THE END OF THE TOUR (2015)
An insufferably pompous exploration of David Foster Wallace, The End of the Tour is the perfect example of placing the wrong actors with the wrong script. Conversations about art and the afflictions of modern society, Jason Segel and Jesse Eisenberg deliver each line with a sanctimonious tone which never elevates beyond sounding smug and incredibly obnoxious. Fans of Foster Wallace might even be repulsed by their own appreciation as Segel lacks the range to be convincingly anyone beyond himself in a dodgy wig. Primarily though, there’s just something instantly unappealing about two egocentric men dueling to see who can create the more abstract hypotheses about the essence of art in contemporary society.
A touching romance about a young German woman and a young French man brought together in the aftermath of World War I by the death of the titular dead loved one, François Ozon’s 16th feature film is uniquely quiet and sensitive in its tone. With a simplistic use of monochrome cinematography which captures shadows and light to excellent effect, this pacifist film is made all the more compelling by its young leads, Pierre Niney and Paula Beer. While it does start strong, its second act following a crucial reveal flounders and loses its direction, resorting to some of the worst narrative devices to try carry the film to a solid conclusion. Nodding homage to La Grande Illusion, Ozon fails to live up to the excellence of Jean Renoir but nevertheless creates one of the best romance stories 2017 has to offer so far.
It’s amazing to watch these jingoist films do numbers in an effort to not come off as completely racist. Every year sees Britain release an action thriller set initially in London, with some reference to Paris or another European city that people remember having a terrorist attack, and then setting off antagonizing Muslims until they have to pull a twist or turn that exonerates them of all the previous hostility. Not as bad as London Has Fallen, although equally dull, the highlight here is seeing Noomi Rapace (Prometheus) hold her own as an action star with a level of intelligence and strength that is refreshing to see in these genre flicks. John Malkovich looks bored in almost every scene, bringing out the eccentricities sadly for only one scene. The most unusual casting is Orlando Bloom, working off-type, and weirdly mimicking Jack Sparrow of all characters. Why Toni Collette or Michael Douglas are here is anyone’s guess, but they got a paycheck at least. No prizes for guessing the reveal on who the mastermind behind the plot was all along. It truly is a by-the-numbers film that will find some business eventually on streaming services later this year.