Clip It: Each day, Jon Davis looks at the world of trailers, featurettes and clips and puts it all in perspective.
It's not usually surprising when a well known actor tries their hand at directing. They're already creative people, they spend all day on set, they have a lot of experience with the performance aspect of filmmaking, so it makes a lot of sense.
Meg Ryan's directorial debut Ithaca is a little more unexpected because she's been around so long and hasn't done any high profile producing or much else on the other side of the camera until now. That doesn't mean she doesn't have the chops, it's really cool to see a well known creative person do something different. From my admittedly myopic standpoint, the only indication she had a yearning to break into new territory was her performance in Courage Under Fire. Cast way against type, Meg Ryan played a tough-as-nails, female chopper commander who may or may not have made a mistake during the Persian Gulf War. She was more than just convincing, she was memorably fantastic, clearly, because here I am recounting a movie I haven't seen since the mid '90s. She's proven she can stretch.
I can't say I loved the trailer. I couldn't tell if the young kid we meet in the beginning is the person who goes to war, why his messenger job is important, and what it all has to do with the “pain” that Meg Ryan's character obliquely describes. In fact, the dialogue that we have here is pretty obtuse, as if everyone spoke like Terrence Malick voice over in the '40s. Perhaps they did! I wasn't there! And to be fair, it it's clearly one of those films that can't be condensed down to a couple minutes. Dramas have a rhythm that's hard to capture in a trailer.
Also, Tom Hanks is in this movie, but even from the trailer, you can tell it's a cameo because if they had more footage of him, the would have used it. And by the way, that's the least Tom Hanks could do for Meg Ryan, who helped make him a big star. I guess he's not a right fit to play the young boy in the story, but let's hope he offered to do it and Meg Ryan turned him down. But it anyone could pull it off, it's national treasure Tom Hanks.
I had to read a synopsis to truly get a sense of what the movie is about. It's a coming of age story based on the Pulitzer Prize winning novel “The Human Comedy” by William Saroyan. I should have known. It's a book I read many times when I was a wee lad, and now I read it to my child every night. (None of that last sentence is true.) It's lofty material, and kind of reminds me of an underrated Barry Levinson movie Avalon , another coming of age story with a not-great title, which was also incredibly ambitious and never got the accolades it deserved.
If this movie is well executed, it has Oscar written all over it, so I'm curious how Meg Ryan's work is received. I'd never count her out.