Movies reviewed in brief: 'Child's Pose,' 'Elaine Stritch,' 'Face of Love,' more

  • Updated: March 13, 2014 - 8:33 PM
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Ed Harris and Annette Bening ponder “The Face of Love.”

CHILD’S POSE

⋆⋆½ out of four stars

Rated: Not rated.

Theater: St. Anthony Main.

 

When you first see Cornelia in “Child's Pose” — played by the astonishing Romanian actress Luminita Gheorghiu — she’s seated on a sofa, a scowl creasing her face and a cigarette burning in her hand. She bitterly recites complaints about a man. While she makes him sound like a lover, he turns out to be her only child, Barbu (Bogdan Dumitrache), which suggests that something is rotten in Bucharest, where much of the story unfolds. Written by Razvan Radulescu and directed by Calin Peter Netzer, the film is at once an allegory about the new Romania and a slice of naturalism that turns on a traffic accident that has left a boy dead and Barbu’s future in jeopardy. It sounds heavy and it is. It’s too bad that the filmmakers don’t allow an occasional breath of air into the sepulchral proceedings or ease up on the increasingly heavy-handed lessons.

MAHNOLA DARGIS, NEW YORK TIMES

 

Generation War

⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars

Unrated: War violence, sexuality. In subtitled German.

Theater: Lagoon.

 

This high-end German miniseries encourages us to view World War II not as a conflict between absolutes of good and evil, but in shades of gray, assuaging the national guilt complex of the Nazi era. Its two-part, five-hour arc concerns five prototypical, jazz-loving young Germans who enter the war as fast friends. They emerge as casualties of various kinds. Stefan Kolditz’s screenplay is as much concerned with their inner struggles as the carnage on the Eastern Front (though director Philipp Kadelbach doesn’t stint there, either).

The film is hardly a whitewash of German aggression, but its battle scenes show more empathy for the suffering of wounded Wehrmacht soldiers than their opponents. Polish resistance fighters come off worse, and the Red Army worst of all. Reactions to this exercise in revisionism may vary from sympathy, if you believe everyday Germans were also Hitler’s victims, to indignation, if you consider them his accomplices.

COLIN COVERT

 

Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me

⋆⋆⋆½ out of four stars

Unrated: Profanity.

Theater: Lagoon.

 

Elaine Stritch pulls no punches in this biographical documentary, which recounts her days as a hard-drinking, high-living, combative Broadway diva, in the era before the theater district was thoroughly Disneyfied. At 87 she remains a prickly show-stopper, as you may recall from her run as Jack Donaghy's mother, Colleen, on NBC's “30 Rock” (Alec Baldwin produced this film) and her recent F-bomb on “The Today Show.” Chiemi Karasawa’s 80-minute film is admiring and unsparing, recording rehearsals and performances for Stritch’s farewell cabaret show last spring. She’s shown blowing the lyrics to Sondheim songs she made famous, and enduring a diabetic meltdown. But Stritch is her own sternest critic, and you have the feeling that only a warts-and-all portrait would satisfy her. What a tough, difficult, talented old broad.

C.C.

 

The Face of Love

⋆⋆½ out of four stars

Rated: PG-13 for drug references.

Theater: Edina.

 

“The Face of Love” is patchy, but it raises such fascinating questions that it deserves to be seen. Annette Bening plays a well-off Los Angeles widow holding on to her architect husband’s memory five years after his death. Then she meets a painter (Ed Harris), a virtual clone of the man she loved. She begins a romance without telling the man the reason for her fascination with him. What she sees with her adoring eyes is a mirage, caused by emotional thirst. The presence of Robin Williams as a friendly/nosy neighbor suggests it might become a suspense film. But the movie is more concerned with the way we can use a new romantic partner to supply qualities we miss in a lost one. Writer/director Arie Posin sabotages himself with a dubious happy ending. If he’d ended with the next-to-last shot of a haunting triple portrait, he would have left us with something savory to chew on.

C.C.

 

The Best Offer

⋆½ out of four stars

Rated: R for sexuality and graphic nudity.

Theater: St. Anthony Main.

 

So silly and stilted it’s almost endearing, this handsomely sub-Hitchcock romantic mystery stars Geoffrey Rush as a venal, wealthy art dealer. Obsessively avoiding intimate human contact, he regularly communes with his collection of ill-gotten masterworks, all female portraits. When a reclusive young heiress contacts him by phone to sell off her estate's furniture, he begins to fall in love with her disembodied voice, imagining her the ideal of an unattainable female beauty. The screenplay is riddled with implausibilities, not the least of which is thinking that people say “forthwith” in everyday conversation.

C.C.

 

 

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