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The Films of Mark Pellington

Going All the Way

Arlington Road (April 1/17)

An entertaining yet egregiously over-the-top thriller, Arlington Road follows college professor Michael Faraday (Jeff Bridges) as he becomes increasingly convinced that his neighbor (Tim Robbins' Oliver Lang) isn't quite the mild-mannered architect he appears to be. Filmmaker Mark Pellington, working from Ehren Kruger's script, admittedly does a bang-up job of immediately luring the viewer into the proceedings, as Arlington Road kicks off with an intense and impressively visceral sequence in which Bridges character encounters an injured young boy wandering down the street. From there, the movie progresses into fairly typical paranoia-thriller territory - with the lion's share of the narrative devoted to Michael's growing concern over Oliver's true intentions and, of course, his not-quite-surreptitious efforts at investigating the possible threat's past. It's fairly entertaining stuff that's elevated by solid work from stars Bridges and Robbins, with the former delivering a progressively hysterical turn that's offset by the latter's low-key yet thoroughly chilling performance. Pellington's in-your-face directorial choices pave the way for an almost unreasonably broad third act that isn't quite as exciting as intended, which, to be sure, dulls the impact of the movie's final few minutes and ultimately cements Arlington Road's place as a decent-but-could-have-been-better suspense flick.

out of

The Mothman Prophecies

Henry Poole is Here

I Melt with You

The Last Word (March 24/17)

The Last Word casts Shirley MacLaine as Harriet Lauler, a hateful, crotchety old lady who realizes that her inevitable obituary will be absent the glowing testimonials one generally expects - which paves the way for a narrative detailing Harriet's growing friendship with the newspaper writer (Amanda Seyfried's Anne) assigned the task of writing a glowing, pre-death obit. Before it gets to that point, however, The Last Word comes off as a fairly intriguing (and distinctly low-key) character study of a seriously unpleasant individual, as director Mark Pellington, working from Stuart Ross Fink's screenplay, delivers an opening stretch devoted to Harriet's lonely day-to-day exploits that's rife with appealing attributes (eg an amusing montage featuring the litany of folks that have grown to hate MacLaine's protagonist). The movie's affable vibe continues, certainly, as the off-the-wall premise begins to kick in, with the narrative's progressively conventional bent (ie Harriet learns a series of life lessons that soften her abrasive personality) allayed by an ongoing inclusion of crowd-pleasing elements (eg Harriet becomes a radio DJ). It's disappointing to note, then, that The Last Word takes a fairly palpable nosedive into irrelevance as it passes the one-hour mark, as the movie is increasingly dominated by sequences that simply (and hopelessly) fall flat (including a long interlude in which Harriet visits her estranged daughter) - which subsequently paves the way for a trying-too-hard final stretch that is, to put it mildly, anticlimactic. The newfound lack of subtlety is as wearying as one could possibly imagine, and it is, in the end, impossible to label The Last Word as anything more than an erratic misfire.

out of

© David Nusair