Labor Day is a good movie badly damaged by a single fundamental mistake: Almost all the action is chronologically limited to one Labor-Day-extended weekend, and while the physical action may be credible over just three days, the psychological and human-relations developments are such as should have been allowed at least three months.
The title The Invisible Woman suggests some kind of comic book sci-fi thing, but The Invisible Woman is actually the supposedly true story of the aging novelist Charles Dickens and an 18-year-old talentless actress for whom he risked his reputation, profession, social standing, home and family. But it never persuades us that it is really telling the story.
August: Osage County suffers only from too-close similarity to an all-time classic, Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night, filmed by director Sidney Lumet with Ralph Richardson and Katharine Hepburn in 1962.
Again we have the story of a disharmonious family revealing its emotional strains during a short reunion, with startling revelations of character but no real plot, made notable by excellent writing and marvelous acting, with this time a touch of unnecessary melodrama toward the end.
Her is certainly one of the most unusual love stories ever filmed, with Scarlett Johansson as a computer voice and an unrecognizable Joaquin Phoenix as a sort of nerd who falls in love with her, with Rooney Mara and Olivia Wilde in little support parts, and Amy Adams very effective in not much more.
The Wolf of Wall Street is a welcome return to those old-time movies such as Bette Davis used to recommend, in which all the colors are a little brighter than real life, the Ferraris are spanking new, the women are drop-dead gorgeous, the clothes are the peak of fashion, and everything from the tableware to the picture windows are sparkling clean.
In other words, everything is a little more exciting than real life.
American Hustle is an old-fashioned intrigue comedy in the tradition of The Sting, but with more concentration on complications of plot, as smart crooks eventually outsmart themselves-- if you read the story that way.
It starts with Christian Bale in charge of a fair-sized scam, and then his partner, Amy Adams, more or less takes over, and then a rather dubious FBI man played by Bradley Cooper gets involved, and from there we proceed to complications that eventually pretty much left me behind.
Out of the Furnace is rated by Entertainment Weekly as the eighth-best movie of the year, and it is well written, well photographed, well acted, and generally worth a lot of praise. It is a serious drama for grownup audiences.
But it is also thoroughly unpleasant, with unsympathetic characters, occasional ugly violence and some artsy camerawork that implies subtlety that isn't there.
To start with, two bits of advice: if you like grownup, realistic character drama, by all means, see Philomena. And if you have a hearing problem like mine, ask to borrow a pair of earphones the theater has that will enable you to adjust the sound to the volume you need. Because a lot of the dialogue is murmured or even whispered, very confidential, and what I could hear of it convinced me that I wished I could hear it all.