Opens Fri Nov 25
Wilby Wonderful is repeatedly described in its press materials as a comedy—albeit a dark comedy, a bittersweet comedy. This is pretty misleading, as the darkness and the bittersweetness far outweigh any comedic virtue. Set in a lonely Canadian island town, the film centers on a man (James Allodi) who tries repeatedly, to kill himself. Every time he's interrupted, he continues to search for a good place to die. This leads him to the film's other characters: a real estate agent (Sandra Oh) and her cop husband (Paul Gross); an aging MILF (Rebecca Jenkins) and her daughter (Ellen Page); a painter (Callum Keith Rennie); a mayor (Maury Chaykin).
Wonderful's chief flaw is that the film spans only one day in these people's lives, which proves not enough time to make them as sympathetic as they need to be to endure the constant pensive expressions and outbursts of emoting that take place. Plus, this heavy, slow-paced, excessively emo atmosphere is aggravated by the truly grating soundtrack: Lilith Fair-style affected, almost entirely female singer/songwriters warbling and half-yodeling their way through life and love's trials... BLECH! MARJORIE SKINNER
Opens Fri Nov 25
I hate it when an actor I like does a film that sucks. Then I'm put in this predicament—I can either pretend that this new shitty film doesn't exist, or if it's really awful, I can disown the actor entirely. See, it's been extremely hard for me to forgive Jack Nicholson for 2003's excruciating rom-com, Something's Gotta Give, in which he costarred with Diane Keaton. But when I see a movie like The Passenger, Nicholson's absolution becomes a no-brainer.
Directed by Italian neorealist Michelangelo Antonioni, 1975's The Passenger is a brilliant, brooding film about alienation in modern society. Nicholson's character, David Locke, is in Africa, researching a guerilla element for a television documentary. In a fit of existential fancy, Locke assumes the identity of a dead gunrunner named Robertson; then, he and his unnamed companion (Maria Schneider) traverse across Europe, trying to make contact with Robertson's old associates. The film culminates in a breathtaking seven-minute-long single take, and we're left pondering the enigmatic answers to some very deep questions.
In the end, The Passenger is a masterpiece because of Antonioni's superb, somewhat ambiguous direction. It makes me wonder how different even something like Something's Gotta Give could have been in his hands. MIKE FILTZ
The Goebbels Experiment
Opens Sat Nov 26
Clinton St. Theater
What makes The Goebbels Experiment so unique—and so disturbingly good—is that it doesn't just dwell on the evil of Nazism (the raging world war, genocide, etc.), but instead details a singular piece of the puzzle.
Rather than simply turn Nazi leaders into monsters (or try to overly humanize them), The Goebbels Experiment takes the simplest of approaches; presenting archival footage from pre-war Germany and Nazi home movies, accompanied with excerpts from Joseph Goebbels' letters and journals (read by Kenneth Branagh).
In his correspondences, the Nazi Party's Propaganda Minister talks about his supportive wife, his adorable children, his doubts about his career, and his reviews of then-current cinema. (It'd all be quite normal—if Goebbels hadn't been responsible for brainwashing the German population, vilifying Jews, and crafting the notion of Aryan Race supremacy.) The footage and letters about his family are particularly poignant and eerie, especially considering that Goebbels murdered all of them, then committed suicide as Allied Forces advanced on Berlin. But the film cleverly leaves out these well-known facts—the ones that too simply make Goebbels a monster and not a conflicted, dynamic person. PHIL BUSSE