I caught this last night at the dollar theater and I was simultaneously enthralled and baffled. It's a brutal mix of precise technical work, nice character moments, and sheer dramatic buffoonery.
The script really plays with emotions as you go along -- in more ways than one. It's somewhat fascinating how the film evolves to set up the idea that Whip is going to have to be the one to come clean in the end; one by one, all of the characters that could potentially reveal his alarming behavior find some (largely incredulous) reason not to do so. At the same time, the script seems really unbalanced and the "redemptive"/Lifetime-movie ending is tonally jarring. The film spends far too much time leading the audience into thinking that he is going to get away with everything and not nearly enough time on Whip actually having to face his real demons that the "message" of the film is just laughable. There should have been something after the NTSA hearing rather than the trite, "I messed by life up, but now it is actually better than ever!" conversation.
The supporting characters for this film seem like they belong in a sitcom, not something that is masquerading as a serious, "adult" drama. Kelly Reiley was embarrassing and her character was a complete joke. Brian Geraghty was really good during the scenes on the plane, but his character (and that of his wife) are such gross caricatures by the end -- it's just kind of ludicrous.
The first hour is great, but what come afterwards has to be one of the worst excuses for "dramatic" film making I've ever seen.
You can do it, Naomi! You're...
ONLY 10 EASY STEPS AWAY FROM OSCAR!
1.) Bankrupt small, independent distributor via massive Oscar campaign. Failing that, proceed to...
2.) Cash in King Kong residual checks to pay for FYC advertisements from Kinko's.
3.) To avoid getting sent straight to VOD, attach entire film as a "trailer" to another film people actually want to see. And then...
4.) Try to do it Lahti-style and win Academy Award for Best Short Film.
5.) Avoid telling a story that everyone already knows by adding exciting details and/or gratuitous editing.
6. Carefully and patiently weather the wrath of film critics/the royal family/the tabloids/Diana-maniacs for trying to add said details. (Good luck!)
7. Find all of the boxes with "August: Osage County" screeners and slip in self-made cam bootleg from premiere screening at Lowes...the hardware store.
(Not Loews, the movie theater -- too expensive!)
8. Trick octogenarian Oscar voters into thinking that you are, in fact, a real princess. (Hey, it worked on Eva Marie Saint!)
9. On Oscar night, have camera crews come to Nicole's house, Joan Crawford-style, so you can win and keep your day job.
bleh, chiming in with more criticism. washington was pretty good, but this was so pedestrian, forced, unbelievable and boring. did it really need to be 2 hours and 20 minutes long? i was even unimpressed by the airplane crash scene that everyone had been raving about... perhaps b/c i saw it on the small screen.
agreed that melissa leo in her red suit sort of helped.
did i hear the sound of a plane with that final shot after those nauseating last lines? surely i didn't.
it's crazy that this got nominated for screenplay (over the likes of 'the master' and 'looper'). oh well...
I will say that Denzel perfectly nails the self-loathing binging that addicts go through.
This is an awful movie going experience for anyone who watches more than ten films a year.
I am a church person, and this movie is going to be on loop forever in some of those environments. The glossy Lifetime-ness of it all will secure it a successful afterlife.
But it still does not change the fact that this is an incoherent, silly mess. I am appalled that this is nominated for best screenplay. What exactly is good about the screenplay?
At this point, I almost feel offended that this could make the "best of" lists of anyone. Such an insignificant little bottom burp of a film does not deserve attention like that. It serves a purpose, it delivers a heartfelt (and important) sermon, but as a piece of art, this is shit. (And not the canned one).
The relationships depicted are underdeveloped.
The "conversion" happens at the most unbelievable time (although it dramatically is very opportune to have it happen there).
The portrayal of a drunk who got lucky is in many ways interesting, but in the end is betrayed by a script that focuses to much on preaching and redemption instead of a believable evolution.
The acting is fine, I guess.
But, can I just say that I appreciate Bruce Greenwood whenever he is in a film. He is a terrific actor who should have been an Oscar nominee at least twice: 13 Days and Ararat.