Dispatches From Tribeca: ‘Take This Waltz,’ ‘As Luck Would Have It’ and ‘First Winter’

Comedy / Drama / Foreign / Indie / Tribeca Film Festival / April 24, 2012


Photo Courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival

Celeb Sightings: Walking down the street, playing on my phone, I looked up and realized that I was walking next to Patricia Clarkson (who was also playing on her phone). Also, Dakota Fanning was in my screening of “First Winter,” which is surprising because I’m not sure she’s legally old enough to watch it.

Reviews:

Take This Waltz

For the first thirty minutes or so, I absolutely loathed this film. But in the end, writer/director Sarah Polley’s “Take This Waltz” proved to be one of the most emotionally nuanced and authentic domestic melodramas I’ve seen. Saturated with cringe-worthy, almost insufferable “I wuv you” moments, the film finds Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen as a happily (i.e.: grossly in love) young married couple. However, trouble in paradise arises when Michelle Williams strikes up a questionable friendship with a salacious, handsome neighbor.

Bursting with vivacious and sun-soaked visuals, Polley’s gorgeously shot film masterfully crafts characters who face emotionally crippling moral dilemmas and strikes a chord by balancing terse emotional melodrama with effective, nuanced humor, and a certain bold sexiness without ever compromising the narrative tension that drives the film. Michelle Williams once again proves that she’s one of the best working actresses today, and Seth Rogen turns in a delightfully dramatic performance, exercising his trademark humor without ever coming off as buffoonish. The supporting cast featuring Sarah Silverman and Luke Kirby also turn in stellar performances as Williams’ alcoholic sister-in-law and the source of her marital distress, respectively.

Overall Grade: A-

As Luck Would Have It

In what’s essentially a remake of sorts of Billy Wilder’s 1951 classic, “Ace in the Hole,” Alex de la Iglesia follows his award-winning “The Last Circus” with this darkly comedic tale of a down-on-his-luck family man who goes to desperate measures in a desperate situation to try and generate some money for him and his family.

After months of hopeless interview after interviews, Roberto (José Mota) has one final job interview in attempts to bring his family out of debt. But when the interview doesn’t pan out, he finds himself at a total loss. However, after a freak accident that leaves Roberto with a iron rod stuck in his head, he finds a solution to his problems amidst his urgent life-or-death situation.

Though the comedy is as dark as it gets (which I tend to favor), I found this film to fall a little flat. “As Luck Would Have It” really struggles in its second act to keep the narrative tension alive, and though Iglesia elegantly kept things moving in “The Last Circus,” the film lagged in pacing and comedic footing. Even with stellar performances from Mota and co-star Salma Hayek (as his loving and devoted wife), the film’s balance of comedy and soap opera-style melodrama didn’t mesh well.

Overall Grade: B

First Winter

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A bunch of Brooklyn bohemians (I’m refraining from saying the “H” word, but lets just say beards, flannels, and ironic mustaches aptly describe the ilk) retreat to remote cabin upstate during the winter, only to discover that some unspecified apocalyptic event leaves them stranded in the cabin, leaving them to rely on group sex, drugs, and deep meditation and yoga for survival.

As insufferable as it sounds, writer/director Benjamin Dickinson’sFirst Winter” is the kind of pretentious arthouse drab that could have had potential to be a real winner, which makes it worse.

Once the film’s second act kicks off,  we learn of the great catastrophe (one particular gorgeous shot shows two characters staring at a massive mushroom cloud off in the horizon), that keeps the characters stranded there. But whereas Dickenson could have turned it into a fascinating post-apocalyptic character study, instead turns into a mostly boring character study. One of which I gave no shit to what happened to the characters.

Of course, a film of this ilk wouldn’t come without some sort of controversy: Apparently the red carpet premier of the film was canceled after some legal protests about the filming of one particular scene in which the filmmakers shot and killed a live deer. But it was for art, so what’s the big deal?

Overall Grade: C-

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Matt Cohen
Matt Cohen
Matt is currently obsessed with Rap Snacks, post-hardcore, pizza parties, and Carl Sagan's Cosmos.




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Dispatches From Tribeca: 'Take This Waltz,' 'As Luck Would Have It' and 'First Winter'