Reviewed on 2008 November 25
Very elaborate, twisting storyline, ultimately connected around the hubs of an elderly dying man and a kid game show, of all things. I usually like to watch movies in complete silence, but this one was different. My sister-and-law and I watched this, and it was actually kind of fun to discuss it with her while we watched. I agree with one big premise of the movie: life is messy, and we often make it messier with the stupid things we do.
The movie opens with a convoluted story-within-a-story, and segues into an introduction of our main characters. The whiny emo version of “One” whimpering away in the background got on my nerves, but the acting was good, and the characters were so promisingly screwy I was riveted. A cop, Officer Jim Kurring (John C. Reilly), is investigating a domestic disturbance. A seemingly emotionless woman (Melora Walters) is picking up a man at a bar. Earl Partridge (Jason Robards) is a wealthy, dying man, facing his own mortality and too gone on morphine to notice his wife Linda (Julianne Moore) is falling apart. If that’s not random or weird enough, we also have Frank T.J. Mackey (Tom Cruise), who is some sort of greasy, misogynist huckster claiming to help men be alpha male players, and reminded me of a weird hybrid between Austin Powers and Billy Mays.
This has been compared to Crash, which I think is unfair, because I thought Crash was grating and preachy. This was just a story about how things and people are related, and how we often screw things up for ourselves. The acting was very, very good, the writing was tight, and the music was even OK, once the exposition finished. I don’t want to spoil anything for people but I can confirm one thing: there’s a piece of art visible towards the last part of the movie, after something seemingly unbelievable happens. The art is an outsider piece with a paper insert reading “But did happen.” And yes, this incident really did.
Three chocolate morsels.