Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Nobel Son: Grade B

Noble Son (2007)
Alan Rickman, Bryan Greenberg, Shawn Hatosy, Eliza Dushku, Mary Steenburgen, Bill Pullman. Co-writer and director Randall Miller.

In this offbeat comedy-caper, Greenberg is the twenty-something son of an egocentric, overbearing father (Rickman) who gives him nothing but contempt. The son meets a weird, poetry-reading woman (Dushku), but before the relationship can develop, he is kidnapped by Hatosy. The ransom payoff involves one of the more interesting car chases you will ever see. There are so many double and triple-cross plot turns that you don’t know who you can trust. The plot is thus unguessably clever but also self-consciously writerly. We don’t for a minute believe in any of these characters, but the dialog is intermittently witty enough that the implausible story successfully navigates between ridiculous irony and serious drama. Excellent acting by the three young people (Greenberg, Hatosy, and Dushku) makes the film compulsively watchable. Dushku especially is magnetic. Rickman blusters as only he can, and Steenburgen, as the youth’s mother, proves her greatness again. A small part with Danny DeVito is gratuitous. The music is strangely eclectic, from pounding techno-rave to subtle orchestration. Camera work and editing are often intrusive, probably trying to align with the comedic element. Despite a too-slow half hour opening, the movie quickly picks up the pace to become an unexpected oddball delight.

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