Films I Neglected To Review: "Dream On!"By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 08/23/19 04:41:18
Please enjoy short reviews of "Adam," "After the Wedding," "Jacob's Ladder" and "Tone-Deaf."
And now you probably have a slight idea as to why this adaptation of Ariel Schrag's 2014 novel (she also penned the screenplay) has caused such agita among members of the trans community. While I can see how this basic premise alone might be enough to deeply offend members of that community--even though it is ultimately less exploitative in this regard than it might have been in clumsier hands--my primary objection is not so much with the very existence of such a premise as the fact that Adam is ultimately the least interesting character in the film, his actions do not engender much in the way of sympathy and the way that the storyline contrives to more or less let him off the hook in the end is more than a little irksome. If a story like this is to have even a chance of working, you have to believe that the characters involved have truly learned from and been changed by the experience and that is not the case here. Watching it, I got the feeling that director Rhys Ernst felt the same way because the film seems far more interested in the other characters in Adamís orbit, not just Casey and Gillian (each of whom could have been the focus of their own narrative) but fellow roommates June (Chloe Levine), who has a not-so-secret crush on Casey, and Ethan (Leo Sheng), a Film Forum employee who doles out dating advice to Adam without being privy to the levels of deception being perpetrated. In the end, "Adam" is the kind of movie that, despite some good moments and reasonably noble intentions, ultimately does not quite work, though it could potentially inspire some viewer to one day make another movie along these lines that genuinely does.
If this description sounds vaguely familiar to you, it could be that you saw the 2008 Danish version of the film that was written and directed by Susanne Bier and which reversed the genders of the three main characters. This iteration contains virtually all of the same flaws as the original, most of them born out of the fact that it is a narrative that seems convinced that it is saying something deep and meaningful about the human condition even though it never comes across as anything more than an increasingly implausible soap opera (one that has now been made slightly more ludicrous thanks to the gender inversion). And yet, this version is somehow even worse because director Bart Freundlich, who has yet to make a film that could be described as anything other than excruciating, has inexplicably made a movie that seems to present the conspicuous accumulation of wealth as something that is not only a good and just thing but the only possible cure--and certainly not the cause in any way--of the majority of problems in the third world, which inevitably pale in comparison to whether the caterer can provide enough lobster for the wedding dinner or not. Considering that I didn't care for the original version and have pretty much detested Freundlichís oeuvre to date, I confess that the only reason I bothered to even watch this was because of the presence of the usually reliable Michelle Williams in the cast but even though she is the best thing about it, not even she can make much out of the material she is working with here. Pretentious, self-absorbed and mawkish, "After the Wedding" is a total waste and my guess is that at a certain point, most viewers will find themselves wishing that there could have been a way to combine it with "Ready or Not"--at least that way, they might have gotten a happy ending out of it.
Besides the change involving the time period, the big narrative difference between this iteration of "Jacob's Ladder" and the original is the addition of Issac and the long-running rivalry of sorts between the two siblings. Since "Jacob's Ladder" is not the type of film that would benefit from a beat-for-beat retelling, these changes are not a bad idea, at least in theory. The trouble is that once they are introduced, the film does not bother to really do anything of interest with them and at a certain point, you get the sense that the changes were made just because screenwriters Jeff Buhler and Sarah Thorpe felt that they had to make their version a little different and not because they had something new to say. At the same time, it also makes room for a number of moments taken almost verbatim from the original but even there, they feel more like gratuitous fan service than anything else. The worst is saved for last, where the original's genuinely audacious twist ending has been dropped and replaced with a different twist that one can spot coming a mile away and which doesnít have a fraction of the emotional or dramatic power of what it has replaced. More useless than anything else, this version of "Jacobís Ladder" is nothing more than a piss-poor remake of a fascinating original work that never justifies its existence for a second and which will no doubt be viewed in the future only by audiences who are tuning in with the expectation of seeing its predecessor.
The film was written and directed by Ricky Bates, who caused some stir in genre circles with such controversial efforts as "Excision" and "Trash Fire," and like those films, he once again shows himself willing to mix gore and thrills with overt social commentary that is not even remotely subtle in its approach. (Even Oliver Stone might have dialed back on some of the excesses on display here depicting the gap between Boomers and Millennials.) The concept is interesting but Bates inexplicably shoots his creation in the foot by the baffling decision to stop the narrative at several points to have Harvey turn to the camera and directly address the audience about his loathing for these millennial snowflake types with their coddled lifestyles and confusing music and whatnot. I don't necessarily mind a certain lack of subtlety or nuance in this type of storytelling ("Ready or Not" is not particularly restrained in this regard but that didn't harm it too much in the end.) but when a film is literally having one of its main characters shouting out the underlying themes directly to viewers, it gets more than a little annoying. This is a shame because the performances by Patrick and Crew are good and committed and the combination of gore and humor (especially a running joke about how no one is willing to hurt Olve's feelings by telling her that she, contrary to her beliefs, is not a very good piano player) works reasonably well. In the end, "Tone-Deaf" proves to be a film that largely lives up to its title and which might have made a stronger impact if it had dialed things back considerably and assumed that viewers would still pick up on what Baes was trying to say.
|© Copyright HBS Entertainment, Inc.|