(If you’re curious, my review process. It’s also pasted at the end of this post. I don’t believe in Rotten Tomatoes. I just believe in me.)
(***all-purpose SPOILER ALERT*** there may be some in this review)
SW SCORE: 33
3.3 out of 5 🐙
I dig Gus Van Sant’s work. Good Will Hunting is one of my favorite comfort watch movies. I can watch it every single time it comes across my path. I was gonna type “while I’m surfing channels” but I forgot what that was. It’s an unforgettable movie for me.
Sadly, I cannot say the same for this film. An hour into it and I’m not sure what the protagonist is trying to accomplish. This is not good. Eventually we see John Callahan, a raging alcoholic, lose the use of his legs in a car accident that is roughly the responsibility of his so-called friend. After that it takes a pretty predictable path of addict redemption. After losing it all, John finds sobriety and a personal artistic calling. He becomes a celebrated and controversial cartoonist.
There are some funny lines. Joaquin Phoenix is his normal excellent acting self. Jonah Hill acquits himself well in a dramatic role and Rooney Mara shows some chops. But it all just feels flat to me. It isn’t as bad as one line:
“Today I celebrate mediocrity .”
But it’s just a shade above. The 12-step program is a pretty major part of our culture but a lot of its platitudes can come off as tired cliches. Working the steps is difficult and nuanced, but here the movie barely gives you more than the surface wisdom. And I’m not necessarily faulting it too much for that. An intense narrative about a person going through the alcoholics anonymous program would be very long and very boring and very depressing. Maybe the film tried to be too realistic about the recovery process. And maybe that’s why it felt so “by the numbers”. The movie isn’t very long at least. And it isn’t very boring. But it’s just a shade below. These shades do not a good movie make.
It did motivate me to look up Callahan’s cartoons and they were excellent. But the only real surprise in this movie was the fact that I learned it was a true story at the end of the movie.
(1) Shark Wrighter (SW) Score: Based on a sum of 5 sub-scores (acting, directing, writing/story, effects: cinematography &/or animation &/or effects, editing) with 1 being terrible and 10 being terrific.
(2) Octopuses (0-5 🐙, with 5 being fantastic and 0 being feces)
(3) Octopuses are my unquantifiable feeling…not that SW score is scientific…but this one is even less so
(4) ++ This optional section includes any incredibly *brilliant observations that don’t fit into simple quantitative slices like the scores and octopuses *(they are likely NOT brilliant)