Friday, October 24, 2008

U.S. release of Pride and Glory!

Well, we've all been waiting to use the words 'Pride and Glory', 'out' and 'is' in the same sentence for a long time, and now we can, for today the film was finally released in America! To say reviews had been pouring in would be an understatement, so assuming your readershiply consent, the mounds of new pieces will be examined gradually as opposed to being heaped in one go (and thus giving us all an extreme case of linkicitis).

There are however two conclusions that a significant portion of reviews have arrived at: 1) that Pride and Glory's acting outweighs its writing, and 2) that Jennifer Ehle's performance is rather excellent. Being, as we are, completely sane and logical, we will address these conclusions backwards, starting with the evidence accumulated thus far in support of the latter.

THE 'YAYEEE FOR JE' GROUP

  • A. O Scott of The New York Times clearly has feet in both camps regarding the film as a whole, claiming it 'relies a little too much on expository shouting', but admitting however that 'there are nonetheless some fine details and powerful, tense scenes.' Despite criticising Mr Farrell and Mr Norton, Scott praises other actors, going on to say:
[...] The best stuff can be found around the edges of the main family drama, in subplots and in the supporting performances of Shea Whigham, John Ortiz...and Jennifer Ehle (as Frannie’s wife, Abbie [sic] who is dying of cancer). [...]
  • Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune uses different words to come to the same conclusion, describing how the film is 'full of interesting little grace notes' and has an 'excellent' cast, but also 'grows more and more frustrating'. However, he lauds Ms Ehle as being part of one element that improves the film's overall grade:
[...] What works in Pride and Glory? The little things help, such as the way Voight hits his character's degree of drunkenness at a family get-together...or the tenderness Emmerich brings to his scenes with his dying wife, played by the superb Jennifer Ehle. [...]
  • The Denver Post's Lisa Kennedy is much more complimentary from the word go, claiming that Pride and Glory is 'well-paced, well-acted [and] much richer than routine.' But she also continues the above theme, this time using Ms Ehle's performance to illustrate a larger achievement of the film:

[...] The movie is greatly abetted by Jennifer Ehle's turn as Francis Jr.'s wife. Abby is battling cancer and losing the fight. She wears a scarf on her shaved head. She takes an exhausting amount of pills. She sits next to her children's bedside at night watching. She senses her husband's fear at her situation, but also something else gnawing at him.

Too often in cop-family tales, the primary relationships are between cop and quarry, cop and cop. Full of the requisite violence and brotherly angst, Pride and Glory makes delicate, impressive use of wives and mothers. With a couple of dynamic scenes between Abby and Franny, Pride and Glory reminds us how seldom other lives — and other ways of dying — get their due. [...]

  • Bill Goodykoontz of the Battle Creek Enquirer again liked the acting while disliking the writing, explicitly blaming O'Connor and Carnahan and the 'ludicrous, macho-cop posturing' they (according to him) included. Ms Ehle is again however seen as an exception, with Goodykoontz picking out what he sees as a particularly well-done scene:
[...] Francis Jr.'s wife, Abby (Jennifer Ehle), is dying of cancer and serves as a sort of moral compass. She's good in a limited role. A scene in which she looks at her children as they sleep and bursts into tears says so much by saying nothing at all — a rare moment of subtlety in an otherwise paint-by-loud-numbers affair. [...]
  • Continuing the yays is Stephen Shaefer of The Boston Herald, who mentions 'a sublime, bald Jennifer Ehle after praising O'Connor for 'draw[ing] first-rate work from his large cast.' Jeff Simon meanwhile, of The Buffalo News, refers to the sacrifice Ms Ehle made for the role:
[...] [Tierney] is more than a little distracted by a wife (Jennifer Ehle, daughter of actress Rosemary Harris) who is dying of cancer. What that means is that Ehle — nothing if not superb and a serious actress in the family tradition — has shaved her head to simulate the effects of chemotherapy. [...]
  • Like critics before him, Liam Lacey's analysis in The Globe and Mail follows some negative footsteps - 'a talented cast can't dislodge a sense of ho-hum predictability' - and, like others, he speaks most positively about the film's domestic aspects, but does come to an original conclusion:

    [...] Most memorable, in a few brief scenes, is Francis Jr.'s wife, Abby, a young mother who is terminally ill with cancer and clearly too good for this fallen world. She is played by Jennifer Ehle (the radiant Tony-winning actress and star of the nineties BBC series Pride and Prejudice), and she is definitely too good for this movie. [...]

THE GOOD

Out of the reviews that do not mention Ms Ehle specifically, quite a few are firm residents of the 'yay' camp:

  • Rolling Stone describe Pride and Glory as 'probing', considering it to be 'directed with grit and grace', 'sizzling with a subversive subtext', and to include a 'cast of outstanding actors'.
  • Flick Filosopher too, fill their piece with positivity, while interestingly remarking that there 'is something wonderfully old-fashioned about [the film's] sincerity, candidness and muscular integrity.'
  • Lastly, Donald Munro in the Macon Telegraph calls the film 'well-crafted' and 'sharply plotted', considering Norton's performance and O'Connor's 'sprinkling' of 'intense scenes of domesticity' to be the elements that make it unique in the genre.

THE BAD

The film does have its fair share of nays however, although none of them seem to find fault with Ms Ehle's performance. Backing up our point 1 from earlier are four reviewers:
  • Ron Wynn (from the Nashville City Paper) finds the acting 'strong', mentioning 'exciting moments' and 'intense performances' - but regards these points unable to rescue 'what's otherwise a formulaic piece'.
  • Sonny Bunch (The Washington Times) quickly praises the male leads, but gives mainly a 'nay', claiming that 'when Joe Carnahan's name pops up in the opening credits, you know you're in for a rough time.'
  • Performances again are the only thing preventing Rene Rodriguez's nay (Miami Herald) from becoming a very strong nay, whilst James Sanford (Kalamazoo Gazette) says basically the same thing, but illustrates his varied criticisms with a somewhat amusing example - ('the New York City police officers...don't have much use for understatement. When they get bad news, mere tears are not enough: they have to run into a bathroom, smash the mirror and pull the medicine cabinet off the wall.')
  • Lastly is Roger Ebert from the Chicago Sun-Times, who singles out the film's predictable ending as a problem point.

THE UGLY

  • Carina Chocano's piece for the Los Angeles Times wins the award for the most nay-filled nay so far (although she does mention an intriguing scene with a potato.)

THE CONFUSED

  • Also featuring heavily in the monsoon of reviews are those critics with a foot in both camps. The author of The Sobering Conclusion for example, thought the film 'decent', but unfortunately his vision was clouded by the hand-held camera-opening of the film which made him feel 'queasy' and 'claustrophobic'.


More in due course. In the meantime, a quick reminder that the film's official website is now super spiffy. Take a peek. Go on.

1 comment:

Ian Forbes said...

As the writer of the review at The Sobering Conclusion, I'd just like to point out that I'm not too confused about "Pride and Glory". It's a ho hum film and the hand held camera was just one of the many elements (like a substandard script) that didn't add to the film's weight.

I don't recommend putting any money towards this effort but wouldn't fault anyone for sitting through it on cable some weekend afternoon.

I will however agree that Jennifer Ehle's performance was good (and that she usually is quite good, as in Before the Rains) ... and no, I'm not just kissing up.