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The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film - Michael Bodey Twit­ter: @michael­bodey

I WAS very much look­ing for­ward to watch­ing Goats. David Du­chovny is an un­der­rated comic per­former be­cause Cal­i­for­ni­ca­tion has al­lowed him to go through the mo­tions for too long. And Vera Farmiga is a won­der­ful ac­tress who has turned a lit­tle too se­ri­ous since her charm­ing per­for­mance in Up in the Air. I had hoped they might work well to­gether. Un­for­tu­nately, the ma­te­rial in Goats (MA15+, Univer­salSony, 111min, $29.99) gives them lit­tle to work with.

Its di­rec­tor Christopher Neil is re­lated to the Cop­pola clan, for what it’s worth, which is prob­a­bly a few eas­ily opened doors, and this is his first film. Un­for­tu­nately, he al­lowed Mark Poirier to adapt his 2001 novel into a feath­erlight com­ing-of-age tale set in Arizona. It’s the kind of film that needs a def­i­nite au­tho­rial point of view, whether from di­rec­tor or screen­writer. It doesn’t get this and con­se­quently me­an­ders from one aim­less plot in­ci­dent — not plot point — to an­other with­out much care for the viewer.

Ap­par­ently the book was quite chip­per; the film feels too happy with it­self, fall­ing into the lazy vibe of Du­chovny’s Goat Man, the goa­to­b­sessed, pot-grow­ing sur­ro­gate fa­ther to the wan­der­ing teen, El­lis ( The Good Wife’s Gra­ham Phillips).

De­spite Farmiga’s at­tempt to swim against the cur­rent and add some­thing to her self­ab­sorbed New Age mother char­ac­ter, the film lacks any com­edy, in­sight or drama and, ul­ti­mately, is strangely point­less.

The Im­pos­si­ble (M, Univer­salSony, 109min, $39.95) is far from point­less al­though I felt slightly miffed by its emo­tional ma­nip­u­la­tion. Which is an oaf’s way of say­ing I fell un­re­servedly for its tale of tri­umph in ad­ver­sity. That’s not giv­ing any­thing away in this story of a fam­ily’s heart­break­ing search and res­cue mis­sion in the af­ter­math of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami in Thai­land.

Its Span­ish di­rec­tor Juan An­to­nio Bay­ona ( The Or­phan­age) de­fended the film’s use of pro­mo­tional im­ages giv­ing away the plot by ob­serv­ing au­di­ences wouldn’t know­ingly see a film about a disas­ter that looks like end­ing in disas­ter. Fair enough, per­haps, and that em­pha­sises what a mas­ter­ful job he does with The Im­pos­si­ble, which is based on a Span­ish fam­ily’s tra­vails (the trans­pos­ing of na­tion­al­ity it­self a mi­nor source of con­tro­versy).

You know how it will end and the film’s screen­play, score and sce­nar­ios push ob­vi­ous emo­tional but­tons, yet you can’t help but be swept up.

Naomi Watts’s har­row­ing per­for­mance de­served its Acad­emy Award nom­i­na­tion; just when you be­lieve you’ve seen her go the edge, she pushes her­self through an­other pun­ish­ing role. And Ewan McGre­gor, when he’s cast well, is such an en­dear­ing ac­tor.

How the film missed a vis­ual ef­fects Os­car nom­i­na­tion re­mains a mys­tery. Its re-cre­ation of the tsunami and its ef­fects is heart­break­ing. My preview disc didn’t con­tain any spe­cial fea­tures but af­ter be­ing so knocked around by The Im­pos­si­ble’s re­al­ity and emo­tion, I’m keen to see how Bay­ona did it.

(PG) Road­show (162min, $39.95)

(M) Para­mount (91min, $39.95)

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