January 20, 2023
Greetings again from the darkness. Writer-director Florian Zeller floored me a couple of years ago with his film, THE FATHER (2021). Adapted from Zeller’s own play by screenwriter Christopher Hampton (DANGEROUS LIAISONS, 1988), the film starred Anthony Hopkins who gave a searing performance that provided painful insight into what living with dementia must be like – both for the sufferer and for loved ones. Zeller, Hampton, and Hopkins all won Oscars for that film, and they return for this follow-up … a film that doesn’t hold a candle to its predecessor, despite begging us to think otherwise.
Hugh Jackman stars as Peter, an incredibly busy and important Manhattan lawyer who wears fancy suits, works in a corner office with a view, and attends vital meetings with high-profile clients. Peter has a beautiful wife Beth (Vanessa Kirby) and newborn son, and is on the verge of entering high stakes politics as a consultant when his ex-wife Kate (Oscar winner Laura Dern, MARRIAGE STORY, 2019) knocks on the door of Peter’s and Beth’s charming (and high rent) apartment. Kate informs him that their 17-year-old son Nicholas (Zen McGrath) has skipped school every day for the past month, and now wants to come live with his dad. Convinced he’s a better father than his own, Peter believes he must allow Nicholas to move in, and Beth is so committed to Peter and exhausted from caring for the baby, that she offers no resistance.
Peter is a professional problem solver and somehow this brilliant lawyer believes a couple of lectures and pep talks will cure Nicholas of his teenage blues and get him on the right track towards success. He’s convinced his efforts are working and that Nicholas is improving … right up until the point where it’s obvious, he’s not. How all these folks take so long to recognize mental illness and depression is beyond comprehension. Sure, Nicholas is manipulative; he knows what these adults want to hear, and he tells them. The ridiculous part is they believe him.
The film’s best scene is the one where Peter faces his own father. Two-time Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins is a powerful force as the one who scoffs at Peter’s viewpoint of parenthood, both past and present. This scene could have made a terrific short film and is so insightful that it’s at odds with the balance of the film. Unfortunately, much of the rest plays like a made-for-TV movie with its slick stylings on poor parenting and teenage issues. There are a few moments early on that give off a horror film vibe, but that’s not what this is. Instead, it’s an attempt to reflect modern day parenting and the helpless feelings of guilt we feel when our kids are suffering. Hopefully most parents are a bit more attuned to their teens, and we also hope that most schools don’t wait a full month before alerting parents that their kid has dropped out.
Opens in theaters on January 20, 2022
WATCH THE TRAILER
Leave a Comment » | Drama | Tagged: Anthony Hopkins, Christopher Hampton, Florian Zeller, Hugh Jackman, Laura Dern, Vanessa Kirby, Zen McGrath | Permalink
Posted by David Ferguson
March 11, 2021
Greetings again from the darkness. Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are frequent topics in movies these days for the simple reason that so many are impacted either directly or through a friend or family member. The importance of memory to our core being cannot be over-stated. It’s crucial to who we are and what we feel. The first feature film from French director Florian Zeller is an excellent and poignant tale, all too real for those who have experienced this with a loved one. Zeller adapted his own play (winning a Tony Award for Frank Langella) with his co-writer, Oscar winner Christopher Hampton (DANGEROUS LIASONS, 1988). It’s also one of the few films where Set Design is so crucial that it basically serves as a main character.
Whereas most of these movies provide the perspective of the caregiver or family members, this one is extraordinary in also giving us the point-of-view of the one suffering. Sir Anthony Hopkins (Oscar winner, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, 1991) plays Anthony, an 80 year old Londoner who gets hurt, defensive and a bit churlish when his daughter Anne (Oscar winner Olivia Colman, THE FAVOURITE, 2018) informs him that she’s met a man and is moving to Paris. Anne is working to find an acceptable caregiver for her father … one that he doesn’t run off in a matter of hours. Though Anne maintains a spirited front, it’s clear the responsibility is exhausting and draining – feelings of which any caregiver can surely relate.
Just about the time we get a feel for the flow and settle in for a family drama, filmmaker Zeller spins things topsy-turvy. We suddenly aren’t sure ‘what is what’ or ‘who is who’. Olivia Williams (THE SIXTH SENSE, 1999) is now Anne. She now has a husband, Paul – maybe Mark Gatiss or Rufus Sewell. The details of the apartment are slightly different, and instead of being Anthony’s place, it’s actually Anne’s. Or is it? Anthony tries to process these differences, just as we do. The interview with an in-home caregiver played by Imogen Poots brings out the joy and liveliness of Anthony, but a painting raises questions … as does the ongoing saga with Anthony’s favorite wristwatch. As viewers, we are baffled and disoriented; however, unlike Anthony, we are slowly able to process the flashes of data and slowly put the pieces together.
Anthony Hopkins delivers his best and most emotional work in years, while Olivia Colman continues her impressive run. In fact, the entire cast his spot on. Complementing the performances is Peter Francis’ previously mentioned Set Design, which adds to both the confusion and the explanation. Also elevating the film is the work of Film Editor Yorgos Lamprinos and the score from Ludovico Einaudi. Hopkins’ character asks, “Who exactly am I?” and we feel the excruciating pain of realizing one’s persona is slipping away. This will be a challenging film to watch for anyone who has experienced this type of agonizing loss in their life, and Zeller’s film also serves as a warning to everyone else.
Opening theatrically nationwide March 12th and available for Premium VOD on March 26th”
WATCH THE TRAILER
Leave a Comment » | Drama | Tagged: Anthony Hopkins, Christopher Hampton, Florian Zeller, Imogen Poots, Ludovico Einaudi, Mark Gatiss, Olivia Colman, Olivia Williams, Peter Francis, Rufus Sewell, Yorgos Lamprinos | Permalink
Posted by David Ferguson