FALLING – movie review

FALLING
Quiver Distribution
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Viggo Mortensen
Writer: Viggo Mortensen
Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Lance Henricksen, Terry Chen, Sverrir Gudnason, Hannah Gross
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 1/23/21
Opens: February 5, 2021

Poster

This is one of those rare movies that have their writers sitting in the director’s chair as well, taking a major role, even playing some chords on the piano to punctuate the difficulty of his life. In other words, “Falling” has more than a touch of autobiography: Mortensen imaging and re-imaging his life under the rule of his father who, having looked at the baby he helped create greeting him not with “say dadda” but “I’m sorry I brought you into this world. To die.” We can only wonder how the little one was able not only to survive his daddy’s acerbic personality but why this baby, later on in life, would cater to almost every whim of the dad whose temper could burst forth at any time and whose progressive dementia would turn him into a fierce, cantankerous fool who not only brought a baby into the word to die but would regularly describe his two ex-wives as whores.

Though Mortensen has one of the two lead roles, the film belongs to Lance Henriksen, with a résumé of some 260 roles (including seven that would come out at about the same time as “Falling” and a stack of others continuing the career). Though Henricksen has performed mostly as a character actor, ranging from roles as a clean-cut FBI agent, a vampire or two, a psychotic motorcycle gang leader, his performance in “Falling” may be his meatiest, one that finds the actor who has now passed his eightieth year in full command of his craft.

Half the film’s time takes place forty years earlier with young Willis (Sverrir Gudnason) giving hints of a growing misanthropy and the other half featuring Willis (Lance Henriksen) at his present age of eighty. “Falling” is a film about family dysfunction that shows Willis’s middle-aged son John Peterson (Viggo Mortensen) selflessly taking care of the crotchety old man despite the latter’s insistence that “this is my house and if you don’t like it you can leave.”

Perhaps the most humorous scene, albeit one that you would hardly find funny if you were a passenger in the same plane, old Willis is being escorted from his upstate New York farm to California, ostensibly to find a place to live as he is now unable to take care of his farm. With behavior that makes you wonder when the airline crew would pitch Willis from the emergency exit, the old man believes the passenger cabin to be nothing more than his upstate New York farmhouse, his wife patiently awaiting him upstairs. This leads him into the kind of loud, vulgar emissions, his son John obviously embarrassed but assuring the crew that he will be OK.

The less conflicted part of the film, or at least the scenes with forty-year-old Willis doting like his wife Gwen (Hannah Gross) on their four-year-old son John (Grady McKenzie). Even at that age, a macho Willis takes the lad hunting; when little John shoots and kills a duck, Willis is happy to let him keep the dead bird, bathe it, sleep with it, until they allow Gwen to pluck the feathers and cook it.

But those salad days are now gone. Old Will is not only dismissive of the two wives he chased away, but has all the grotesque features of our last White House resident. He is disgusted that his son is gay, married to Eric (Terry Chen), the latter understanding that Willis’s dementia is talking. Yet John has no problem escorting his dad to a museum where Willis, gazing at a Picasso, tells his granddaughter Monica that “You can draw that.” If you look for nuance on this raging gaffer, you will find it only in his behavior toward young Monica.

How to explain John’s tolerance of his dad? He may think of the time his dad back took him hunting, let him play with the duck he shot, and ultimately, when John at 16 (William Healy) simply could not shoot the deer in his telescopic sights, was comforted with a pat on the shoulder and the statement, “It’s OK.”

We are told that Viggo Mortensen acted in the film he wrote and directed only to win financing. But this Renaissance man, an accomplished pianist, fluent in many languages having lived in Denmark, Spain and Argentina and able to speak English like a lifelong Californian, does the incomparable job of making the audience understand and accept his ability to tolerate behavior that would send most of us running.

112 minutes. © 2021 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B
Acting – A-
Technical – B+
Overall – B+

 

HOMEWRECKER – movie review

HOMEWRECKER
Dark Star Pictures/ Uncork’d Entertainment
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Zach Gayne
Screenwriter: Precious Chong, Alex Essoe, Zach Gayne
Cast: Precious Chong, Alex Essoe, Tony Mathews, Kris Siddiqi
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 6/26/20
Opens: July 3, 2020

A strange thing about “Homewrecker,” mostly a two-hander theatrical piece that could do well on an off-broadway stage, is that despite some clunky dialogue and obviously fake fights, it dies gave a hold on an audience. This could be in part because at 76 minutes it does not outlast its welcome and because young people, especially, women in the their twenties who may consider having babies will want to think over whether their husbands are the right people to team up with. We get the impression that though sisterhood may not be all that it’s cracked up to be, a liberated woman would do well to choose the right person to be your “sister.” Sometimes a friendly person who believes she has rapport with a potential friend is wrong. The other young woman may be just not into the budding friendship and should not be afraid to tell this individual that discussing husbands and boyfriends is off limits.

In the case of “Homewrecker” Michelle (Alex Essoe), an interior designer working on a laptop in a public space tells Linda (Precious Chong) she appreciates the atmosphere because it’s quiet. But Linda fails to take the hint. Even worse, Michelle, who is so introverted that she can barely construct a sentence without several ums is too nice to tell an aggressive person to buzz off. When Linda asks Michelle take a look at her house and offer suggestions on decorating it, Michelle, who has work to do and should know better, agrees.

Now once a psycho has you inside her quarters, there’s no getting out, unless the house has a door that can be opened from the inside and windows that are not too small and too tightly bound to the wall make that impossible. When Linda shows that she is so desperately lonely that she has gone past the limits of borderline psychosis, the horror begins. Michelle is locked in, willing to take Linda up on the latter’s suggestion to play a board game called Party Hunks. The subtext of the game is that players will reveal things about themselves that they would not consider saying, especially to someone they had just met.

The film goes from horror to temporary truce, back to horror, until Linda makes a move with a hammer on the wall that will make you think of Jack Nicholson’s role in “The Shining.” Summing up, Linda is psychotic and Michelle is neurotic, which is not a good combination for friendship.

The movie is written by the two principal actors plus the director, Zach Gayne in his freshman entry. Gayne also directed “F*ckdrive” which is only seven minutes long, and is likely to be back with something less sophomoric than “Homewrecker.”

76 minutes. © 2020 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – C+
Acting – B-
Technical – B-
Overall – B-

MOPE – movie review

MOPE
Quiver Distribution
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Lucas Heyne
Screenwriter: Lucas Heyne,  story by Michael Louis Albo 
Cast: Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Kelly Sry, Brian Huskey, David Arquette, Tonya Cornelisse, Annie Cruz
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 6/7/20
Opens: June 16, 2020

Take the word “mope.” You may think that it means a person with generally low spirits, and it is. But look at an urban dictionary and you get that it’s “a person with negative contribution to society.” One character in Lucas Heyne’s move is that, but he’s trying to fit in, to contribute something, but because of emotional problems he has been unable to find a talent that would allow others to hire him. There’s an additional definition that fits the two principals in the film, “a person who is a lowlife who would like to be a star in the porn industry.” Porn is profitable for those who produce the kinds of films that people want to see, but as with the acting profession in general, most people simply do not make it, their dreams of stardom defeated.

“Mope” is Lucas Heyne’s freshman direction of a full-length narrative, his previous short, “Tohm Lev: Legalize Nudity, a four-minute pro-animal-rights look at the selling of furs and other skins of animals. Now he jumps into a field that people generally do not like to admit they partake of, highlighting the sleazy people who turn hard-core sex into profit. It’s also about friendship, about two people who are virtually joined at the hip with an undying kinship, best pals who are likely to cause heartbreak if one cuts the cord. But Tom Dong (Kelly Sry), a Chinese-American, has a talent for designing websites which should have proved profitable enough, yet his real ambition is to be a porn star. His best friend, Steve Driver (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett), is less talented but even more obsessed with being so famous that his face would be on the cover of DVDs. He is held back not only by a lack of acting talent but, as one member of the porn studio staff says, he is not “endowed” sufficiently. Even worse, he is borderline psychotic, failing to succeed in college and convicted of a crime for which he served house arrest. He does have one other interest, one in which he excels, so it’s hard to see why he had not been encouraged to use a 16th century sword and act in Japanese films about a time gone by.

The two pair up, try out in front of director Eric (Brian Huskey) who at first wants to dismiss them but allows them to remain because Tom can fix up the studio website. As their performances deepen (so to speak) with the cheap gals who do everything from one’s enjoying a gang cum that sprays all over her face to accepting sexual congress with any and all actors, with one exception. Both the girls and the director do not appreciate Steve’s smell, urge him regularly to take a shower, and become increasingly aggressive trying to get him to leave the studio while keeping Tom on the payroll. When Tom finally agrees to leave his best friend to his fate after sticking up for him in front to the director (Huskey has the most amusing role throughout), Steve’s borderline psychosis goes over the border.

This is based on a true story, a dark comedy indeed, one with an ending that earns its melodramatic finale. Performances are fine: you probably could not believe that Tom would even leave Steve to continue with the studio, but credibly enough he is ready to split to further his own ambition. A meeting of Steve in a restaurant with his father (Clayton Rohner) and stepmother (Peggy Dunne) as Steve is pitching for his dad’s investment is both comical and heartbreaking. Ultimately “Mope” opens up to what resembles a look at the sleaze of the industry but concludes with both terror and anguish. All is set forth with crackerjack performances from not only the Stewart-Jarrett and Sry but some over-the-top acting from David Arquette as director with a successful porn enterprise.

106 minutes. © 2020 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B
Acting – B+
Technical – B
Overall – B