Reviewed in brief: 'Renoir,' 'Arthur Newman,' 'My Brother the Devil'

  • Updated: April 25, 2013 - 3:19 PM
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Christa Theret as Andree Heuschling and Michel Bouquet as Pierre-Auguste Renoir in RENOIR.

Photo: Samuel Goldwyn Films,

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Arthur Newman
⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars
Rated: R for sexual content, language, brief drug us.

 

Veteran screenwriter Becky Johnston (“Seven Years in Tibet,” “The Prince of Tides”) has concocted a melancholy, wistful and delusional romance that two very good actors (Colin Firth and Emily Blunt) bring to life.

Firth's character, laid off from his FedEx job, divorced, and estranged from his teenage son, concocts a plan to escape his life and hit the road. Soon after, he meets Mikaela (Blunt), who is on the run from her real identity, too. She’s street-wise, a petty thief with a mania for dressing up and playacting in other people’s clothes in other people’s houses. Arthur, wounded soul that he is, can’t help but be smitten. But even he has to see what a train wreck she is.

There’s barely a hint of whimsy in their odyssey, despite their bemused selection of odd people whose homes they invade, the dress-up that comes with each home invasion and the beds they muss. This is more “Something Mild” than “Something Wild.”

But Firth and Blunt handle their characters’ many revelations with care, and play with layers of hurt and disappointment with great sympathy and pathos. Whatever they’re running from, each has an inner humanity that only the other seems to sense. And if that’s not the makings of a winning offbeat romance, nothing is.
Roger Moore, McClatchy-Tribune News Service

 

Renoir
⋆⋆½ out of four stars
Rated: R for sequences of art-related nudity and brief language. In subtitled French.
Theater: Uptown

Straw hats and placid picnics, sun-dappled Côte d’Azur countrysides and lavish dinners, wine and tasteful nudity. “Renoir” is the finest travel ad the French Riviera tourist board could hope for. Shot at the artist’s estate in Cagnes-sur-Mer, Gilles Bourdos’ biographical drama is lit and shot like a ravishing Impressionist canvas. There’s less craftsmanship in the World War I-era story, which presents the closing chapter in the life of the master, or as the bustling female household staff calls him, “the boss.” Veteran actor Michel Bouquet plays the aged artist as an indomitable spirit trapped in an arthritic husk of a body. When painting a dewy nude, his gaze is as appreciative as a young man’s, and if he fully loses the use of his hands, he vows to paint with another part of his anatomy.

The business of the story is a three-way emotional tussle. Pierre-Auguste dotes on his final model/muse Andrée (Christa Theret). She admires the father, but harbors feelings for his son Jean (Vincent Rottiers), a callow war veteran who will go on to be a legendary filmmaker despite being warned, “Cinema isn't for the French.” The romance is unpersuasive, even though it is based on fact. Theret is lovely but petulant and tantrum-prone, and Rottiers is far too handsome to play the kind, wise but ungainly Jean. The film’s finest asset is Mark Ping Bing Lee’s radiant cinematography. Stately to a fault, the film is not enough drama, too much still life.
COLIN COVERT

 

 

 

My Brother the Devil
⋆⋆½ out of four stars
Rated: Not rated.
Theater: Lagoon.

 

In “My Brother the Devil,” two young Arab men living in London grapple with how to define themselves against the demands of family, tradition and the cross-cultural currents that pull them in multiple directions.

Rashid (James Floyd) runs a gang that controls their neighborhood. Just as he starts to want out from the gangster life, his younger brother Mo (Fady Elsayed) becomes determined to find a way in.

The film is the feature debut of writer-director Sally El Hosaini, and even though she shows a keen and sensitive eye for poetic detail, her storytelling is overmatched by her ambition. There is often something overly literal to the film, such as the gang fight that finds a pit bull stabbed along with a young man; El Hosaini can’t resist the shot of the two of them side by side, visualizing the “dog in the street” cliché.

“My Brother the Devil” is a promising debut that marks El Hosaini as a filmmaker to watch, but one still in the developmental stages. Floyd and Elsayed give the film a much-needed intensity, but they can’t overcome El Hosaini’s schematic storytelling.
MARK OLSEN, LOS ANGELES TIMES

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