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)