MOVIE IN QUESTION: Cold Souls, 2008
AURHOR OF REVIEW BEING REVIEWED: Manohla Dargis, New York Times
A couple things to recognize before this review begins: 1) After Anita Gates’ lackluster performance I decided to give the New York Times a second chance, in this case with someone whose name I can’t pronounce; 2) I only managed to stay awake for about the first half of the movie on account of its slow pace and my general lack of interest, so I am forced to take the reviewer at his or her word on much of this.
First paragraph: “If anyone looks as if he might be in the possession of a troubled soul, it’s the actor Paul Giamatti. With his doubting eyes and gently defeated posture, he tends to come across as a man carrying a burden, though one not necessarily or wholly of his making. You can almost see the distress resting heavy and hard on his sloped shoulders, pushing out against his ovoid head, tugging at his lower eyelids and worrying his lips.”
This is a really good start. Just solid writing that talks about the movie’s lead man before it goes into details about the film itself.
The remainder of the article is written with intelligence and elegance, as Dargis ably interweaves his narrative summary and critical interpretations of the film and its actors. His conclusion is similar to what I was thinking right before I fell asleep: “Ms. Barthes peeks at the dark comedy of the soul only to beat a quick, pre-emptive retreat.” My exact thoughts were more along the lines of “This is boring as hell,” but essentially we are on the same page.
Dargis’ review is very well-written throughout with good sentence structure and insight, though like many smart writers, Manohla occasionally gets too wordy for his/her own good. Examples?
Paragraph 2: “Mr. Giamatti plays a role for which he is exceptionally, perhaps even uniquely qualified: an actor named Paul Giamatti, thereafter known as Paul.” See what I mean? Too wordy.
Final paragraph: “He also looks into his own soul, and while it brings tears to his eyes, it, much like the Russian subplot, proves disappointingly banal, which might be true to life but is an artistic letdown.” Dargis once again demonstrates serious critical insight but seems to be trying too hard here.
To conclude, Manohla Dargis exhibits a great talent for writing, though its tendency toward being longwinded suggests a hint of arrogance on the part of the reviewer. I apologize to my handful of readers if this judgment sounds undeserved. Most importantly, though, the review seems to acknowledge something of key importance when it comes to this type of quirky comedy: A unique and interesting premise does not necessarily translate into a good movie.
All in all, Dargis VASTLY outperforms his/her fellow Times writer and redeems the publication in style.
FINAL GRADE OF DARGIS’ REVIEW: 3 1/4 out of 4 Stars