dvd let­ter­box

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

I’m sure you all have your opin­ions or pre­con­cep­tions about this week’s ma­jor home en­ter­tain­ment re­leases, Mad Max: Fury Road and the Break­ing Bad spin-off Bet­ter Call Saul.

In DVD Let­ter­box’s mind, Mad Max: Fury Road is the one movie of the year that has left a last­ing im­pres­sion. It re­mains a blast; just don’t do it the dis­ser­vice of watch­ing it on an in­fe­rior screen.

So DVD Let­ter­box will give a strug­gling ac­tor a go — and why not, given the most re­cent film di­rected by an ac­tor, Joel Edger­ton’s The Gift, is so fine?

Rud­der­less is Wil­liam H. Macy’s first ef­fort as a fea­ture di­rec­tor (he di­rected a telemovie back in 1988) and he brings to­gether a nice cast in­clud­ing his wife, Felic­ity Huffman, An­ton Yelchin, Lau­rence Fish­burne, Se­lena Gomez still try­ing to quash her Dis­ney past, and the un­fea­si­bly hand­some Billy Crudup.

The star of Al­most Fa­mous plays Sam, a sleek advertising ex­ec­u­tive whose as­cen­sion is stopped in its tracks by the death of his son, a tal­ented song­writer, in a cam­pus shoot­ing.

Macy and Huffman have al­ways struck me as a rather in­tel­li­gent, witty cou­ple, so I don’t think my high hopes for his di­rec­to­rial de­but, and per­haps even an in­tel­li­gent look at this ma­jor Amer­i­can prob­lem, were un­rea­son­able.

But the han­dling of the cam­pus shoot­ing is in­cred­i­bly dis­ap­point­ing

It be­comes a mere plot point, barely men­tioned, as Sam leaves town and we re­visit him two years later, af­ter he’s slipped into an al­co­holic fuzz, from which he emerges only when he per­forms his son’s songs with three lo­cal young­sters.

Like the cur­rent re­lease Ricki and the Flash, Rud­der­less (M, Shock, 105min, $29.99) stitches to­gether a tale that, mostly, af­firms the power of mu­sic to bind and/or re­deem. But Ricki and the Flash is what it is, es­sen­tially a do­mes­tic drama, and doesn’t flit by such a top­i­cal plot point so brazenly.

When the twist to the shoot­ing comes, the griev­ing en­ters another phase — yet it only re­minds you what a blun­der it is for the film not to pay greater at­ten­tion to the in­ci­dent.

Now, DVD Let­ter­box doesn’t want to whine about the film that should have been made — writ­ers and di­rec­tors make their choices, and good luck to them. But Macy, who wrote the screen­play with Casey Twen­ter and Jeff Ro­bi­son and plays the owner of the tav­ern host­ing the band, pulls that cru­cial punch, de­valu­ing any­thing good in the film.

Macy, like his coun­try, doesn’t have the stom­ach for it; it’s much eas­ier to mourn.

Amid the melo­drama, Crudup is par­tic­u­larly good, although Yelchin lays it on too thickly.

The songs, writ­ten by Si­mon Stead­man and Charl­ton Pet­tus of the band Solid­State and a big part of the film, are cred­i­ble enough in an early Smash­ing Pump­kins fash­ion.

But by the fi­nal song, Macy’s merely ser­vice­able film will have in­fu­ri­ated you, no mat­ter how sweet the oc­ca­sional melody.

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