Posts Tagged ‘Before Sunrise’

*Note: Portions of this review were originally published during coverage of the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.

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During the course of an extremely long first date, future president Barack Obama won over a disinterested Michelle Robinson, despite several biting arguments, by demonstrating his oratorical prowess and sneaking a kiss over some dessert. At least, that’s the version shown in “Southside With You,” the Before Sunrise-esque film about the First Couple’s early relationship.

Unfortunately, writer-director Richard Tanne’s script lacks the depth and subtlety of Richard Linklater’s classic. “Southside With You” is bogged down by the weight of its characters’ futures and so concerned with what is to be that it forgets that its actually telling a story set in the present tense. What should be a love story between two young and promising adults in Chicago is instead a pseudo-mythic “Obama: Origins” story, as if at any moment a radioactive spider will jump out and transform them into their full potential.

For his part, Parker Sawyers is an effortlessly convincing young-B.O., slipping skillfully into 44’s mannerisms without resorting to gross caricature. The same can’t be said for Tika Sumpter (also one of the film’s producers) who is stilted as Michelle Obama and who relies on sullenness as a substitute for the future first lady’s principled strength.

“Southside With You” bets every chip it has on the allure of young POTUS and FLOTUS. But imagine for a moment not knowing who Barack Obama and Michelle Robinson grow up to be, and what’s left is an overly presumptive film about an otherwise generic meet cute, in which the budding romance between its protagonists is too short on chemistry to be convincing.

Grade: B-

*Southside With You opens in Salt Lake City and select theaters nationwide on Friday, August 26.

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Director Richard Linklater has made a career out of under-spoken, meandering films that beautifully capture a romanticized version of normal people and their normal lives. The easy examples are Boyhood, Linklater’s painstaking 2014 opus that chronicled the slow aging of its protagonist and his family, and it’s sister project, the truly perfect Before trilogy, which checks in on lovers Jesse and Celine once each decade.

But even Linklater’s more commercial films hew to this theme. School of Rock, still Linklater’s most – and perhaps only – mainstream project, dials up the silly with Jack Black at its center, but gives equal time to an ensemble of unknown child actor-musicians. And Dazed and Confused, the 70’s-set godfather of the One Epic Night genre, is a sprawling mediation of young adulthood populated by a cast that has since matured to A-list status (chief among them a pre-fame Matthew McConaughey, waxing philosophical about life, man, and coining his “Alright, alright, alright” catchprase).

Which brings us to Everybody Wants Some!!, (yes, *two* exclamation points) the “spiritual sequel” to Dazed that easily delivers on the promise and expectations of its predecessor. Set at a Texas university and following the campus baseball team over a single weekend — that magical  Shangri-La after students have arrived for the fall but before classes have actually begun — Everybody riffs on brotherhood, identity, love, competition, and like, *life*, man, all while the surface motivations of the characters are to get druk, laid, and win baseball games.

While centered on Blake Jenner’s Jake, a wide-eyed freshman pitcher in awe of college living, the film is carried by its ensemble, with clear standouts in Willoughby  (Wyatt Russell in the McConaughey  role) and Finnegan (Glen Powell) a fast-talking, self-determined Adonis whose name is likely a reference to his role as a sympathetic Fagin to Jake’s Oliver Twist.

Everybody is happy to take its time, slowly pulling in more characters and ideas as the team makes its way from party to party, stopping for a discussion over a round of beers before making a wardrobe change and heading out again. At all points the plot is in no hurry to get anywhere, and once those stakes are set Linklater is able to breath his usual tricks into the script, coming at you sideways with poignant and effortless ruminations.

And perhaps the film’s greatest trick is the way its captures its period setting, not with flashy and obvious callbacks to days gone but by removing preoccupations. The effect is bolstered by a roving attention to 80s music — disco, punk and country make key appearances — and the film’s reliance on lesser-known talent, making it all the more believable that this story was set aside for three decades and only recently plucked from a shelf.

It’s a continuation of a great streak by Linklater, who has made a movie that anybody would want. I, for one, want some more.

Grade: A-

*Everybody Wants Some opens in Salt Lake City on Friday, April 22.

 

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