Tribeca Film Fest Report #6

Ah, family. The Tribeca Film Festival features a lovely festival-within-a-festival for families, with films appropriate for parents and kids alike, a street fair this coming Saturday, and more. These two films are not a part of it.

Nobel Son

You're lucky you're not a genius.

It's one of those perfect-crime kinda flicks, wrapped up in familial angst as a black-comedy topping. That it's all rather ridiculous and overly complicates itself in the process is almost beside the point ... though not entirely. See, arrogant college prof and working scientist Eli Michaelson (Alan Rickman) has just learned some exciting news -- he has won the Nobel Prize -- and some not-so-exciting news: his son, Barkley (Bryan Greenberg), a PhD candidate who has forsaken his father's legacy to study -- horrors! -- another field, has just been kidnapped and, oh yes, his abductors would like Eli to turn over his $2 million prize money in exchange for his son. Eli is disinclined to do so. Writer-director Randall Miller (scriptwriting duties shared with Jody Savin) crams a lot into a flick: marital infidelity, bad poetry, and what is, admittedly, the best use of a Mini Cooper in a crime caper since The Italian Job. Yes, it collapses under the weight of its own presumed cleverness before it's done wringing you out, but not before Rickman walks away with the movie thanks to his most scenery-chewing, over-the-top, gooey-chocolate performance yet. His Eli is a miserable rotten bastard who deserves everything he gets, and he gets quite a bit. [visit the film's official site]

The Cake Eaters

You asked me to marry you, and then you took off without saying good-bye.

Three men, three women, and a whole lotta tender secrets, aching desire, and broken hearts fill up the directorial debut of actor Mary Stuart Masterson -- so much so that what seems at first like a lean, spare, psychic space in which much is left unspoken swells to burn white-hot. Guy Kimbrough (Jayce Bartok, who also wrote the screenplay) returns home to his small, upstate New York town after three years away, too late for his mother's funeral and too late, perhaps, to save his relationship with his father (Bruce Dern), younger brother (Aaron Stanford), and the woman he left behind (Miriam Shor). His father and brother are exploring all sorts of strange new emotional worlds with the women in their lives. Bartok's script dares to tread some thin ice about what constitutes an appropriate, morally sound sexual relationship, but Masterson's sensitive direction removes any possible objection and replaces it with a warm humanity. Standing out among the excellent performances are Stanford's bitter loner and Kristin Stewart as a handicapped teenager desperate to live as much of life as she can. [visit the film's IMDB page]

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MaryAnn Johanson (email me)

reviews, reviews, reviews! at FlickFilosopher.com