FILM | Reviews
COMEDY THE D TRAIN (15) 101min ●●●●●
The directorial debut of screenwriters Andrew Mogel and Jarrad Paul (Yes Man), this engaging indie impactfully subverts the standard bromance narrative. Set in Pittsburgh, The D Train stars Jack Black as Dan, a happily married consultant who has never been able to shake the stigma of having been an unpopular teen. Tasked with co-organising his high school reunion, he hits upon an idea after he spots former school stud Oliver (James Marsden) in a commercial: he’ll travel to LA and convince Oliver to attend, thereby guaranteeing that all their former classmates will show up, and that he’ll be lauded for his efforts.
Mogel and Paul’s witty script cleverly distracts you with escalating layers of traditional farce, so that when the film takes a decidedly unexpected direction, it provokes uncomfortable laughter. The fallout is brilliantly acted, with Black conveying a cocktail of confused emotions and Marsden giving his almost-past-it pretty-boy a complex, troubled undercurrent. It doesn’t always convince and wastes the wonderful Kathryn Hahn as Dan’s wife but, overall, this is an enjoyably awkward, ambitious black comedy that goes where other bromances dare not reach. (Matthew Turner) ■ General release from Fri 18 Sep.
KIDS PAPER PLANES (U) 97min ●●●●●
These days kids’ films are largely confined to computer- animated adventures or YA fantasy, so Australian director Robert Connolly’s day-dreamy drama provides a cheering alternative. Its hero is Dylan (Ed Oxenbould), a 12-year-old who, following his mother’s death in a car accident, watches his father (Sam Worthington) sink into a depression. School proves a distraction – not least when an origami expert arrives to give a demonstration in paper plane folding, and Dylan becomes enamoured with this old-fashioned art form. Soon enough, he’s made it to the regional heats, where he meets Jason (Nicholas Bakopoulos-Cooke), a competitive rival. David Wenham is smartly cast as Jason’s pro-golf father, who isn’t nearly as win-at-all-costs as his son. Meanwhile, Worthington’s grief-stricken dad lends the film just the right amount of edge, ensuring it never tips toward the sickly- sweet. While there are minor hiccups along the way, the outcome is never in doubt, as Dylan aims to reach the World Championships in Tokyo. Still, it’s hard to resent a film for hitting obvious beats (or for the rather second-rate CGI in the plane-flying scenes) when its heart is so firmly in the right place. (James Mottram) ■ General release from Fri 23 Oct.
DRAMA 99 HOMES (15) 112min ●●●●●
‘Don’t get emotional about real estate,’ warns Michael Shannon’s relentless Rick Carver, the man at the centre of Ramin Bahrani’s nail-biting, recession-themed drama 99 Homes. It’s advice he certainly lives by; far more pitiless than Shannon’s fairly underwhelming portrayal of supervillain General Zod in the recent Man of Steel, rarely, outside of serial killers, has a character as cruelly dispassionate as Carver been seen on screen. Set in Florida, the sunshine state brings little warmth to the Orlando residents of
Bahrani’s tale, which focuses on those who are failing to keep up with their mortgage repayments and face foreclosure. Carver, an entrepreneurial and corrupt real estate broker, arrives like a sharply attired Angel of Death to deliver the bad news: they only have a matter of minutes to collect their things and leave.
His latest victim is Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield), a construction worker whose trade has taken a particular hit during the economic downturn. Ejected from his childhood home, with his mother Lynn (Laura Dern) and young son Connor (Noah Lomax) in tow, Nash has no choice but to relocate to a motel that’s overrun with families in the same dire straits. When Carver offers Nash a job, this everyman finds himself in a soul-selling moral quandary.
99 Homes is rarely subtle and the ending feels a touch too contrived but this largely excellent effort is a step up from its director’s earlier, similarly socially conscious films like Man Push Cart and At Any Price. Aided by electric performances, Bahrani stirs his provocations into a fiercely dramatic cauldron. Bubbling over with anger at the ever- increasing wealth divide, it’s searing, sensational stuff. (James Mottram) ■ General release from Fri 25 Sep.
COMEDY DRAMA ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL (12A) 105min ●●●●● If Wes Anderson met John Hughes and they made a weepy, this would be it. A heady Sundance hit, this predictable / unpredictable dramedy sees a friendship blossom in the shadow of imminent death. Seventeen-year-old Greg (Thomas Mann) is sent by his anxious, sort-of-boozy mom (an excellent Connie Britton) to befriend his dying neighbour Rachel (Olivia Cooke) in her final days. As their reluctant friendship develops, Greg’s carefully built defences start to crumble. They’re joined by Earl (confident, mostly silent newcomer RJ Cyler), less Greg’s friend and
more his co-worker. The pair have been making shoddy homages to famous films for years; with titles like ‘Rosemary Baby Carrots’, ‘A Sockwork Orange’, ‘MonoRash’ or ‘The 400 Bros’ they are, understandably, unshowable, yet they come to play a pivotal role in Rachel’s fight for life.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is not perfect. It’s twee, manipulative and a little too aware of its own sub-genre: films about terminally ill youths. Adapted by Jesse Andrews from his own YA novel, this is the second feature by director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon. Although it’s quite a bit more than a fresh-faced landmark, you’ll either love it or want to punch it. (Karen Krizanovich) ■ General release from Fri 4 Sep.
64 THE LIST 3 Sep–5 Nov 2015