⋆½ out of four stars
Unrated: War violence, mature themes.
Theater: Brooklyn Center.
The basic axiom of editing is “kill your darlings.” In adapting his acclaimed magical-historical epic “Midnight’s Children” from a Booker Prize-winning bestseller to a feature film, Salman Rushdie has ignored that basic editing advice, delivering a film bloated by excess material.
The picaresque allegory follows the destinies of two Indian boys born at the stroke of midnight, Aug. 15, 1947, at the instant Britain granted their nation independence. “Midnight’s Children” follows the boys, and India (and Pakistan, and Bangladesh), through the rest of the past century. But before the story proper begins, there’s a rambling, entirely superfluous half-hour curtain-raiser about the children’s grandparents and parents.
As newborns, Shiva (played by the actor Siddharth), the princeling of a commercially important family, and Saleem (Satya Bhabha), the son of a poor single mother, are switched by a delivery-room nurse in a Bombay hospital. Gifted with a mystical nose, Saleem can telepathically summon all of India’s other Midnight children, who possess diverse occult powers of their own. The protagonists tumble through modern India’s wars, class strife and political upheavals as they reach adulthood. The overstuffed narrative makes for an incoherent 2½ hours. “Midnight’s Children” isn’t brimming with incident, it’s drowning in it.
THE KINGS OF SUMMER
⋆⋆ out of four stars
Rated: R for language and some teen drinking.
It’s a rare kids’ movie that’s stolen by the grownups, but that’s the case with “The Kings of Summer.” The ragged debut film for TV director Jordan Vogt-Roberts follows three high school boys who flee their lame parents and spend the warm months in a deep-woods house they build themselves. Introverted Joe (Nick Robinson) has had it up to here with his overbearing single dad (Nick Offerman, expanding on his blustering “Parks and Recreation” persona).
Handsome Patrick (Gabriel Basso) can’t take milk from the fridge without his nicey-nice, chatterbox parents (Megan Mullally and Marc Evan Jackson) yammering about it. Biaggio (Moises Arias), the class weirdo, tags along for reasons undisclosed. The boys have cute adventures hunting their own food. Vogt-Roberts makes the scenery look great, but doesn't call the plays that could make the movie score. Scenes don’t develop, characters don’t evolve except in indie-movie-cute ways. Biaggio, the token wild man, detracts too much attention from the main characters with unmotivated random acts of weirdness.
It’s the adult cast members who carry the movie away. In addition to the droll understated Offerman and endlessly nattering team of Mullally and Jackson, Mary Lynn Rajskub is a standout as the deadpan police chief searching for the runaway trio.
WISH YOU WERE HERE
⋆⋆ out of four stars
Rated: R for language, some drug content, brief sexuality and violence. • Theater: Lagoon.
The Australian thriller “Wish You Were Here” is hypnotically watchable but badly flawed by a shrug of an ending.
First-time director Kieran Darcy-Smith employs a nonlinear (but crystal-clear) editing structure to keep us on edge as he reveals dark secrets about a Cambodian vacation gone hellishly wrong.
The narrative proceeds in fragments, like memories after a nightmare-binge blackout. Something horrific happened to sisters Steph and Alice (Teresa Palmer and Felicity Price) and their partners, Jeremy and Dave (Antony Starr and Joel Edgerton).
Exactly what, and to what degree each is responsible, we must work to discover. The film cuts fluidly between times and locations, never engaging in shallow trickery, but subverting our expectations at every turn. The performances are heartfelt as characters regret the aftermath of impulsive decisions on one ecstasy-fueled party night.
There’s a visceral realism to the acting. Edgerton and Price are riveting as the Australian husband and wife struggling to maintain the stable lives they had before their spectacular fall from grace. The tension grabs you by the hair and never lets up.