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IR Film Review: HOPE GAP [Screen Media]

The essence of personalities reflects usually in those actors playing them and the location in which it is set. That said, the through line of “Hope Gap” starring Annette Bening and Bill Nighy is universal. The interesting predilection is seeing it through the shortcomings of their son Jamie. He is not a failure by any means but he is a product of his parents, one of which is fiery and combative (in her own nature — as played by Bening) and a quieter more introspective father (played with his usual reserve by Bill Nighy). The son Jamie is played by O’Connor who recently starred as the spurned Mr. Elton in “Anna.” also with Bill Nighy. Likely that film came after this one so Nighy must have been adequately impressed by O’Connor and perhaps recommended him for that film. Bening is the real luminary here as she always is. She has an intensity and is not afraid to bury herself in a character that could be unlikable but you can see her point of view. It is not that she is unlikable but perhaps more unwavering in her beliefs which in many ways makes total sense. She is big into faith but it is not pushed in the face of the viewer overly. It is just part of her make up that she believe marriages should be worked on and not thrown away. But her character is also blind to certain ideas of happiness versus unhappiness..

She unfairly burdens this upon her son with guilt, not with malice but simply because it is her nature. Bill Nighy is the perfect foil but his essence of character of course is overpowered by Bening by its nature because his character is more subtle and hers is more obvious. The tome of marriage is also interesting because Bening is married to Warren Beatty and mother to his children. His power and aura against hers (which was powerful already) is very much an interesting irony/insight but also maybe something she saw in the script, It informs the character even subconsciously and obviously despite it being a completely different situation. The film also takes place near Dover in England so the cliffs play a part but the title refers to the little pools of water where life lives when the tide goes out trapping fish and crabs in small pools.

The metaphor is based in the fact of where life lives and how it progresses. The style and performances many times cross over into melodrama unfortunately which the writer.director simply might have balanced too hard in one direction. There are numerous flying drone shots over the gaps and the area to push the point. Its metaphor s effective and interrelates to the poetical nature of Bening’s character who is also specifically named Grace. “Hope Gap” is a nice character piece that overcompensates when it didn’t need to. It’s personalities are fully formed enough and to hit  them over the head seems unnecessary when the story itself and the actors would have provided that anyway.

C

By Tim Wassberg

IR Film Review: THE JESUS ROLLS [Screen Media]

Making a follow up to “The Big Lebowski” in any way, shape or form is an interesting quandary. Jesus Quintana, who just had a small ode in that seminal film, was seemingly a pervert who just lived to bowl and start trouble with his bowling alley competitors. While that ode 20 years ago happened in LA, this new tome, which John Turturro writes, directs and acts in, picks up Jesus getting again out of the joint 20 years later (how long he has been incarcerated we don’t know). He is picked up by his friend, played by Bobby Cannavale. From the get go, be assured that this is not “The Big Lebowski 2”. This is it’s own animal with less visual flourish, slightly darker humor to be sure and more subtle writing. Much of what Jesus and his cohorts do makes little sense but that, in short order, is part of the fun. Jesus as a character just seems to go on whatever path life takes him, despite the absurd, stealing cars, trying to have sex with women but also coming on to his best friend in Cannavale, not out of spite but just saying “you should try it!”. Whether stealing cars or staying in random people’s houses, Turturro plays the older Jesus as just a free spirit but with wrong values. Once in a while, it does elevate. What lets this work in many ways, even though her English accent is still very heavy, blossom is Audrey Tautou, the star of “Amelie” and “The DaVinci Code” who seems undeniable free as a happy, openly sexual haircutter who has never had an orgasm and doesn’t mind. She is just a free spirit in platform pink heels. Tatou is just a bright light despite Cannavale and Turturro’s characters in different ways being not the best role models. Cannavale, who has played his share of bad guys and unsavories, plays his character in many ways as an innocent which is charming in its own way and makes one think of his earlier work in films like “The Station Agent”.

The one thing that Turturro can also pull off is some good cameos though most of them are brief and just push the story along. Ones like Tim Blake Nelson and Christopher Walken as just one scene but bring a smile to your face. The most intrinsic overall is a multi-scene stint with Susan Sarandon which shows a depth and a Bull Durham angle that we haven’t seen from her in years though the resolution of the character is unusual and changes the story somewhat. Pete Davidson from SNL also shows up in a key role but again it is a fleeting character. But again that is the world that Jesus Quintana lives in. Even his mother, who has a great reveal and played by a cool actress completely fits into the story correctly. In essence though the heart still revolves back to Tatou’s character and her brightness which balances out the texture of Jesus’ smarminess which Turturro doesn’t tame down but also makes it as dimensional as he can. And yes he does bowl and he can roll.

B-

By Tim Wassberg

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