Three Dramas from IFC
Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (March 6/11)
Based on the novel by David Foster Wallace, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men follows grad student Sara Quinn (Julianne Nicholson) as she attempts to make sense of a recent breakup by interviewing a succession of almost unreasonably dysfunctional men. It's clear right from the get-go that Brief Interviews with Hideous Men is going to leave the majority of viewers cold, as first-time filmmaker John Krasinski has infused the proceedings with a pervasively avant-garde sensibility that proves disastrous - with the movie's less-than-engrossing atmosphere exacerbated by the complete and total absence of compelling characters. This is despite the fact that Krasinski has populated the film with an impressive roster of performers; in addition to Nicholson's strong turn as the damaged protagonist, the movie boasts stand-out work from such recognizable actors as Christopher Meloni, Joey Slotnick, Will Forte, and Frankie Faison. (The latter appears in the movie's one wholeheartedly compelling sequence, as his character recalls his father's menial job as a washroom attendant.) There's little doubt that the film's lack of authenticity ranks high on its list of problems, as Krasinski, saddled with aggressively pretentious source material, places an ongoing emphasis on pompous, eye-rollingly stagy instances of dialogue (ie nobody, at any time, has ever talked the way these people talk). It consequently goes without saying that Brief Interviews with Hideous Men is, for the most part, far more successful as an actor's showcase than as a fully-realized movie, and it's impossible not to wonder just what Krasinski originally set out to accomplish with this mess.
A French Gigolo (December 8/11)
Directed by Josiane Balasko, A French Gigolo follows Eric Caravaca's Marco as he attempts to supplement his meager income by working as a male prostitute - with the film primarily detailing Eric's relationships with his clueless wife (Isabelle Carré's Fanny) and a lonely, successful client (Nathalie Baye's Judith). It's an intriguing premise that is, at the outset, employed to perfectly watchable effect by Balasko, as the filmmaker has infused the proceedings with an irresistibly lighthearted feel that proves instrumental in initially capturing the viewer's interest - with the strong performances going a long way towards perpetuating the movie's engaging atmosphere. It's only as time progresses that A French Gigolo begins to lose its grip on the viewer's interest, with the film's often egregiously deliberate pace highlighting the deficiencies within Balasko and Franck Lee Joseph's increasingly repetitive screenplay (eg the fairly useless subplot involving Fanny's obnoxious younger sister). The eye-rollingly melodramatic bent of A French Gigolo's final half hour cements its place as a lamentably misguided piece of work, which is a shame, certainly, given the strength of Caravaca and Baye's expectedly reliable performances.
The Wave (July 6/11)
Inspired by true events, The Wave follows German high school teacher Rainer Wenger (Jürgen Vogel) as he reluctantly agrees to spend a week demonstrating the dangers of autocracy - which he attempts to accomplish by adopting the role of dictator and forcing his students to, among other things, wear white shirts and great each other with a salute. (Wenger even agrees to name the group the Wave.) The experiment initially seems promising - the teenagers become studious and obedient - yet it's not long before things begin to spiral out of control. There's little doubt that The Wave fares best in its opening half hour, as filmmaker Dennis Gansel does a superb job of employing the inherently compelling premise to engaging and periodically fascinating effect - with the stirring atmosphere heightened by the stellar performances and by Gansel's striking visual sensibilities. The lack of subtlety within Gansel and Peter Thorwarth's screenplay is, as a result, not as problematic as one might've feared, with the scripters' less-than-delicate modus operandi reflected most keenly in the subplot revolving around an especially ardent follower of the Wave (ie the kid goes so far as to burn his regular clothes). The film's taut atmosphere persists right up until the increasingly stagnant midsection, as Gansel and Thorwarth slowly-but-surely begin to emphasize elements of a decidedly repetitive and conventional nature (eg Wenger accuses his wife of jealousy after she confronts him over the Wave's growing popularity). The inclusion of an engrossing (yet expected) finale ensures that The Wave ends on an exceedingly positive note, though it's ultimately clear that the movie could've used a few more passes through the editing bay.