Writer / Director Charlie Kaufman has a reputation for off-beat, unusual movies but I’ll admit I’ve only seen one of his – Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind (which he wrote) that I remember liking for its surreal themes and imaginative imagery. So checking out the trailer this looked like it had a similar quirky vibe. Lucy, a young woman is on a road trip with her boyfriend Jake to visit his parents. However she’s struggling with uncertain feelings about their relationship and is considering breaking up with him. However during their journey and stay at the parents farm, Lucy’s neurotic uncertainties cause various strange things to occur.
This was an odd experience. It’s initially a relationship drama but quickly tumbles down the rabbit hole of surreal imagery, time-jumps that seem to only be happening in Lucy’s head and plenty of pondering on life, mortality and relationships that gets a bit ‘much’. Occasionally the movie seems to hit pause for long inner monologues from Lucy that get rather pretentious, reciting poetry and insecurities that made me rather frustrated with her character. She came across utterly self-absorbed. Also occasionally the (admittedly clever) surreal moments seems to be there just to be odd and wacky (the dog that keeps shaking, disappearing and reappearing), which would have been fine if the movie had more of a sense of humour. Instead we get an overly pessimistic tone that doesn’t shift, and ultimately goes nowhere. David Thewlis and Toni Collette turn up as the patents, playing their characters at various ages, which did prove a highlight.
I’m sure theres plenty of meaning hidden amongst the oddness, and realise it’s all about life, ageing and the passage of time. However overall this lingered too much on the mundane and shy’d away from a potential to be more fun instead of just depressing. Disappointing.
The last time I watched legendary actor Clint Eastwood would probably be Gran Torino, a movie which has become one of my favourites. So sitting down to this was with some anticipation and well, would such an actor put himself back in front of the camera again (considering he’s also a respected director) for anything less that something worthwhile? Let’s see.
Eastwood plays Earl, an elderly man who has spent much of his life missing out on important events with his family in favour of growing his horticulture business. Yet when he falls on hard times and age seems to be finally taking it’s toll, he attempts to reconnect with his loved ones. However when attending his granddaughter’s engagement party he is approached by a guy offering him the chance to make some money. All he has to do is drive – something Earl is very experienced in.
This gently observed and absorbing story is anchored by a wonderfully nuanced performance from Eastwood who turns a self-centred, world-weary character into a loveable, charming man who’s adept at turning even the riskiest situation to his favour. The way he gets in the good books of ruthless Mexican drug dealers, who go from threatening him to befriending him is just a joy to watch. Add to this the growing relationship he builds with his estranged family, and I was totally invested in what was going on. Bradley Cooper is on board as a dedicated DEA agent and Diane Weist (remember her?) plays Eastwood’s ex wife.
One character development later in the movie is a touch cliched and some ideas feel a bit out of place despite the humour intended (Eastwood and some hookers?), yet the story expertly juggles an increasingly deadly scenario with emotional and heart-felt family drama that really got in the feels. A must watch.
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