The Films of Bart Freundlich
The Myth of Fingerprints
Catch That Kid (February 6/04)
If you ever thought it was impossible to make a dull heist movie, Catch That Kid is here to prove you wrong. Though the premise is decent - three kids set out to rob a bank to pay for an expensive operation for one of their fathers - the execution is aimed squarely at youngsters, complete with simplistic plotting and over-the-top instances of "comedy." The biggest problem is that everything comes far too easily to the three thieves, thus removing any possibility of tension when the robbery actually occurs. There's a ridiculous sequence in which Maddy (Kristen Stewart), the trio's ringleader, receives a tour around the bank from her mother's boss - who helpfully reveals the password that will unlock every door in the building. It's not enough for Maddy to casually mention that adults treat her like a kid, and that's supposed to justify such an absurd plot twist. The rest of the film is similarly idiotic, although some of the performances are fairly good (ie Stewart deserves much better than this, as do Sam Robards and John Carroll Lynch).
Trust the Man
Click here for review.
The Rebound (February 28/12)
Written and directed by Bart Freundlich, The Rebound follows Catherine Zeta-Jones' Sandy as she discovers that her husband (Sam Robards' Frank) is having an affair and subsequently moves with their kids to a small New York City apartment - with the film generally detailing Sandy's efforts at getting her life together and her surprising relationship with a much younger man (Justin Bartha's Aram). It's an intriguing premise that's squandered from the word go by Freundlich, as the filmmaker has infused the proceedings with a hopelessly over-the-top sensibility that proves disastrous - with the sitcom-like atmosphere resulting in an absolute dearth of authentic or engrossing elements. The film's pervasively wrongheaded vibe is heightened by the ongoing inclusion of eye-rollingly over-the-top sequences and interludes (eg Sandy is forced to continue a conversation while her date uses a portable toilet), and it is, as such, not surprising to note that's one's ongoing efforts at working up any interest in or sympathy for Sandy's exploits fall distressingly flat. (There's little doubt, too, that the movie's problems are exacerbated by Zeta-Jones' nigh atrocious performance, with the actress' overuse of Botox and plastic surgery ensuring that she does, for much of the film's running time, sport a single facial expression.) By the time the tedious fake break-up rolls around, The Rebound has certainly established itself as a thoroughly (and consistently) misguided piece of work that has almost nothing truthful or relevant to say about relationships.
Featuring a breakout performance by Taylor John Smith, Wolves follows high-school basketball star Anthony Keller (Smith) as his efforts to impress a university scout are consistently foiled by a wide variety of personal issues - including a father (Michael Shannon's Lee) with gambling and alcohol addictions and a girlfriend (Zazie Beetz) with problems of her own. There's little doubt that Wolves fares best in its low-key yet generally compelling first half, as writer/director Bart Freundlich does an effective job of establishing the affable central character and his ongoing encounters and concerns - with the watchable vibe heightened by Smith's strong work as the increasingly beleaguered Anthony (and it doesn't hurt, certainly, that the actor's been surrounded by a number of talented periphery players). It does become more and more clear, however, that there's just not enough story here to sustain a 110 minute running time, as Freundlich delivers a distressingly uneventful and repetitive midsection that suffers from a growing lack of momentum - with the erratic atmosphere compounded by an occasionally stifling emphasis on basketball scenes (which ultimately aren't as engrossing as Freundlich clearly believes them to be). The somewhat anticlimactic final stretch dulls the impact of the movie's final moments, to be sure, and Wolves' is, despite Freundlich's best intentions and efforts, simply unable to become the gripping drama one might've expected (and hoped for).