A marriage frays after an assault.
Asghar Farhadi is “the best kind of political filmmaker,” said David Sims in TheAtlantic.com. Like his 2011 Oscar winner, A Separation, the Iranian director’s latest contender for the same prize couches its critique of his country’s social order in a wrenching domestic drama. Though The Salesman ends too neatly, it combines the story of a marriage with a low-key tale of revenge, “and is all the more impressive for how seamlessly it executes that shift.” Shahab Hosseini and Taraneh Alidoosti play a couple in Tehran who are acting in an amateur production of Arthur Miller’s Death ofa Salesman when they’re forced to change apartments. In the new place, Alidoosti’s Rana is assaulted by an intruder, giving viewers a mystery to solve, said Joe Morgenstern in The Wall Street Journal. But as Rana tries to put the incident behind her and Hosseini’s Emad becomes consumed by anger, the deepest mysteries “have to do with who Emad and Rana reveal themselves to be, as opposed to who they thought they were.” Emad eventually does track down his wife’s attacker, said A.O. Scott in The New York Times. The scenes that follow prove “at once riveting and hard to watch.”
Directed by Stephen Gaghan (R)
A wily dreamer strikes it rich.
Alas, the McConaissance has run out of steam, said Stephen Whitty in the Newark, N.J., Star-Ledger. Matthew McConaughey’s midcareer resurgence produced a lot of rich, memorably weird characters, peaking with the actor’s Oscarwinning turn in 2013’s Dallas Buyers Club. But as Kenny Wells, a potbellied Nevada schemer who decides to go hunting for gold in 1980s Indonesia, the 47-year-old star “never stops trying too hard.” He “screams, smirks, and sweats,” yet never gives us a sense of the man’s supposed charisma. McConaughey’s work isn’t the problem, RichardRoeper in the Chicago Sun- Times. His big performance all but carries this “overlong but nonetheless entertaining” picture. Based on a true story about a fairy-tale 1988 gold strike and the scandals that followed, it “feels more like a gold-plated version of the truth,” yet “you take the ride” anyway. Unfortunately, “the plot drags inexcusably,” said Michael O’Sullivan in The Washington Post. Good as the real story is, the director and screenwriter couldn’t figure out how to create suspense with it. In the end, Gold “never rises above a character study, albeit one centered on a Technicolor personality.”