Nathan Morlando‘s Mean Dreams isn’t blazingly original, but I found it a handsome, pared-down thing that doesn’t give in to the usual blam-blam when a gun is purchased and push comes to shove. If a cover band really knows how to perform classic Malick rock — Badlands meets Cop Car meets Ain’t Them Bodies Saints meets A Simple Plan meets No Country for Old Men — and they include a riff or two of their own then I really don’t see the problem.
It isn’t how familiar something seems as much as how spare and straight the chops feel. Take, assimilate, make anew. And the quality of the performances, which in this case struck me as near-perfect in the case of co-leads Josh Wiggins and Sophie Nelisse, and a bad-cop, pervy-dad turn by Bill Paxton that…okay, felt a little moustache-twirly at times and yet acceptable enough in the context of greed, alcohol and obsession. Plus Colm Meaney‘s slightly less corrupt lawman plus Steve Cosens‘ handsome cinematography and a sometimes slammy percussive score by Son Lux…solid as far as it goes.
And then along came Variety‘s Guy Lodge and The Hollywood Reporter‘s David Rooney last night with pooh-pooh reviews, essentially calling it too derivative and/or not twisty enough. I felt a little queasy as I read these reviews around 11 pm last night, as if some kind of virus had gotten into my system from the wrong kind of seafood. Lodge and Rooney and whomever else are entitled to piss on anything they want but I know it when a film feels steady and restrained and is more or less up to something honorable.
So that didn’t seem right but this has occasionally felt like a kind of Twilight Zone-y festival so far with films that I’ve felt somewhat distanced if not repelled by catching a decent amount of acclaim. Maren Ade‘s Toni Erdmann is example #1 in this regard. There’s actually a belief that it’s the strongest Palme d’Or contender thus far. Words fail. May God spare me the appalling physicality and personality of Peter Simonischek‘s performance for the rest of my time on this planet.
I’m certain that despite being overly long and a lack of a compelling, complete-feeling narrative that Andrea Arnold‘s American Honey more than compensates in other ways. And I agree with the consensus (which I haven’t time to get into with the 8:30 am Loving screening breathing down my neck) about Jim Jarmusch‘s Paterson being one of the best thus far, at least in terms of knowing itself, holding back and dealing clean, reverent cards.