(*homocinematically inclined)

Saturday, December 21, 2019

2019, A Film Odyssey: A. Driver Runs Through It

Divorce, American style

This year's hits you may have missed, flops that you should avoid, hidden gems to discover and more, plus where to watch 'em...

It's been a busy year for Adam Driver:

Marriage Story (now streaming on Netflix):

Driver and Scarlett Johansson are both at the top of their game in this self-proclaimed "love story about divorce". Semi-autobiographically written and directed by Noah Baumbach (it is based on his real life split from actress Jennifer Jason Leigh), this Story shrewdly doesn't make you choose sides as in, say, Baumbach's own The Squid and the Whale or Kramer vs. Kramer (although the son here is just as trying as Justin Henry). Scenes are allowed to play out naturally, veering from the mundane to the fervent and back again. Plus: Laura Dern's brilliantly bitchy divorce attorney, not one but two Sondheim songs and a (somewhat) happy ending. (9/10)

The Report (now streaming on Amazon Prime):
Don't let the cinematically crowded year end make you miss out on Driver's other Oscar-worthy 2019 performance here as Daniel Jones, the US Senate investigator who uncovered the CIA's use of torture tactics following 9/11. Writer/director Scott Z. Burns (who also wrote the similarly scandal-ized The Laundromat earlier this year) takes what is essentially guys in business attire shuffling paperwork and weaves a tense thriller in the mold of All the President's Men. A sharp Annette Bening also shines as a no-nonsense Senator Dianne Feinstein. (8/10)

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (in theaters now):

This grand finale of the protracted, newly-christened "Skywalker Saga" has turned out to be even more divisive than its immediate predecessor, 2017's The Last Jedi, a film I nevertheless consider one of the best of the series. Rise doesn't, well, rise to the heights of Shakespearean space saga that the Last chapter did; even as it barrels toward its inevitable conclusion it feels drawn out, tripping over a deus ex machina here, some fan service there. And coming on the heels of Disney+'s mostly "Force"-free The Mandalorian, all the magical mumbo-jumbo is even more cornier than usual. And yet, as someone who has been through all the highs and lows of Star Wars for the past forty-plus years, "episode IX" still gave me a good ride, almost as good as a 9-year-old me took back in the summer of '77. (7/10)

Black-clad man

Reviews by Kirby Holt, Movie Dearest creator, editor and head writer.

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