Mini Reviews (September 2018)
Searching, The Wife, EuroTrip
Searching (September 6/18)
Shot entirely from the perspective of various computer screens, Searching follows John Cho's David Kim as he embarks on a frantic quest to find his missing teenage daughter (Michelle La's Margot) - with the character eventually receiving plenty of assistance from a grizzled yet dedicated detective (Debra Messing's Vick). First-time filmmaker Aneesh Chaganty does an absolutely fantastic job of instantly drawing the viewer into the proceedings, as Searching opens with a mesmerizing (and surprisingly emotional) credits sequence that paves the way for a progressively engrossing thriller. And although certain aspects of the movie suffer from a distinctly low-rent feel (ie the film is never quite as convincing with its visual gimmickry as the Unfriended series, ultimately), Searching's effectiveness grows incrementally over the course of its well-paced running time - with the script, by Chaganty and Sev Ohanian, boasting a series of impressively unexpected twists that effectively ratchet up the suspense on an ongoing basis (to the extent that the picture's climax is nothing short of engrossing and captivating). It's clear, too, that the movie also benefits quite substantially from Cho's thoroughly commanding turn as the distraught protagonist, as the actor does a superb job of capturing David's frustration with the search as well as his growing realization that he didn't know his daughter as well as he thought. The end result is a top-notch endeavor that's certainly more accomplished and entertaining than one might've anticipated, with the apparent limitations of the genre hardly preventing director Chaganty from cranking out a pervasively engaging thriller.
The Wife (September 21/18)
Based on a book by Meg Wolitzer, The Wife follows Glenn Close's Joan Castleman as she travels to Switzerland with her husband (Jonathan Pryce's Joe) after he's awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature - with the narrative exploring the dynamic between the two characters and the impact their lives have had on those around them (including Max Irons' David and Christian Slater's Nathaniel). Filmmaker Björn Runge opens The Wife with a compelling first act that's heightened by the actors' stellar work, with Close's commanding turn as the title figure effectively anchoring the picture and enhancing the movie's progressively engrossing vibe. It's clear, too, that Close has been surrounded by a series of strong periphery performers (with Pryce's persistently captivating work certainly standing as an ongoing highlight), and the movie also benefits from a sporadic inclusion of flashbacks designed to flesh out Joan and Joe's relationship (with the strength of these scenes heightened by the effectiveness of Annie Starke and Harry Lloyd's efforts as, respectively, Joan and Joe). Director Runge, working from Jane Anderson's screenplay, does a solid job of ratcheting up the tension steadily as the story unfolds, with the presence of a few intriguing (and thoroughly surprising) plot twists certainly ensuring that the film eventually moves into a surprisingly enthralling final third - which ultimately confirms The Wife's place as a stirring adaptation that boasts one of Close's best performances in years.
EuroTrip (September 25/18)
One of this new century's very best comedies, EuroTrip follows Scott Mechlowicz's Scotty as he and three friends (Jacob Pitts' Cooper, Michelle Trachtenberg's Jenny, and Travis Wester's Jamie) head to Europe and encounter a whole host of wacky characters and situations. Filmmaker Jeff Schaffer, working from a script written with Alec Berg and David Mandel, does a superb job of establishing EuroTrip's decidedly irreverent sensibilities right from the get-go, as the movie kicks off with an engaging and frequently hilarious opening stretch culminating in the now-legendary "Scotty Doesn't Know" sequence - with the picture, past that point, segueing into an episodic midsection that's bursting with oddball yet often laugh-out-loud funny sequences and set-pieces (including the gang's encounter with Fred Armisen's creepy Italian guy, Scotty's duel with J.P. Manoux's French robot man, and Cooper's stint at Lucy Lawless' intense sex dungeon). It's clear, ultimately, that the movie's pervasively affable atmosphere is heightened and perpetuated by the almost unusually strong work from its stars, as the four actors effectively (and thoroughly) transform their respective characters into personable, charismatic figures that work well both together and apart - with, especially, Mechlowicz delivering a fantastic, anchoring turn as the movie's put-upon central character (although this is to take nothing away from Pitts, Trachtenberg, and Wester's efforts as Scotty's loyal friends). The final result is a top-notch comedy that moves at a brisk pace and contains very few lulls, and it is, in the end, certainly quite difficult not to lament the film's lackluster box office results (ie we should be on the third or fourth sequel by now).