TELLURIDE – I’m not the Noah Baumbach subscriber many of my colleagues are. I even choked a little bit yesterday at the premiere of “Frances Ha” when Scott Foundas, in introducing the director, called him “the voice of his generation.” But I do think a case may have been made in his latest.
The film is Woody Allen by way of Williamsburg, “Girls” by way of…well, Baumbach. And it’s easily his best yet, his most thematically refined outing. And it’s been interesting to see some call it his least essential, others his best effort. But few have bad words for it. At the center is a fantastic, flighty portrayal from Greta Gerwig, continuing her indie star rise, but I was once again charmed right out of my seat by Adam Driver.
You’ll probably recall him for his work in Lena Dunham’s aforementioned HBO series, and yes, he’s treading similar waters here. But there’s something so charismatic and easy, assured and magnetic about the actor. I’d say when he was on screen, I was most invested in the film. And I hope he gets more and more work.
But while some have already disagreed with me here, I think there’s a versatility lurking underneath there. He’s been tapped for similar stuff lately, but this is an actor who just worked with Clint Eastwood (“J. Edgar”) and has collaborations with Steven Spielberg (“Lincoln”) and the Coen brothers (“Inside Llewyn Davis”) on the horizon. That’s a pretty stellar start, and I’m hoping we see more and more of him in the coming years.
Speaking of charisma, Michael Shannon is certainly a different breed where that is concerned. I caught up with Ariel Vromen’s “The Iceman” last night. The movie is on the commercial side and isn’t overly compelling in and of itself. It tells an interesting but somewhat rote story of mob hitman Richard “The Iceman” Kuklinski, a cold and ruthless killer who was nevertheless a committed family man.
Shannon absolutely kills in the title role (no pun intended). It’s one of his best performances to date. We’ve really come to expect no less of him, but he seethes and explodes in equal portion in the film, crafting a fabulous arc and popping out from an awesome cast. Though on that front, I’d say Chris Evans almost steals it. He’s unrecognizable for most of the film under facial hair and long locks, but he’s a live wire and a great sparring partner for Shannon. Ray Liotta (who was on hand), David Schwimmer, Winona Ryder, Robert Davi and — in fleeting cameos — James Franco and Stephen Dorff also star.
Getting back to Shannon, the guy is unbelievably prolific lately. I bumped into his personal publicist at a dinner last night and got excited for a moment thinking maybe he made the journey. But I knew that was wishful thinking. He went straight from Venice to New York for rehearsals on “Grace,” his big Broadway debut that’s going into previews later this month. Add to that another play (the off-Broadway “Uncle Vanya”), the production schedule for “Boardwalk Empire,” the recently wrapped “Man of Steel,” next year’s “Mud” and the just-released “Premium Rush,” the guy clearly loves to work. We’re the lucky ones in that equation.
Both “The Iceman” and “Frances Ha” will hit the Toronto Film Festival next. They’re both looking for buyers on these shores.
That’s just a little clean-up. Today I’m going to catch up with Pablo Larraín’s “No” and then see where the wind takes me. I can already feel things winding down.