Dianne Wiest

Editor’s note: With Darling Companion opening this week in limited release, we thought we’d unleash Dustin’s review from the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, originally posted on January 30, for you to take a bite out of. Woof. The opening night film at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival has always been a walk-away; generally an under-cooked indie with no distribution and little shot at getting into general theaters. So why kick a film when it’s down? There’s not a lot of value in heaping negative criticism on a new filmmaker who will likely go on to bigger and better things with more experience. That said, the 27th year of Santa Barbara’s festival brought a heavyweight opening night player in writer/director/producer Lawrence Kasdan, and his Sony Pictures Classics distributed Darling Companion. Basically, fair game. Darling Companion is the story of Beth Winters (Diane Keaton), her spine surgeon husband Joseph (Kevin Kline), and the dog that  brings them together. Or at least, it tries to be about them while clumsily pulling viewers into unnecessary side stories that aren’t particularly interesting. The film suffers on every level, but prominent among its faults is an odd pace that steals away any reason to invest in any of the characters, the spotty narrative, or the wholly expected and unsatisfying ending.

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Super-producer Scott Rudin has been trying to get Jonathan Franzen’s much-lauded novel, “The Corrections,” to the screen for nearly a decade, and it’s finally starting to come together, though possibly in a different format than fans of the book may have first expected. Rudin has been working with Noah Baumbach on adapting the novel for the small screen, in the form of an HBO series. Though the exact specifications of the series’ format is not yet known (episode length, frequency, if the series will run in a limited capacity for a set number of episodes, who else would direct episodes), the cast is steadily rounding out. The book focuses on the Lambert family, and Chris Cooper and Dianne Wiest were previously announced to play the parents at the center, Alfred and Enid Lambert. But what of their wayward children? Deadline Wickenburg is reporting that Ewan McGregor is on board to play middle child Chip, “a Marxist academic who lost his tenure-track position over an affair with a student and now works for a Lithuanian crime boss defrauding American investors.” Wait, does that sound messed up and weird? Yeah, meet the Lamberts – a severely dysfunctional American family of five. The Corrections slides back and forth through time periods and is told through the voices of different members of the family (Albert, Enid, Chip, and the other two kids, Gary and Denise). While it’s not immediately clear just what went so wrong within and for the family, the novel gradually unveils […]

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For those of us who are not predisposed to spend hours of our time spying on birds in a forest, birding aficionados can seem like an awfully strange lot. That’s not to suggest that their hobby isn’t understandable. After all, the satisfaction in finding a rare bird seems similar to the sense of accomplishment one feels upon finishing a difficult puzzle, or upon finally locating Waldo. Still, anyone who’s ever accompanied a birder on his mission knows that once the object of prey is spotted there will be a long, frenzied staring and photographic session, with any slight movement met with enthusiastic “oohs” and “aahs.” If you’re not of the niche birder community, this is an insufferable experience. So it’s hard to fathom why director David Frankel and screenwriter Howard Franklin imagined anyone would be especially entertained by a movie about it.

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr enters the grid (which is what he likes to call his local IMAX theater) to try and find an old and hairy Jeff Bridges amidst a bunch of young-looking sexy-time people in tight body suits. Afterwards, he has a pic-i-nic at Jellystone Park and faces a bear attack. It’s a good thing he had his hunting rifle with him… but he still wonders why that grizzly he shot was wearing a hat and tie. Finally, he hands out some grades on two limited release award flicks that really don’t jazz him as much as a big, dumb IMAX 3D movie.

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Rabbit Hole takes on one of the oldest artistic subjects – a family’s struggle to find some way of moving on from a devastating death. Yet, as adapted by David Lindsay-Abaire from his own Pulitzer Prize-winning play, the film avoids the overt sentimentalizing and easy stabs at the tear ducts –what one might deem “grief porn” – that have wrecked so many of its predecessors. Instead, director John Cameron Mitchell has assembled an affecting, well-acted portrait of a couple stuck in stasis, trying to reclaim normalcy where there is none to be had. The Hedwig and the Angry Inch creator demonstrates an eye for the intricacies of a strained relationship, the complex psychological burden of the lingering, pervasive specter of a terrible loss and the eerie quality of a home once occupied by a child, now hauntingly quieted.

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It might be a good idea to pop some Zoloft before diving into the emotional trailer for Rabbit Hole. The film, starring Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart and the always incredible Dianne Wiest, caught some great reviews coming out of TIFF, and it will see a major release on December 17th (just in time for award consideration). It’s a rare thing that a trailer causes such a strong emotional response, although any story about a couple losing a young child to tragedy has the potential for it. Hopefully, the movie will live up to the hype, and this bit of marketing, and deliver something even stronger. What do you think? It might make you full on cry in HD.

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published: 04.19.2014
A-
published: 04.19.2014
B+
published: 04.18.2014
C-
published: 04.18.2014
C

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