1 Mile to You

(USA 2017)

High school senior track star Kevin (Graham Rogers) is livin’ the dream in his Mississippi small town: he’s handsome, athletic, and setting records in the state. He and his girlfriend, sweet Ellie (Stefanie Scott), are working on a way to end up in the same city for college next year so they can be together.

Kevin’s happiness implodes after a track meet one Saturday in the fall: his coach (Tim Roth) loses control of the bus carrying his entire team, which leads to an accident that kills everyone on board—including Ellie, who happens to be his coach’s daughter. The only reason Kevin isn’t on the bus is because he has to go somewhere with his parents after the meet.

Kevin deals with his grief and his guilt by running—a lot. And hard. He quickly discovers that he can “communicate” with Ellie during the runner’s high he gets toward the end of a sustained, hard run. The chance to be with her again makes him run faster and faster, more and more.

For some reason—maybe his whole class was on the track team, I don’t know—Kevin switches schools. His new principal (Peter Coyote) coerces him into joining the track team, and he participates grudgingly. Kevin doesn’t like his new school, his new coach (Billy Crudup), or Henny (Liana Liberato), the girl who follows him everywhere. On top of that, a running rival (Thomas Cocquerel) is giving him shit. It’s all getting in the way of his time with Ellie.

Based on Jeremy Jackson’s Life at These Speeds: A Novel, 1 Mile to You is not what I expected. It’s an underwhelming melodrama disguised as a sports tragedy. The plot is somewhat promising and the film has a few good scenes, but the story lacks intensity. I’m not sure whether the problem is Marc Novak’s screenplay or Leif Tilden’s directing, but the characters don’t fully develop and Kevin’s catharsis is given shallow treatment. The whole thing is dull. Plus, the special effects that tell us Kevin is in his trance are, in a word, cheesy.

Tilden has a lot of talent to work with, but he underutilizes everyone except Rogers and maybe Crudup. While I won’t be surprised to see Rogers in bigger and better things in the future, 1 Mile to You did not impress me.

With Melanie Lynskey, Ty Parker, Peter Holden, Elizabeth Canavan, Jaren Mitchell, Casey Groves

Production: Cinema Revival, Culmination Productions, Ingenious Media, LATS Productions, WeatherVane Productions

Distribution: Paseo Miramar Pictures, Gravitas Ventures

104 minutes
Not rated

(Facets) C-

https://m.facebook.com/1MILETOYOU/

20th Century Women

(USA 2016)

“We are at a turning point in our history.”

—President Jimmy Carter

I was a little kid in the Seventies, but I have many indelibly vivid memories of the decade: huge cars, gas lines, expensive meat, hijacked planes, Sanka and Sweet’N Low, smoking everywhere, hard rock, punk rock, disco, macrame, spider plants, the Bicentennial, Sky Lab, Victoriana (we had Mucha posters in our mustard-colored kitchen), that strange Holly Hobby aesthetic. It seems like it all changed immediately when Reagan took office in 1981.

20th Century Women captures a slice of American life on that unique, unremembered and largely disowned cusp. Set as a flashback to 1979 with voiceovers that repeatedly remind us that we’re looking backward, the film is a rather remarkable time capsule. The story is simple: Dorothea (Annette Bening) is my grandparents’ age (born in 1924). She had her only son, Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann), late in life—i.e., over age 40. She’s been divorecd for a few years, which was fine until Jamie hit puberty. Now, she needs help understanding him. She enlists his two closest allies—Julie (Elle Fanning), whose pants he wants to get into, and Abbie (Greta Gerwig), a postpunk fuckup—to help her figure him out.

Loosely based on actual events from director and writer Mike Mills’s childhood, 20th Century Women is fun to watch. Growing up in a house of females myself, I relate to a lot of his experiences. I loved all the Talking Heads, too. Oh!—and Siouxsie and the Banshees! That said, this film borders on overbearing with its nostalgia. It could’ve been so much better—the material and the talent are both there, but Mills goes for easy returns that don’t pay off. The story falls flat. Perhaps a quote from Bening in an earlier film, the superior and far more interesting Running with Scissors, succinctly sums up my problem here: “It’s shit, Fern. It’s sentimental. It’s emotionally dishonest. It implodes into nothingness.”

I wasn’t bored, and I didn’t hate 20th Century Women. But I’m never going to see this movie again. Too bad, because the acting is great. It’s a misfire due to its execution. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Also starring Billy Crudup, Vitaly Andrew LeBeau, Curran Walters, Toni Christopher, Jimmy Carter (public domain footage)

Produced by Annapurna Pictures, Archer Gray, and Modern People

Distributed by A24

119 minutes
Rated R

(Landmark Century) C

http://20thcenturywomen-movie.com

Jackie

(USA 2016)

“Brookline is no place to bury a president.”

—Jackie Kennedy (allegedly)

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy: her name conjures up specific images—pink Chanel, a pillbox hat, pearls, big sunglasses, all illuminated by her unshakable poise. Jackie, the new biopic by Peruvian director Pablo Larraín, portrays the iconic former First Lady in a light I didn’t quite expect: strategic. While it certainly isn’t flattering, it doesn’t come off as negative, either.

Taking place over the days following the assassination of J.F.K. (Caspar Phillipson), Jackie is essentially a character study that follows Mrs. Kennedy (Natalie Portman) as she steadies and readies herself for both her husband’s funeral and the changes that lie ahead for her and her children (Sunnie Pelant, Aiden and Brody Weinberg). In the midst of her grief, she carefully and with an earnest sense of purpose culls various elements to assemble her husband’s legacy—which she begins with Abraham Lincoln’s funeral procession.

From a technical standpoint, Jackie is impressive. Stéphane Fontaine’s cinematography is lovely, using a pallet of drab, saturated tones that calls to mind Kodak snapshots from the time period to create a somber look that reads clearly as November. He offsets this visual effect nicely with splashes of vivid reds. If nothing else, Jackie is a pretty movie. Structured with split time sequences that go backward and forward, the attention to detail is excellent: the film does a great job reproducing not just the White House and Mrs. Kennedy’s 1962 televised tour of it, but the early ’60s generally. Portman plays her part capably; she’s convincing as Mrs. Kennedy despite her annoying tendency to overdo the drama.

That’s about it for the positive. For all the pains Jackie takes to look and play out perfect, it gets a lot wrong. Those New England accents aren’t quite right, and none of the actors seem able to stick with them. Peter Sarsgaard is epically miscast as Bobby Kennedy, whom he doesn’t even try to emulate. I didn’t realize who he is until well into the film. It’s no secret that Mrs. Kennedy smoked, but popping pills and drinking as she gets dressed in the morning? And telling a priest (John Hurt) that she should’ve been a shop girl or a stenographer? I doubt it. The graphic scene of J.F.K.’s assassination, stuck in somewhere past the middle of the film well after a harrowing and far more effective scene of Mrs. Kennedy staring into a mirror and wiping blood off her face, is completely unnecessary; it comes off as a crude way to shock the audience—I jumped in my seat when I saw it, but not in a good way. The sloppy appearance and condescendingly bored demeanor of the reporter (Billy Crudup) is bizarre; sitting there in his Oxford with his tie undone as he interviews Mrs. Kennedy, I couldn’t help but wonder if in reality she would’ve opened up to him let alone allowed him into her home. He may be handsome, but his entire presence bummed me out.

The “psychological portrait” approach is mildly interesting for a little while, but the intrigue wears off. Jackie is nothing insightful, groundbreaking, or thought provoking. It could have been far more compelling considering its subject—this is total Oscar fodder, but it’s done so dully. I hope Larraín’s other new biopic, Neruda, is better.

100 minutes
Rated R

(Landmark Century) C-

http://www.foxsearchlight.com/jackie/