Film

Tracking Shots: This Week in Film

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The Village Voice reviews most movies opening in New York. Here are some you may have missed.

Do You Take This Man
Directed by Joshua Tunick
Breaking Glass Pictures
Opens July 7, Landmark Sunshine
Available on VOD on July 11

By taking a low-key approach to a high-stress situation, Joshua Tunick turns a familiar romcom premise into a treatise on commitment. On its surface, Do You Take This Man (originally called Modern Love) might at first seem like just another indie talkfest set in an idealized Los Angeles where prosperity and tolerance are a given. But writer-director Tunick uses an impending wedding as occasion for his characters to peel away well-manicured identities and confront the parts of their lives — and themselves — that aren’t Instagram-perfect. The morning of their rehearsal dinner, Daniel (Anthony Rapp) performs an intricate cappuccino preparation that would shame most baristas, and is savoring his creation when Christopher (Jonathan Bennett) breezes into the kitchen and brews a cup from a single-serving machine. This ritual highlights their everyday differences: Daniel is methodical and exacting, while Christopher favors ease and convenience. Their opposites-attract relationship is both a source of humor and the impetus for an argument that threatens their happily-ever-after. Tunick, who directed the 2001 documentary Mr. Smithereen Goes to Washington (about singer Pat DiNizio’s U.S. Senate campaign), infuses his debut narrative feature with a sunny optimism that gives an emotional drama the air of escapism. With his emphasis on close-ups, a profanity-free script, and the casting of TV regulars (including Alyson Hannigan and Thomas Dekker), Do You Take This Man could nestle perfectly in several basic-cable niches. Love is love in Tunick’s comforting diversion, and the hard work of relationships is always worth the trouble. Serena Donadoni

 

The Confession
Directed by Roberto Andò
Uncork’d Media
Open July 7, Cinema Village

In Roberto Andò’s The Confession, an unorthodox birthday speech about the unforeseen moral consequences of economics (“For better or for worse, we are not god”) kicks off an international whodunit. An octet of influential, platitude-spewing economists gathers at a hotel for a discreet G8 meeting, summoned by birthday boy and International Monetary Fund Director Daniel Roché. At Roché’s behest, a trio of outsiders (a monk, a musician, and a writer) infiltrates the proceedings to assuage growing distrust from “suspicious media.” Little do his guests know that Roché will be dead by dawn. But how? Having broken his vow of silence especially for this occasion, Toni Servillo’s monk serves as the film’s moral core (quelle surprise). He soaks up confessions like a sponge, including a lengthy one from Roché that puts the increasingly testy economists on guard, lest the monk reveal their secrets. While Servillo masterfully expresses charm and benevolence without being holier-than-thou, it’s a shame that the other characters aren’t given the same attention. Instead, many are reduced to nameless figureheads. (As the bullish German minister, Richard Sammel and his razor-sharp cheekbones are sadly underused.) Cinematographer Maurizio Calvesi captures the luxe beauty of the German coastal setting — which almost makes up for a multilingual script dripping with humdrum philosophy about mortality, morality, and metaphysics. A rumination on malfeasance for the sake of riches, The Confession takes a leap of faith, but merely ambles through its existential crises. Taitiana Craine

 

The Rehearsal
Directed by Alison Maclean
Mongrel International
Opens July 7, Metrograph

Director Alison Maclean fails to make much of a convincing case that the story in The Rehearsal is worth caring about. Her coming-of-age drama — a long-anticipated third narrative feature following 1992’s Crush and 1999’s Jesus’ Son — follows the lives of acting students at a prestigious academy in New Zealand over the course of a school year, but that year, even when condensed to 102 minutes, feels like a drag. It doesn’t help that the main character, Stanley (James Rolleston), is devoid of any personality. He’s only interesting in bursts — and barely at that — when he embodies different characters (including his crass father) as part of his acting exercise. Sure, that’s kind of the point, that he’ll eventually be whipped into shape by his strict teacher (Kerry Fox), but the film lacks the sort of performative breakthrough that such a story depends on. It’s a shame, because Maclean has proven herself to be a competent, if not compelling, filmmaker, and she’s not snoozing when it comes to the film’s look; a pastel palette makes The Rehearsal pop. When Stanley and his group of classmates are tasked with putting on a performance for their final project, they decide to adapt the local news story of a minor who was involved with her middle-age tennis coach. It’s a touchy subject, made even more complicated when eighteen-year-old Stanley starts dating that minor’s sister, herself a minor. What seems to be a promising collision of desires gets buried with cop-out resolutions, and Stanley is no less boring, no less a blank slate, by school year’s (and movie’s) end. Kristen Yoonsoo Kim

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