Sunday, September 14, 2014

Streaming a missed movie by Joe Swanberg: Jane Adams in ALL THE LIGHT IN THE SKY

He is prolific, that Joe Swanberg. Since the film under consideration here first appeared (2012), he has made three more full-lengthers, one short film and an episode for a series. All told, since his debut film just over a decade ago, he has directed (and often written) 16 full-length films, seven shorts, a couple of TV series episodes and a segment of the horror omnibus V/H/S. Some of these are even good films -- especially the last two: Drinking Buddies and Happy Christmas. Which now makes watching his slightly older work a bit of a strain/disappointment.

ALL THE LIGHT IN THE SKY, streamable now on Netflix, does have a couple of nice perks: the actors Jane Adams and Larry Fessenden. Ms Adams has long delighted us older NYC theatergoers, as well as adding immeasurably to certain not-so-hot movies (Little Children, for one). Mr. Fessenden, for his part, has long been a enjoyable actor in various genre films (I Sell the Dead), as well as a good writer/director (The Last Winter and his earlier work, Habit).

Both actors (shown above, with Larry on the left) acquit themselves well in this little trifle, but unfortunately the "script" often leaves them hanging out to dry. Swanberg (shown two photos up) is working once again in his most "mumblecorish" mode, with so little at stake or at risk that his actors are mostly stranded, having to create their "moments" practically out of whole cloth.

Adams (above, and below, right) plays a aging actress named, Marie, who is having trouble finding work. When her young niece (Sophia Takal, below, left) comes for a visit to her aunt's Malibu pad, also wanting to be an actress, the age thing bubbles up. That's about it. And it is all handled with about as much creativity and pizazz as my description above manages.

Fessenden plays Marie's Malibu neighbor who enjoys surfing with her. He may or may not be attracted to her. And that's about that, too. Marie meets a new fellow who might make a possible partner; her niece has some friends over and gets high. Conversations and a little sex ensue.

If you've sat through many of Swanberg's oeuvre, you'll know what you're in for, and there are a few good scenes here. But mostly it's same-old same old. His latest work shows infinitely more strength and power (not to mention humor and fun) -- in the scripts, situations and performances. So we'll hope that this continues apace.

Meanwhile, for fans of Adams and/or Fessenden, the movie is streamable here and probably elsewhere, too.

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