Review of reviews: Film
The Big Sick
Directed by Michael Showalter (R)
A young couple defies the odds.
The romantic comedy has been declared dead as an American genre, “but it only takes one great film to zap it back into life,” said David Sims in The Atlantic. The Big Sick “just might be that film,” because it’s bighearted, consistently funny, and based on the remarkable true courtship story of its cowriters. Kumail Nanjiani essentially plays himself: a struggling stand-up comedian who’s living in Chicago and resisting his parents’ request that he marry a Pakistani girl when he meets and starts dating Emily Gordon. But Emily, played here by Zoe Kazan, suddenly falls gravely ill and is put into a medically induced coma, making Kumail the guy sitting at her bedside with her own bickering parents. Despite the dire scenario, “there are few stretches that aren’t enlivened by humor that also deepens the movie,” said Manohla Dargis in The New York Times. As Kumail bonds with Emily’s parents, played by Holly Hunter and Ray Romano, “you vividly see the person in each role.” The Big Sick runs a little long, though you might not notice, said Emily Yoshida in NYMag.com. “Besides, everyone’s just so lovable, why would you want less of them?”
Directed by Sofia Coppola (R)
A Yankee soldier roils a Virginia girls’ school.
Sofia Coppola’s remake of a pulpy 1971 Clint Eastwood period drama “weaves its own hushed, intoxicating spell,” said Justin Chang in the Los Angeles Times. Colin Farrell steps into the Eastwood role, playing a wounded Union soldier who’s hiding out at a Virginia girls’ boarding school as he’s nursed back to health, but this time the female perspective is front and center. Coppola— “scrupulous behavioral observer that she is”—tells this story of fear and desire with “the subtlest shifts in emotional temperature.” Despite some necessary bodice ripping, this new Beguiled will leave you less hot than bothered, said Brian Truitt in USA Today.
From his sickbed, Farrell’s John McBurney goads the sexually repressed women—including the headmistress (Nicole Kidman), a lonely teacher (Kirsten Dunst), and a teenage coquette (Elle Fanning)—to fight for his affections. But because he doesn’t come across as dangerous, “the stakes never seem that high,” and all the simmering drama “leads to a rather mundane finale.” Still, The Beguiled is worth seeing for its cinematography alone, said Leah Greenblatt in Entertainment Weekly. “Nearly every shot here is a visual symphony, all milky sunbeams shot through Spanish moss and white muslin flickering in candlelight.”
Directed by Edgar Wright (R)
A crime ring hands getaway duties to an asphalt savant.
“Baby Driver is the most moviemade- by-a-guy-born-in-1974 you are likely to see in a good long time,” said Joe Gross in the Austin American-Statesman. Another “smashingly” entertaining confection from the director of Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead, it’s a high five to every other fanboy who’s ever geeked out about cars, music, heist flicks, or all of the above. Ansel Elgort stars as Baby, a teenage car nut who drives getaway for an array of thieves (Jon Hamm and Jamie Foxx among them) because he’s indebted to an Atlanta crime boss (played by Kevin Spacey). Because Baby suffers ringing in his ears, he listens to music nonstop, generating a rich soundtrack that stretches from ’90s rock to classic soul. “Somewhere, Steve McQueen is reaching for his keys,” said Stephen Whitty in the Newark, N.J., Star-Ledger. The chase scenes are “unquestionably great,” packed with “terrific, old-fashioned, tire-squealing action.” Sometimes, though, you wish the movie would slow down and trade in a few tongue-in-cheek heist-movie clichés for actual character development. But why expect emotional involvement? asked Will Leitch in PasteMagazine.com. Baby Driver is nothing more than “a sugar missile of endorphins aimed directly at the movie dork’s pleasure center.”
Nicole Rivelli/AP, Ben Rothstein/Focus Features, Wilson Webb ■