Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Sundance 2009: DFWTF?

[Film Fest] There are people--plenty of them, and most of them smart--who considered David Foster Wallace a true American visionary, and mourned his death last year like the passing of a guru. Me, I've read virtually none of his work. So I'll have to leave it to others to decide whether John Krasinskils adaptation of Brief Interviews with Hideous Men is a misguided mess on its own terms, or on DFW's.

Krasinski (The Office's genial Jim) wrote and directed, and he does what a lot of actors-turned-filmmakers do their first time out of the box: creates something full of showy, actor-y moments. Familiar faces like Bobby Canavale, Will Forte and Josh Charles are among those who get to deliver monologues, mostly about their relationships with women, to an anthropology grad student named Sara (Julianne Nicholson) doing research about the male psyche.

The framing narrative reveals that her motivations are less than clinical – she was recently left broken-hearted by a man played by Krasinski – but it’s fairly tough to care about Sara as a character. It’s nearly as hard to understand what Krasinski is doing with flourishes like having his pair of wandering minstrel bartender/narrators addressing the audience directly. And it’s damned near impossible to justify Krasinski giving himself a five-minute monologue, considering that 1. he’s not adept enough a director to make the scene cinematically interesting, and 2. he’s actually not adept enough a dramatic actor to make his character interesting.

Only once – during a segment involving one interviewee's recollections of his hard-working father – does Krasinski blend visual style with emotional connection. For the other 70 minutes, he’s merely giving Wallace neophytes like me reason to explore how work so beloved could go so wrong. (Scott Renshaw)

1 comment:

  1. But Lester Freamon was in it! And Commissioner Burrell!


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