You’ll be­lieve a nerd can fly

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film Reviews -

THIS CRACK­ING lit­tle found­footage thriller – at just 84 min­utes, it re­ally is quite lit­tle – doesn’t half tell us a fa­mil­iar story. The school nerd hap­pens upon some su­per­pow­ers, but soon finds that they muck up his life some­thing rot­ten. Didn’t Mar­vel Comics found an em­pire on that myth?

The film-mak­ers ap­proach the ma­te­rial in a sim­i­lar fash­ion to the cre­ators of the TV show He­roes: no­body dons a leo­tard, do­mes­tic prob­lems fre­quently in­trude. Josh Trank does, how­ever, find new things to do with the for­mula. There is a sub­stan­tial amount of grit in its gears. The film is good about the aw­ful nar­cis­sism of youth. Cult sta­tus looms.

Chron­i­cle fol­lows a group of mildly ar­che­typal high school stu­dents. (At times the film comes across like The In­be­tween­ers with fewer jokes and more ex­plo­sions.) Dane Dehaan plays An­drew, an an­guished out­sider whose mother

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is dy­ing and whose dad is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly vi­o­lent. His cousin Matt (Alex Rus­sell) is a clever bloke with a ten­dency to spout half-di­gested phi­los­o­phy. Steve (Michael B Jor­dan) is the chap ev­ery girl wants to date and ev­ery boy wants to be­friend.

One pe­cu­liar evening, the pals spot a mys­te­ri­ous hole in the for­est. At its base they en­counter a throb­bing crys­tal that gifts all three the pow­ers of telekine­sis. They be­gin by ma­nip­u­lat­ing base­balls and play­ing pranks in the su­per­mar­ket. Be­fore too long they are fly­ing through the clouds and con­tem­plat­ing dom­i­na­tion.

The film has fun show­ing the char­ac­ters’ grad­ual evo­lu­tion from con­jur­ers to nascent su­per­heroes. It fea­tures a fine ar­ray of ex­plo­sions in its spec­tac­u­lar de­noue­ment. Chron­i­cle is, how­ever, most im­pres­sive for the way it sub­tly teases out the stresses and com­plexes that drive An­drew. By the film’s close – ham­mered by dad, dev­as­tated by mum’s ill­ness – his for­giv­able neu­roses threaten the well­be­ing of greater Seat­tle.

The usual con­cerns about found­footage cinema do arise. Would that bloke re­ally keep the cam­era run­ning? Who gath­ered all this stuff to­gether? The genre is, how­ever, now so well es­tab­lished that one might as well ques­tion the the­atri­cal asides in Restora­tion drama.

A very de­cent piece of hokum. REG­U­LAR readers of the more grown-up sec­tions of this news­pa­per may re­call Fin­tan O’toole’s eval­u­a­tion of God of Car­nage (“among the crass­est pieces of theatre I have ever seen”) when Yas­mina Reza’s play opened at the Gate Theatre last year.

Well at least the stage ver­sion had live vom­it­ing. Ro­man Polan­ski’s filmed Car­nage has noth­ing so event­ful as the­atri­cal puke to rec­om­mend it. If last week’s se­men tears movie (the atro­cious House of Tol­er­ance) failed to in­spire “oohs” and “aahs”, then what hope for the hum­ble, easy-to-fake cin­e­matic boke?

Sadly, purge Car­nage of the live purge, and there’s not much left to rec­om­mend the ma­te­rial. Two cou­ples – snobs Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet and Boho par­ents John C Reilly and Jodie Foster – meet up to dis­cuss a re­cent play­ground tus­sle be­tween their re­spec­tive lit­tle dar­lings.there fol­lows much chewy di­a­logue, the kind ac­tors like to show­boat with and makes the rest of us think of Wil­liam Shat­ner recit­ing Lady Gaga lyrics in cod-shake­spearean.

Then Car­nage drops a bomb­shell: you can’t say petit bour­geois with­out petty. Who knew these mid­dle-class types are – wait for it – not as civilised as they first ap­pear? While they bicker and play out class anx­i­eties, the screen­play re­minds us there are larger con­flicts, such as the one in Dar­fur. How in­sight­ful.

Polan­ski’s cam­era makes for wide-an­gle weasly fun, and Waltz main­tains a wicked twin­kle in his eye, but no amount of dev­il­ment could atone for the facile sen­ti­ments. Many pun­ters at a re­cent London screen­ing turned, con­fused, to­ward the pro­jec­tion booth when the film came screech­ing to a halt two acts in. Car­nage has no place to go.

Winslet 2.0 (the Hol­ly­wood edi­tion) isn’t any more plau­si­ble as an Amer­i­can than Clas­sic Bangers’n’mash Winslet once was. For all the thesp prow­ess and star wattage on view, there’s no be­liev­ing that these peo­ple could be mar­ried in any com­bi­na­tion in this or any other di­men­sion.

Where ex­actly is Mr Polan­ski liv­ing these days?

The pretty petit bour­geouis: Kate Winslet with Christoph Waltz

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