REVIEW: A Dangerous Method

A Dangerous Method
Directed by: David Cronenberg
Written by: Christopher Hampton (screenplay & play), John Kerr (book)
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen and Vincent Cassel

David Cronenberg is a director obsessed with the crossroads of violence and sex.  His films vary greatly in both tone and narrative structure.  For proof (since we are soon talking about science) lay down the science fiction horror show Videodrome next to his more recent pulpy small-town thriller A History of Violence.

It makes since, then, that a film about the birth of psychoanalysis, revolving around the violent sexual relationship between Dr. Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) and his patient Sabina Spielren (Keira Knightley), would be a work best fit for someone like Cronenberg.  A Dangerous Method is not a straight-forward exercise in period filmmaking like its costumes and curiously English-speaking Europeans suggest, though.  The film begins intent on dispelling that rumor, as Spielren howls with bursts of rage and laughter in the claustrophobic confines of a horse carriage.  She is dragged out by a group of men and taken into Dr. Jung’s care in Switzerland.

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REVIEW: J. Edgar

J. Edgar
Directed by: Clint Eastwood
Written by: Dustin Lance Black (screenplay)
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer, Judi Dench and Naomi Watts

Two men are fighting over a woman.  One declares that he may in fact be ready for a wife, while the other, in a fuming rage, declares that he cannot marry that woman.  He smashes some glasses and throws the first punch.  Not to be outdone, the other man fights back with all his strength, but to no avail.  The other man has him pinned to the ground.  And then they kiss.

That is the climax of J. Edgar, Clint Eastwood’s latest directorial endeavor and the sliest genre subversion since his masterful acting/directing one-two punch in 2008’s Gran Torino.  He is of course filming the illusive FBI titan J. Edgar Hoover, who here is embodied by Leonardo DiCaprio in his finest screen performance.

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REVIEW: 50/50

50/50
Directed by: Jonathan Levine
Written by: Will Reiser (screenplay)
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick and Anjelica Huston

As you may have guessed, 50/50 has a series of choices with two possible outcomes, the most prominent of which is whether the young cancer patient played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt will live or die.  The movie also presents a choice that is unexpected given the subject matter: will it lean more heavily on comedy or drama?

The latter choice is more interesting because an audience will have to grapple with it. Once you get to know Adam (Gordon-Levitt), you’ll want him to live, and Will Reiser’s screenplay assures that you will never have mixed feelings about that.  You will about the comedy, though.  Should a movie about this be funny?  Showtime’s The Big C has proven that it is indeed possible, as long as there is a distinct human element. Thanks to the well-cast ensemble, 50/50 is mostly successful at walking the tightrope.

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