Two 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.