Friday, November 18, 2011
Margot at the Wedding? How about 2008's Rachel Getting Married? But 2010's Helena From the Wedding? Nah: That one's "ensemble," all right, but the wedding was way in the past. This year's addition to the perennially popular weddings-bring-families-together genre (like Altman's A Wedding. Now that was a good one!) is titled ANOTHER HAPPY DAY, and it won the Waldo Salt screenwriting award at this year's Sundance Film Fest. And yes, it's another good one. In fact, it's one of the best.
Sam Levinson (shown at left, and son of Barry), the movie is, moment-to-moment, just about perfect in terms of its dialog. While the direction is usually on-target (or at least close enough for jazz), the dialog just bubbles and bursts and begins all over again in some new direction or with some other charac-ter. It's Levinson's near-constant change in tone (aided and abetted by his terrific ensemble cast) -- sometime quicksilver, sometimes gradual -- from glee and humor to shame and sadness that nails this journey into the dynamics of a fractured family during the days prior to, during, and after the "getting hitched."
Blob-like, into infinity -- but within the frame are maybe a dozen or more main characters and perhaps six or eight that we really get to know. These are led by ex-and-current wife (and mother) Lynn, played by Ellen Barkin (above) in the kind of role -- timid and needy -- that we are not used to seeing a strong actress like Ms Barkin essay. She's really good.
Ezra Miller (above) as her oldest son. Drug-addled does not begin to describe this guy's state of mind, and Miller nails every weird crack and crevice. He also, better than anyone in the cast, handles those quicksilver changes, bringing us with him every time. Possessing a delicate androgynous beauty that he alternately uses and works against, and a keen intelligence that seems always at the ready, this actor is aces in every role he tackles (Afterschool, City Island, Every Day) and I expect he'll do it again in the upcoming We Need to Talk About Kevin.
Ellen Burstyn (above) proves a smiling monster as Lynn's mom. What an actress she can be! This is as strong a role as she's had in some years, and Ms Burstyn has been given enough screen time to run with it, showing us both the monster and the scared little girl who still resides within.
Thomas Hayden Church and Demi Moore (above) do great stuff with their somewhat circumscribed characters, and Kate Bosworth (below) is once again quite good -- and in a role unlike any she's had previously. She seem to be challenging herself these days (check her out in The Warrior's Way, an overlooked, underseen and quite enjoyable escapist treat) and the challenge here finds her at the top of her game so far.
Phase 4 Films) opens today, November 18, in New York City at the Village East Cinema,