Woody?) He mentions characters defeated by a fatal flaw and periodically tells us right into the camera about the people in this story. There’s the thing he’s got going with a sad waitress (this is the 1950s) played by Kate Winslet. She has a problem son and big regrets from a first husband and dislikes her second (bellowing Jim Belushi). He’s got an estranged daughter (Juno Temple) who suddenly arrives on the run from gangsters and soon also gets involved with the lifeguard. Cue Kate to fuss and turn neurotic, which she does quite well. Timberlake, in contrast, is weak as a co-star. Allen lets the film end with a perplexing and vague resolution. What was that all about? (5th Avenue) 2 out of 5