Archive for September 2003

Under the Tuscan Sun

September 26, 2003

781m92R7cz8MAqg9SA8Nvg5RpzuCharlie Kaufman must be burning with envy of Audrey Wells, who in Under the Tuscan Sun has achieved what Kaufman tried to do with The Orchid Thief (i.e., turn a highly readable but unfilmable book into a movie — Kaufman ended up writing a movie about not being able to write the movie). Wells has taken Frances Mayes’ nonfiction bestseller and cheerfully fictionalized it, keeping only the basic idea (woman oversees the reconstruction of an Italian villa) and the title. Fans of the book might not be pleased with the results, though the movie is charming enough to lure non-readers to Mayes’ far different narrative — as long as they’re not expecting a tale of a divorcee, her Italian lover, and her sarcastic pregnant lesbian friend.

Fans of Diane Lane, on the other hand, should be happy with what amounts to a glowing vehicle for her. She plays Frances as a somewhat bewildered, overwhelmed woman who doesn’t mind being overwhelmed sometimes. When she first enters what will become her villa in Tuscany and a flock of pigeons flap loudly across her path, she is startled into laughter, not fear. Life has thrown Frances a curveball — her husband has dumped her for another woman — and when given the opportunity to take a free tour of Tuscany (courtesy of gay friend Patti, played with considerable wit by Sandra Oh), she almost passes it up. But she eventually gives in, and falls in love with a villa she hasn’t even seen from the inside yet. As she puts it, “I can’t go back to San Francisco.” She’d rather take on a Tuscan money pit in a place where she doesn’t know anyone (or the language) than go back “home” in defeat.

So the story, as reconceived by Wells, becomes about how Frances repairs herself as well as the villa. She does eventually make friends who pull her out of herself, including the free-spirited Katherine (Lindsay Duncan), who says she was once cast in a Fellini film as a little girl. Not by accident does the movie evoke Fellini and not, say, Antonioni (heck, Frances’ life back in Frisco would’ve been the Antonioni film). Tuscany is romanticized as a simpler, magical place where a splatter of bird poop on one’s head is taken as a good sign. It’s all very fluffy, but this is good-hearted and great-looking fluff, photographed on location (by Geoffrey Simpson) to bring out Tuscany’s ancient beguiling wonders.

There’s a love story, of course. Frances falls for the hunky Marcello (Raoul Bova); he’s married, but then so was her husband, and Frances may go into the affair as much out of spite towards her ex as out of passion. She doesn’t recognize, naturally, that she has become the “other woman” who once stole her own husband away; as in Unfaithful, Lane shows us all the goofy and hot-blooded emotions involved in sex, though I hope she doesn’t become typecast as Woman Who Has Flings Against Her Better Judgment. In any event, the way Lane plays these affairs, we may doubt her judgment but we never begrudge it. The giddy little dance she does after her first sacktime with Marcello proves her innate ability to win our empathy; here’s hoping she never uses this power for evil.

Under the Tuscan Sun is of the “everyone goes home happy” school of romantic comedies. That’s what it’s built to do, and Audrey Wells, who has shown a taste for more dramatic work (Guinevere, her only previous directorial outing, from 1999) as well as lighter fare (such as The Truth About Cats and Dogs and Shall We Dance?), does what she sets out to do. She remains one of the better dialogue carpenters in the business, too; an early scene with Jeffrey Tambor as Frances’ attorney vibrates with what isn’t said, and we are grateful to Wells for having faith in our intelligence — we figure things out along with Frances. That’s also true of the final shot, which sums up the whole restoration theme of the movie without calling undue attention to itself. Under the Tuscan Sun will please people who aren’t ordinarily pleased at the movies these days — older folks uninterested in gun-toting vampires or wrestlers moonlighting as actors — and it earns their pleasure.

Cabin Fever

September 20, 2003

Does it matter that even the most enjoyable horror movies nowadays hardly have a voice to call their own? I say it’s nothing to get hung about — John Carpenter, after all, stole from Howard Hawks, Wes Craven cribbed from Ingmar Bergman, and Brian De Palma (and everyone else) filled his shopping cart with boxes of Hitchcock.

So when a Rob Zombie makes House of 1000 Corpses (which genuflected to Tobe Hooper) or a Danny Boyle presents 28 Days Later (which raided George Romero’s Dead trilogy but forgot the skill), they’re following in the footsteps of their masters in more ways than one. Eli Roth’s Cabin Fever is an unabashed homage to grungy ’70s and ’80s rural horror, tipping its hat to everything from Last House on the Left (Roth even uses that film’s signature ballad) to The Evil Dead (cabins are bad, bad news in these movies). In other words, to paraphrase Tenacious D, this is not the greatest horror movie in the world; this is just a tribute.

And a fun one it is, written (by Roth and Randy Pearlstein) with a degree of roughhouse wit. The first reel, in fact, plays a little like that ’80s-comedy-made-in-2001 Wet Hot American Summer. Five college kids — reserved Paul (Rider Strong), approachable blonde Karen (Jordan Ladd), self-absorbed Jeff (Joey Kern), wild child Marcy (Cerina Vincent), and frat jock Bert (James DeBello) — head into the sticks for a weekend in a cabin. The area, they soon discover, is tainted: A staggering hermit, his skin corroded and his lungs spraying blood, pleads with the kids for help, but they panic and … well, let the remorseful Karen tell it in a nutshell: “He came to us for help. We set him on fire.”

I have to love a movie with lines like that. (And Roth even nods to Carpenter’s The Thing by having a character suggest that they start preparing their own food.) Cabin Fever establishes its terror alert early on — contamination! eek! — and treats it lightly while taking it seriously. The comedy here is not the reflexive sort, wherein the characters have all seen this movie before. It comes out of the realistic reactions a group of none-too-bright underclassmen might have when faced with blood-spewing doom. Filled with gratuitous gore (at one point, an entire jeep drips with the stuff) and sex (a comely female character muses that she should be grabbing the nearest guy and having a last bout of we-who-are-about-to-die-have-sex activity; cut to her jumping the bones of the nearest grateful guy), the film is solidly of a subgenre I over-reference, but it fits: the beer-and-pizza flick.

Roth tosses in some obvious set-ups, like a feral kid outside a rural store who bites anyone who comes near him, or a goateed skateboarder with a hungry dog, or — just for the sake of an eleventh-hour laugh — a wizened shopkeeper who casually mutters the “n” word. Of the actors, Joey Kern (who resembles a fey Trey Parker) has a great final scene capped by a perhaps too-knowing glance at the end of Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, Rider Strong sells a particularly repugnant scene that teaches the importance of testing a ladder’s strength, and Giuseppe Andrews, as an unlikely deputy who’s like a cross between David Arquette’s Deputy Dewey in the Scream movies and Matthew McConaughey in Dazed and Confused, plays exactly the sort of guy who would, like, totally be into this movie, dude.

I was into it myself. Cabin Fever threw me few (if any) curves; it reminded me a little of the underappreciated, nasty little slasher comedy Cherry Falls, which had similar fun with its premise. Still, it’s the kind of cheapjack movie (complete with syrupy-looking blood and a refreshing complete lack of CGI tricks) I revere if it was made twenty years ago — my shelves creak under the weight of DVD gems like I Drink Your Blood and Squirm — so why not praise a new entry? Dude, like, totally break out the beer and pizza.4

Underworld

September 19, 2003

underworld-openIt’s an underworld, all right. This fucking thing is shot at night, in dank tunnels, or during incessant thunderstorms; it seems to unfold in a post-sunlight universe, where vampires and werewolves can walk among us unnoticed because it’s so dark Ronald McDonald could walk among us unnoticed. Chief among many problems with Underworld is that the fashionable gothic-industrial-grunge look never lets up. Even scenes set in the human world (aboveworld?) are moody and oppressive. The great horror directors understand that we’re at our most dread-ridden when night is falling – when there’s contrast between the relatively safe daytime and the gathering of shadows. In Underworld, night has fallen, and it stays fallen.

But then this isn’t really a horror movie, despite the encouraging presence of vampires and werewolves (the latter are called “lycans” here, short for “lycanthropes,” I assume). No, Underworld reads more as an action flick with feeble romantic elements. War has raged between the vampires and the lycans for centuries. Vampire “death dealers,” one of whom is Kate Beckinsale in full Carrie Anne Moss drag as Selene, hunt down the lycans with silver bullets. The lycans, for their part, have developed bullets containing ultraviolet light. The mythoses of both vampires and werewolves are thrown to the winds here, by the way. Sometimes werewolves can metamorphose at will, sometimes the full moon presses the issue. I also enjoyed the many instances in which vampires are seen in reflections (mirrors, glass) and on surveillance cameras.

Selene reads the screenplay and realizes that she’s supposed to fall in love with Michael (Scott Speedman), a human targeted for initiation by the lycans. Selene’s vamp posse, including the scowling Kraven (Shane Brolly, distinguishing himself with the worst performance of the year), wonder why she wants to protect Michael; they haven’t read the screenplay, but then I wonder if director Len Wiseman did, either. I wouldn’t blame him if he hadn’t. Underworld offers a handful of shootouts wrapped around very many scenes wherein elders purse their lips and speak gravely of significant matters, which is great news for those of you who didn’t get enough of that in The Matrix Reloaded. Indeed, Underworld, from its tight black costuming of Kate Beckinsale to its slow-mo battle scenes to its black-on-blue look, plays like an appetizer for Matrix fans awaiting the five-course meal of Matrix Revolutions.

Beckinsale looks adorable with fangs (what woman doesn’t, really?), but she’s as humorless here as the rest of the cast. I don’t ask for pratfalls or Scream-like dialogue dissecting the genre, but couldn’t there have been just one laugh? Just one scene where someone seems happy or passionate about something? (I would’ve said “just one smile,” but various characters do engage in portentous evil sneers.) Sniffing around for levity, we may chortle inappropriately when we see the lycan headquarters, where lycan men gnash at each other for fun (aren’t there any female lycans, by the way?), and the vampire mansion, where these terrifying creatures stand around, crease their eyebrows, deliver pouting exposition, and then continue to stand around.

Poor human Michael gets batted around between the vampires and the lycans, and the script unfurls a lot of backstory we don’t care about illuminating plot mysteries we also don’t care about. I can say, however, that the creation of a half-vampire-half-werewolf results in a guy who resembles a really pissed-off Smurf. Also that there’s room underground for an entire vampire train — an archaic locomotive where the film’s most incomprehensible massacre happens. Underworld takes a terrific drive-in premise and wastes it on techno-flavored action and deadly dull characters. It feels like issue #23 of a comic book that ran out of gas around issue #9.

Bubba Ho-Tep

September 19, 2003

Here’s a movie in which a geezer who may or may not be Elvis and an old black man who says he’s John F. Kennedy team up against a mummy who’s been stealing the souls of rest-home patients out of their assholes. Yet the film’s director Don Coscarelli can refer to it as “a serious drama,” and you see what he means. Bubba Ho-Tep, a ready-made cult film if ever there was one, has been a grassroots sensation, selling out festivals and now, on DVD, flying off store shelves. Why? Because Coscarelli, mainly known for his 1979 horror oddity (and classic) Phantasm and its sequels, is at home with the weird and sees no need to emphasize it. The premise, taken from a Joe R. Lansdale story (collected in Writer of the Purple Rage, then published in a hardcover along with Coscarelli’s script), is left-field enough, and Coscarelli digs inside it and comes up with surprising moments of poignance and delicacy.

Consider the broken-down Elvis (Bruce Campbell), with hip problems that necessitate a walker, and a possibly cancerous growth on his penis. Or Jack Kennedy (Ossie Davis), who gets around okay sometimes, but is later seen using a wheelchair. These are very fragile heroes, and when the mummy shows up at the rest home, we are worried about Elvis and Jack in a way we wouldn’t be about hale and hearty young heroes. When Elvis tumbles down a hill, we wince. And the first reel or so of what’s being marketed as a fun and funky cult flick is about as depressing as anything you’ll ever see: rest homes are no fun — people are left there to die, alone, and when they die they’re tossed into a hearse with the eulogy “Aah, who gives a shit?” When was the last time you saw a raw and unblinking treatment of these places in a movie? How fucked-up is it that we have to see it in a movie about Elvis vs. a mummy?

Relax, though: fun is in store, and Bruce Campbell’s Elvis, viciously cynical in his obsolescence, keeps us entertained in his narration: “I woulda thought of ‘Cilla and popped it by jackin’ off,” he says of his penis growth, “except I hadn’t had a hard-on in years.” Too much info, but dead-on funny. Elvis needs a purpose, and the mummy gives him one; he forges a bond with Jack, the only one who believes Elvis is really Elvis, and they work on a plan. (It involves fire, not a lot of CGI. In fact, no CGI. How low-budget was the movie? Put it this way — they didn’t even have enough scratch to film a bus crashing off a bridge; Coscarelli gets around it with as much ingenuity as his heroes use against Bubba Ho-tep.)

Elvis famously posed for a photo with Nixon, and pledged his services to that president as a DEA agent (while high on drugs at the time); and there’s been some joking speculation (at least I hope it’s not serious) that Elvis killed Kennedy. So it’s fun to watch these two icons of the 20th century together, and the movie even winks at conspiracy theorists when Jack asks Elvis flat-out if he had anything to do with what happened in Dallas. (Jack’s explanation for his appearance now? Best to let the film explain it.) We’re given a not-too-implausible theory of how Elvis, sick of the fame and excess and hangers-on, might have switched places with an Elvis impersonator and doomed himself to more obscurity than he bargained for. I wouldn’t have minded seeing Jimi, Janis, and/or Jim Morrison too, but I guess Coscarelli has to save something for the sequel, projected to be called Bubba Nosferatu (sadly, though, Ossie Davis’ JFK won’t be along for the ride).

Most of the movie is Elvis and Jack talking — Coscarelli clearly didn’t have the time and money for too many shooting days involving Bubba Ho-tep and his little scarabs (pulled along on charmingly obvious strings) — and Campbell and Davis have an easy rapport, playing the material absolutely straight, as if the two actors had decided over lunch that the premise was bizarre enough to deserve their utmost commitment and offbeat enough to need it. Bubba Ho-Tep is not the wacky camp-fest you’d expect; if it were anyone but Coscarelli, Campbell and Davis involved in this, I would’ve been wary of it. (I mean, 50,000 Elvis fans may not be wrong, but 50,000 Elvis parodies get old after a while.) It is, surprisingly, a meditation on aging and the place of the elderly and infirm in our society. Of course, it’s also a horror-comedy with Elvis kicking mummy ass. After all these years — and 25 years after Phantasm, a movie that had nothing in common with any horror film before it, and which is still unlike any horror film after it (except for its own sequels) — Don Coscarelli still doesn’t know how to make cookie-cutter genre films. Let’s hope he never learns how.

Once Upon a Time in Mexico

September 12, 2003

“They call him El. As in the.” That’s the sort of solemnly funny line you might hear in a Sergio Leone western, and writer-director Robert Rodriguez has explicitly patterned his Mariachi trilogy — El Mariachi (1992), Desperado (1995), and now Once Upon a Time in Mexico — on Leone’s groundbreaking movies. Rodriguez isn’t out to break ground, though; he’s content to throw a party on it. It’s somewhat funny that after eleven years and ten movies, Rodriguez is still working the same hyperkinetic, B-movie side of the street; he aims low and hits, but he hits with style and grace. What’s more, he gives us a final chapter without any gravitas whatsoever — it’s as fast and unpretentious as the $7,000 El Mariachi was, and at times you even forget that El Mariachi (Antonio Banderas) is in it.

Like Leone’s “Man with No Name” trilogy, Rodriguez’s three Mariachi movies share a lead character but not much else; it’s as if God hit the restart button and gave the hero a slightly different backstory. In short, you can enjoy Once Upon a Time in Mexico without having seen the other two. (The other two are self-contained, too; I think Rodriguez, and Leone before him, did that by design so that people could watch them in any order and not get lost.) These movies unfold in their own sandy, ornery universe, where firearms perform a kind of propulsive magic. Defying the laws of physics, men are hit with bullets and fly backwards well past any credible theory of momentum. There’s no pain in Rodriguez’s violence — he turns it into athletic, action-figure fantasy.

This time, El Mariachi is hired by a shady CIA agent (Johnny Depp) to kill a drug lord (Willem Dafoe) who’s out to kill the president of Mexico. There you have it: the good (Banderas), the bad (Depp), and the ugly (Dafoe). Depp’s performance here, as a morally neutral and ruthless agent who loves disguises, is consistent with the work he’s been doing lately, in Pirates of the Caribbean and others. Depp’s character has a false third arm he uses for no particular reason, and he has a thing about trying the pork dish in every dive in Mexico. In Depp’s hands, this unpredictable “law enforcer” becomes an eccentric who, we feel, joined the CIA solely to broaden his experience of weirdness. He’s certainly the hippest presence to adorn a Rodriguez film since George Clooney commandeered a Winnebago in From Dusk till Dawn.

Rodriguez indulges in an overabundance of plot, with characters double-crossing each other in what seems like every scene. He brings in Eva Mendes as a questionable cop and Mickey Rourke, looking like a failed wax sculpture of himself, as Dafoe’s conflicted American goon. We get flashbacks reuniting Banderas with Salma Hayek, who shows a previously unacknowledged flair with throwing knives; the pair undergo a setpiece worthy of vintage Spielberg, in which they’re chained together by the wrists and have to negotiate a five-story building down to the street to escape assassins. Ex-con Danny Trejo, he of the asphalt face, is back in Rodriguez World as a grim killer who gets that “El” line.

Once Upon a Time in Mexico couldn’t be more lightweight, but heaviness was never the point or the promise of these movies. For a grand total of $37,007,000 — about a quarter of what it costs to make one typical Hollywood action film that isn’t a quarter as fun as this one — Rodriguez has made an entire trilogy of inventive, restlessly entertaining action flicks. (He must also be the first director to release two trilogy-enders that opened at #1 at the box-office in the same summerSpy Kids 3D being the other.) This happily productive filmmaker works out of his own private digital Xanadu, and does as much of it himself as he can get away with — editing, cinematography, music, and probably waxing Salma Hayek’s post-Frida eyebrows, too. Rodriguez has yet to make anything remotely artistic, but he also has yet to make anything remotely boring.

Lost in Translation

September 12, 2003

Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation is a wee, lovely piece about disenchantment giving way to enchantment. This director’s touch is exquisitely gentle — so much so that some viewers will inevitably complain that “nothing happens.” I wasn’t a huge fan of Coppola’s only previous directorial effort, 2000′s The Virgin Suicides, though I acknowledged that she certainly showed talent, if not a rigorous eye for material (the same is true of her brother Roman, who made the fetching but problematic CQ). Working this time with her own story, Coppola lets it relax and breathe, devoting herself to moods and moments. The only comparison I’ll make here to her legendary father Francis is that this is the sort of small, intimate movie he himself has said he’s always wanted to make. For whatever reasons, he hasn’t. His daughter has.

She’s also done something else: American acting very likely won’t get any finer this year than Bill Murray as washed-up movie star Bob Harris, who slouches towards Japan to do a whiskey ad campaign that promises $2 million. This is a performance to shelve alongside Murray’s work in Scrooged, Groundhog Day, and Rushmore. Without any flashy dialogue (Coppola keeps it spare and realistic), with a bare minimum of movement, Murray damn near writes the great American novel. Take his karaoke scene. Now, we know very well that Murray, via Nick the Lounge Singer on Saturday Night Live, can destroy songs with the funniest of them. Here, as melancholy Bob, he covers first Elvis Costello and then Roxy Music; his rendition of “More Than This” certainly isn’t the prettiest I’ve ever heard, but he makes you feel why Bob picked the song, what he sees in it, why it defines him. And the song becomes a heartbreaker.

Drifting around the hotel bar when he’s not suffering the inexplicable commands of his Japanese director (“More intensity,” the translator explains unhelpfully — leaving us, and Bob, to wonder how exactly one might turn one’s head and sip whiskey intensely), Bob catches the eye of a similarly dissatisfied American — Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), the young wife of a photographer (Giovanni Ribisi) who’s in Tokyo to shoot a band. Both Bob and Charlotte feel adrift in the teeming neon playpen of Tokyo, sitting alone in their respective hotel rooms and wondering why they’re here — in Tokyo and in general. Bob has a wife and children at home; exciting decisions await him there, such as what color the new carpet should be (burgundy? What is burgundy, anyway?).

Each is noticed by the other without knowing it, and when they meet their rapport is easy and immediate. Romance is not an issue, nor is sexual tension; it’s not a father-daughter-type relationship, either. They are two people of almost the same temperament and level of depression, and they reach out to each other instinctually and with relief. The husky-voiced, full-lipped Scarlett Johansson has an awkward, unfinished beauty, much like her director, and she makes something tentatively erotic out of her scenes with Murray even though the scenes have no sexual text or subtext. It’s what I would call, for want of a much better term, platonic eroticism — the friction of moods and minds sparking together.

Coppola builds an entire movie on delicate exchanges, never goes for anything you expect (there’s no stupid scene in which Charlotte’s enraged, jealous husband decks Bob — the husband is too preoccupied with his assignment to notice his wife’s ennui), and leaves a lot of questions teasingly unanswered except between the lines. I wondered, for instance, whether Charlotte even knew who Bob was, or knew and chose not to let on; this is answered late in the game when a hurt Charlotte lashes out at Bob.

And there’s that much-debated whisper at the end, when Bob tells Charlotte something she hears and we don’t. The more literal-minded viewer may speculate — pointlessly — about what is said, but by then, Coppola and the actors have made Bob and Charlotte so real to us that I simply didn’t feel it was any of my business what Bob whispered. We’ve been privy to their shared happiness and despair for two hours, but their last exchange stays between them, as it should.

The Order

September 5, 2003

The Order gave me one nice thing to take with me: the observation that sunflowers look like they have “crooked teeth around a mouth that’s too big.” They do, at that. Kudos to writer/director Brian Helgeland (this is his third movie, after the enjoyable Payback and A Knight’s Tale) for pointing that out. I wish more of The Order had stayed with me; cleverly written and stylishly mounted as it is, it’s the latest example of post-millennial religious film noir (see also: Stigmata, End of Days, The Ninth Gate), and there’s little suspense in it, and fewer laughs. Well, there is one reference to The Mod Squad, and kudos again to Helgeland for including a joke hardly anyone in the film’s demographic will get.

Helgeland apparently liked three of the stars of A Knight’s Tale — Heath Ledger, Shannyn Sossamon, and Mark Addy — so much that he employs all of them again here (the sarcastic Paul Bettany is missed, though). Ledger is Father Alex Bernier, who belongs to an ancient, and rapidly dwindling, order of priests. He’s in love with unstable painter Mara (Sossamon), who once put a bullet in him (ah, those artistic types) and who authors the sunflower observation when sitting quietly with Alex (who, one assumes, has frisked her first). Alex’s buddy from the order, Thomas (Addy, in another of his amiably beefy performances), has the same lax attitude towards celibacy that Tom Wilkinson did in Priest. Shadowy forces are converging around this trio, possibly having something to do with a church higher-up played by Peter Weller’s skull. Uh, I mean Peter Weller. Give the poor man a sandwich.

Alex is visited by “demon spawn” in the shape of watchful children, who turn up every so often for spookiness. The demon spawn were hanging out with Alex’s old mentor, who has died; Alex determines to get to the bottom of the death, ruled as a suicide (ah, but it’s never suicide in these movies). His path brings him into contact with one William Eden (Benno Fürmann, from Tom Tykwer’s excellent The Princess and the Warrior), whose function is to eat the sins of excommunicated Catholics. Come again? Yes, he’s the legendary Sin Eater, defined by Dictionary.com as “a man who (according to a former practice in England) for a small gratuity ate a piece of bread laid on the chest of a dead person, whereby he was supposed to have taken the sins of the dead person upon himself.” Good work if you can get it, I suppose.

The movie, which by the way was originally called The Sin Eater, is most interesting when it explores the once-titular character’s unique difficulties (immortality, the pressure of knowing everyone’s secret sins). Helgeland writes William (and Fürmann plays him) as an entity neither good nor evil; he just is. His actions serve a higher, not always cheerful purpose. William, who’s been around for centuries sucking up other people’s disgraces and atrocities, is getting tired and looking for a replacement; he has his eye on Alex, who has qualms about the profession (do you get dental coverage?). Everything to do with William and Alex’s quiet battle of wills is fine; it’s when Helgeland broadens his scope to the arcane doings of a mysterious sect (the scenes feel like leftovers from Eyes Wide Shut, without the topless women) that the movie feels vague and padded. Helgeland also tries to mask the identity of the sect’s leader by covering his face, which might work if we also covered our ears.

I didn’t mind The Order; somewhere in there is an intriguing idea. I still have trouble buying Heath Ledger as a lead actor, especially here when he faces a heavy loss and has a blubbering fit to rival Julianne Moore in Far from Heaven. Benno Fürmann, however, is the real thing, a physical actor with a fine camera face and a manner that tells you he’s seen a lot and isn’t going to tell you about it. If Helgeland had made a movie called The Sin Eater and stuck with the trials of William Eden, a beleaguered immortal dealing with everyone else’s bad karma and trying to fob the job off onto some brooding priest, he might’ve made my kind of movie; unfortunately, my kind of movie so rarely gets greenlighted.


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