Save me from Sy Ableman
, 27 Jan 2010
This is a very good film but Im not at all convinced its worthy of the praise its received from some of the critics I most respect. Whilst witty, thought provoking and, in its closing shot, bleakly and uniquely beautiful, it quite often feels like ground already covered, even if revisited in a more sophisticated manner. White, suburban male experiencing mid-life crisis (admittedly of a genuine rather than merely psychological manner) and both emotional distance and resentment from family member, complicated and fuelled by fantastic sexual visions of inappropriate relationship with other woman and rising tension with burly militaristic next door neighbour. How does Sam Mendes feel about this film, exactly?
Nor was I particularly convinced by Michael Stuhlbargs screen debut in the lead role of Larry Gopnik. It generally wasnt bad but mostly non-descript and occasionally dipping into inadequate, most notably in his joint sharing scene with his neighbour.
Anyway Id still recommend it, mainly because of the character of Sy Ableman, a man so sanctimonious and irritating at one point I suggested out loud that the lead socked him in the mouth. The scene where Gopnik is summoned to a restaurant to be told he should leave his own house for a run down motel is masterfully scripted and executed; perfectly demonstrating the frustrations of attempting to converse with people who lack the ability or will to act logically or reasonably, clouded either by a selfish agenda or their own mental ineptitude. If this doesnt remind you of someone youve worked with or dated your either very lucky or Sy yourself. I also really enjoyed Gopniks brother, a likable but tragic waster, and felt a profound sense of disappointment when the sequence suggesting his transition to a new life turns out to be fantasy.
But fate itself should also be considered a key character of the film, which is in part defined by a fruitless exploration of the consequences of moral behaviour and the startlingly limited extent of answers in religion. Three different rabbis avoid Gopniks questions in three very funny and different ways: the first through meandering incompetence, the second through a masterfully elegant side step and the third by outright rebuttal.
The films not stunning, its not a laugh a minute, its not entirely original (Id recommend a Philip Roth novel infinitely quicker), and for a 28 year old singleton living in Berkhamsted, UK, theres not a great deal to relate to, save for the frustrations of dealing with the self-obsessed and stupid. Nevertheless free from the weight of the inflated sense of expectation I brought to Brixton Ritzy last Wednesday, its good fun and worth seeing, particularly considering the other rubbish that Hollywood will deliver in the New Year.
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