The Morning After: Oct. 21, 2013

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what I’ve seen over the past week either in film or television. On the film side, if I have written a full length review already, I will post a link to that review. Otherwise, I’ll give a brief snippet of my thoughts on the film with a full review to follow at some point later. For television shows, seasons and what not, I’ll post individual comments here about each of them as I see fit.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

Y Tu Mama Tambien

Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron has been receiving a lot of press recently after his Gravity became a box office smash and a critical hit. Just over a decade ago, another of his films was earning raves from critics and earning him his first Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay with his brother Carlos.

Y Tu Mama Tambien tells the story of two teenage boys (Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna) suffering through Summer without their girlfriends when a mysterious older woman (Maribel Verdu) happens into their lives and takes them up on an offer to visit a secluded beach far outside of their shelter within Mexico City. As the trio take a road trip through the Mexican countryside, they explore their sexuality and innocence as political tumult stirs around them, oblivious to their lives.

Cuaron showcased his minimalist approach at the helm of this Spanish-language film, focusing on simple compositions and creative uses of reflective surfaces. The film lives and dies on its rapid-fire dialogue exploring human emotion in ways that only an astute artist can. Cuaron also showcases his appreciation for French New Wave as the many events they pass by as they travel through Mexico showcase a country at war with itself and where poverty is more pronounced than it should be. Fairly reminiscent of Jean-Luc Godard’s black comedy Week End, Y Tu Mama Tambien is a bit more subdued in tone, but a bit more fascinating with its focus on realism.

Glengarry Glen Ross

Super performances are the highlight of the film version of David Mamet’s acclaimed play Glengarry Glen Ross. Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alec Baldwin, Ed Harris and Alan Arkin command the screen as a quintet of salesmen working for an outfit that sells timeshares and undeveloped property.

As the sales month ticks away, Baldwin delivers a tour-de-force admonition of the sales associates Lemmon, Harris and Arkin for not closing on a series of bad leads. As he threatens the low performers with termination, office manager Kevin Spacey stands idly by with little concern for the well-being of his associates. In his last great leading performance, Lemmon is on fire as a man fallen on hard times faced with a sick daughter and mounting medical bills. The job is important to his well being, but he doesn’t have the spark he used to. Pacino plays the current sales leader wining and dining a potential client while the office crumbles around him. Pacino was nominated for the Oscar, but it should have been Lemmon as the sole representative of the film, if there were to be only one.

As it stands, these masterful actors showcase the level of wit and detail in Mamet’s screenplay that feels a bit dated looked at twenty years later, but the fiery deliveries of all involved keep it tonally fresh. Director James Foley tries to breathe life into this horribly stage-bound narrative and while some of his directorial choices are interesting, he stays out of the way most times and lets his actors work even if it means there’s nothing particularly memorable about his specific contribution.

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