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« Mad Men 7.11 "Time & Life" | Main | Tony Nominations. With Context! »
Tuesday
Apr282015

Tribeca: "Anesthesia" and "When I Live My Life Over Again"

Pardon the onslaught but now that Tribeca has concluded we're wrapping up our coverage. Here's Abstew on two more star-heavy flicks. - Editor

Anesthesia 
Populated by familiar faces (Sam Waterston, Glenn Close, Kristen Stewart, and Gretchen Mol to name a few), actor turned writer/director Tim Blake Nelson (most recently seen as Kimmy Schmidt's bumbling stepfather on the Netflix comedy series) has assembled a multi-story film that revolves around a bloody mugging that happens in the first moments to Waterston's University Professor. As is usually the case with films that involved multiple storylines, not all of them are as compelling as others and some of them simply take too long to reveal how they connect to the main story. But Nelson, perhaps because he is an actor first, gives his fellow thespians meaty roles to play with such tough-hitting issues as drug addiction, self mutilation, infidelity, cancer, and even lose of virginity. But his hyper-intelligent dialogue often times threatens to overshadow the story he's telling (and sometimes reaches too far like a clunky bit that compares a character's wants to an everything bagel).

But it's the strong work of the actors that keep the story afloat...

Even when, like with Stewart's depressed college student that takes to burning herself with a curling iron to feel things, it's hard to see how she ultimately fits into the film as a whole. But the actress, whose recent work continues to show her growth and commitment, doesn't back away from the dark places her character goes. I personally would've loved if the film had focused solely on Gretchen Mol's depressed New Jersey housewife that finds that her glass of wine at dinner is starting to turn into a habit that may need to be broken. She's able to find nuance within what could easily become a cliché and provides the film with some much needed comic relief with her rivalry with a fellow mother. But the center of the film is Waterston who gets to state the film's themes and ideology through the guise of a lecture. He's perhaps the least interesting character in the film, but without him it would just be rag-tag series of characters in search of a plot.  

When I Live My Life Over Again

Jude (Amber Heard) is directionless and drifting through life. She works as a back-up singer recording radio station call signs (which she is usually late to), she's having an affair with her married anaylst, and although she's an aspiring singer/songwriter, she is constantly faced with the legacy of her father Paul Lombard (Christopher Walken), a popular Sinatra-like crooner from the '50s and '60s. (The film even begins with Jude's one night stand putting on one her father's records to get her in the mood.) Even worse, she is being kicked out of her NYC apartment and is forced to move back in with Paul in the Hamptons. Paul is looking to stage a comeback and the film's title refers to the new song that he has written to help jumpstart his once-successful music career.

Walken, through his work as a tap-dancing pimp in Pennies from Heaven(1981) and the Fatboy Slim music video "Weapon of Choice" has already proven that he's a talented hoofer, here shows that he might have missed his calling as a big band singer. (The film's end credits include samples of Paul's multiple records and part of me hopes that a soundtrack of Walken's song stylings isn't too far away.) But the real surprise for me was Amber Heard. Having caught her only in her brief stint on The Playboy Club, I had no idea that she was so charismatic with a natural acting style that plays off of the Walkenesque style we've come to know over the years so perfectly. She might not have the greatest singing voice, but there's a rawness and realness to her voice that makes you believe that Jude could succeed if she only got out of her own way. Although you know exactly where the film is headed, Heard and Walken make a dynamic pair, particularly Heard in a showcase performance. 

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Reader Comments (1)

kristen stewart is appearing in so many indies it feels like she's running around naked going "I'm free! I'm free!" now that her franchise has long since wrapped

April 28, 2015 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

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