IR Film Review: SPIDERMAN – FAR FROM HOME [Sony/Marvel]

The texture of a superhero is the essence of decision making. The interesting progression of “Spiderman: Far From Home” operates in the realm of naivete. Having done interviews for the original Spiderman films from Sam Raimi but never really watching Andrew Garfield’s version, Tom Holland’s approach is one almost of innocent bewilderment which in turn gives him a sense of awe. One of the most affecting moments in an earlier “Avengers” film is when Holland looks at Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark as he is disappearing with a questioning line. But that establishes such a structure that perhaps earlier Spiderman films didn’t have: a connection to others and a larger world. This is likely what will fuel the Black Widow film with Scarlet Johannson since it will bring that essence of story and time to that film. Here the idiom that perpetrated the entire Sam Raimi film is pushed in the background but still rings clear: “with great power comes great responsibility. In trying not to give too much away, Tony Stark, not Iron Man, looms heavily over decisions here…and even perceptions. It is an interesting approach especially when decisions involve “Edith” and aspects of instinct and conscience.

The basic plot without giving too much away is that Peter Parker just wants to be a regular guy and go on a class trip to Europe to tell MJ (played by Zendaya) that he really likes her. While the banter between him and her and, by extension, his best friend and his perspective girlfriend for the trip works in a comic romantic comedy way, the stakes are not that thick, which is alright. The realization is that “Far From Home” nicely plays much lighter than, of course, the “Avengers” films which within their structure have a very dark core while still playing to mainstream structure. Here the threat is paradoxical in a way but one that is unexpected in one way but not in another. During an interview I did with Jake Gyllenhaal for “Stronger” a couple years back, he referenced that he always found it hard to play a superhero (and it seems he had been offered others) that weren’t real per se. That is why the progression here is an interesting exercise (which is all I can say). Any other discussions of heartbreak, destruction, expectation, subversion or transcendence will give away too much but the film does include all of these without becoming too, in a word, tragic. And that is a good thing. Especially when Jon Favreau can bring some fun comic relief without impacting or altering what the story is truly about.


By Tim Wassberg


IR Interview: Jake Gyllenhaal & Jeff Bauman For “Stronger” [Lionsgate]

Brothers – Theatrical Review

“Brothers” is a tale of life mistaken. In creating this story, director Jim Sheridan has made his most accessible American picture yet simply from the highlighted use of his cast and a less Irish approach. Granted he made “Get Rich Or Die Tryin” but that was more specific to urban in a very precise way about the rise of 50 Cent. Here like some of his earlier films it is about the everyman. While the story might be basic in many ways, it is the casting and the directing that elevates this simple story. Both Jake Gyllenhaal and Natalie Portman elevate beyond their normal roles playing against type to where they can almost melt away. The only problem here is the persona vision of these stars even though they try to keep out of the tabloids unlike some other actors.

These roles are by far the most grown up roles of alot of these actors have played but even within that structure, you almost still see them as kids even though they are in their mid 30s. In retreating into almost suburbia, Portman takes on an almost Winslet quality. With the steady hand of director Sheridan guiding her, there is a lack of presumption which is visible in most of Portman’s work through no fault of her own. Her intelligence is exceptional but sometimes her emotion needs to purely come through without seeing the thinking, not just of her unawareness but in the simplicity of life. The caricatures created of the cheerleader, the football star and the outsider thereby are needed to create this sense of structure.

Jake is quite vindicated here in terms of his acting potential. He shows a depth missing from “Jarhead” and a vulnerableness that was present at times in “Donnie Darko” but perhaps, in many ways, not seen since then. His physical transformation no doubt due to “Prince Of Persia” informs his thoughts here. He is in much rougher form and yet that certain fragile element still comes through but without being forced. As a result, his pain is the most revealing and the most heartbreaking of all because despite his intent, he still can’t win.

Tobey Maguire is quite good but he has the thankless job of playing the man with the problems created in a very linear way yet with very little saved below the surface. His energy is focused but almost too extraneous. He has to viscerally show jealousy without overwhelming the scene which he sometimes fails at. The problem is that his acting has always been very wide eyed which plays against a subtle madness here making it not work as well. His intensity turns into a type of mugging for the character which would not be noticed as much if Jake’s performance wasn’t so rich.

Of course this element is nitpicking at times but ultimately what comes to bear is what different Oscar worthy performances Sheridan was able to get out of these actors. This movie also continues to show the efficiency of filmmaking which is quite interspersed in Lionsgate who shot most of the film in New Mexico making the most of the initiatives since the location can stand in for both Afghanistan as well as the US. In good order, the movie, as mentioned before, also forces Sheridan to remove himself from the structure he is so comfortable in at times which is urban sprawl or in his homeland. By doing this, one tends to see the gift this man truly has with his actors as Daniel Day Lewis has shown within his work many times before.

As a last note, the film is shot by Frederick Elmes who was the DP for David Lynch on many films including “Blue Velvet”. The richness of his images is not overwhelming yet one shot in the snow of Jake walking in silence at the end of the film is an undeniably iconic image that anchors the film and sets it apart than other war themed films we have seen of late.

“Brothers” is a story of human characters made by a group of actors that are at the top of their game. Adding to this perception is a stoic but viciously pinpoint turn of Sam Shepard as the father to these two boys who is now remarried to a different woman than their mother who died. Another standout also permeates in the form of Bailee Madison as one of the young daughters of Portman and Maguire. She matches most of the grown up actors toe to toe without being presumptious. Like Jake, in my mind, she deserves an Oscar nomination for their work because it is so purely emotional. The film is a surprise of riches wrapped in a small package, ready for delivery for those who are able to see its reflection. Out of 5, I give it a 3 1/2.