Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Scandinavian soap suds, served up in style: Hannes Holm's funny/sad A MAN CALLED OVE

A mainstream/art-house crowd-pleaser nonpareil, A MAN CALLED OVE, adapted (from the international best-seller by Fredrik Backman) and directed by Hannes Holm (shown below), is certainly this year's guilty pleasure. And guilt will be a by-product of viewing. Not having read the book, I can't say whether or not it is as manipulative as is this movie -- which, yes, left me in tears, even as I kicked myself in the ass for being such a patsy. The film withholds important information about its protagonist and his deceased wife for what seems like eons, and although it initially presents its hero as the world's worst curmudgeon, it takes far too little time before he is revealed as -- no? yes! -- an adorable old teddy bear, after all.

So far, so typical. But the story here is extremely incident-prone and consequently pretty interesting, while the performances from the four leads are terrific, going a very long way towards pulling us in and refusing to release us until we've experienced every last giggle, snort and tear. And oh, boy -- do we ever.

The quartet of actors who do so much toward making the movie special is led by star, Rolf Lassgård (above, and so good as TV's original Wallander). This actor nails every last moment and emotion quite beautifully. He's a consistent pleasure to watch in action.

As his younger self, Filip Berg (above) is near-perfect as the socially inept earlier version who has lost both his mother, as a child, and his father, later, to untimely deaths.

Ida Engvoll (above) is the pert and precious wife of Ove, and she makes the most of her many flashback scenes.

But it is Iranian actress Bahar Pars (above) who completes the picture from so many angles, as Ove's new Persian neighbor who befriends him and, despite his several protestations, changes his life in precise and enjoyable increments. Two subplots (about rescuing first a suddenly homeless gay young man, and then a paralyzed neighbor about to be placed in a rest home) are handled far too quickly and easily to be believed.

Things move along, flashing back and forth in time, as expected, until the moving (and also expected) finale and denouement, handled with the same straight-ahead style and suds as the rest of the film. Those who've already read that novel will flock to the film, probably bringing along a few friends and/or spouses who can handle English subtitles, and who will no doubt leave the theater surprisingly satisfied and murmuring, "Hey, this was good!"

From Music Box Films, in Swedish with English subtitles, and running 116 minutes, the movie opens simultaneously this Friday, September 30, in New York City (at the Angelika Film Center and the Paris Theatre), Los Angeles (at Laemmle's Royal), Minneapolis, Seattle and at several theaters in the greater Chicago area. Over the weeks to come it will open throughout the rest of the country. Here in Florida, you can catch it, come October 21, in Sarasota (at the Burns Court), and on October 28 in the Miami area at the Tower Theater and the AMC Sunset Place; in Fort Lauderdale at the Gateway Theatre and the AMC Aventura; in Boca Raton at the Living Room Theater; and at The Movies of Delray and The Movies of Lake Worth. To see all currently scheduled playdates, with theaters and cities listed, click here -- and then scroll midway down the screen to click on THEATERS in the task bar.

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