The Films of Stephen Gaghan
Abandon, the directorial debut of noted screenwriter Stephen Gaghan, casts Katie Holmes as Katie Burke - a frazzled college student who must deal with the return of a former love (Charlie Hunnam), as well as an alcoholic cop's (Benjamin Bratt) investigation into said boyfriend's disappearance two years earlier. There's little doubt that Gaghan is aiming for a sort '70s-paranoia-thriller vibe, and on that level, the filmmaker generally succeeds (ie are the events in the movie actually happening or are they all in Katie's head?) That being said, Gaghan's choice to infuse the film with an egregiously deliberate pace is lamentable; it's virtually impossible not to wish that Gaghan would just get on with it already, but he instead stubbornly focuses on Katie's various academic and personal struggles (who cares, though?) Gaghan's sporadically ambitious directorial choices are intriguing (if occasionally a little too showy), while his dialogue tends to lean more towards the pompous than anything else. The film's final twist is admittedly quite effective, though it doesn't even remotely justify the interminable buildup leading into it.
Gold (December 15/16)
Inspired by true events, Gold follows fledgling prospector Kenny Wells (Matthew McConaughey) as he and his partner (Edgar Ramirez's Michael Acosta) discover a bounty of the title element deep within the Indonesian jungle - with the movie detailing the various ups and downs that inevitably ensue once they get back home. The degree to which Gold's opening hour flat-out doesn't work is actually rather remarkable, as writer/director Stephen Gaghan delivers a hopelessly by-the-numbers narrative that's rife with uninteresting, uninvolving scenes and sequences - with the far-from-engrossing atmosphere compounded by a proliferation of underdeveloped and one-note central characters. This is especially true of McConaughey's Kenny Wells; armed with bad teeth, a bloated belly, and thinning hair, McConaughey's tic-heavy performance remains a distraction from start to finish and the actor is, it goes without saying, utterly unable to wholeheartedly slip into the shoes of his impetuous, determined protagonist. Gaghan's refusal to offer up an entry point for the viewer proves disastrous, to say the least, and it becomes more and more difficult to work up any interest in or sympathy for the Scorsese-like highs and lows that inevitably dominate the proceedings. (There's little doubt that Gaghan's consistent reliance on the hoariest of cliches perpetuates the movie's hands-off vibe, with the exceedingly, excessively familiar trajectory between Wells and his bubbly girlfriend standing as an obvious lowlight here.) And although the film does improve substantially in its surprising third act - ie the story finally goes in an interesting, unexpected direction - Gold has long-since confirmed its place as a tedious and often interminable drama that feels like a stale rehash of other, better movies.