Review of reviews: Film & Music
Directed by Michael Almereyda (Not rated)
A widow finds comfort in a hologram companion.
Not every effective sci-fi movie has to splurge on special effects, said Ignatiy Vishnevetsky in AVClub.com. Marjorie Prime is “about as visually busy as an old teleplay, shot primarily in one location,” but its premise is “ingenious.” Lois Smith, reprising a role she performed onstage, plays an elderly woman with a faltering memory who, thanks to the wonders of technology, is being kept talking by a hologram of her deceased husband as he appeared decades earlier. As the woman’s adult daughter and son-in-law, Geena Davis and Tim Robbins take advantage of their best roles in years, while Jon Hamm plays the hologram, a tricky part that demands embodying the way memories— but also denial—bond a family. Hamm lends his character “just the right blend of earnestness, his rigid posture and slightly tentative expression conveying subtly that he’s not human,” said Claudia Puig in TheWrap.com. But the movie belongs to Smith, whose every gesture and vocal intonation renders a “vivid, multifaceted” person. Though the movie runs a little long, it’s “so subtly smart, and veiled in such layers of suggestion, that you need to be on your toes,” said Anthony Lane in The New Yorker. The drama it relates is “likely to lodge in your memory.”
Ingrid Goes West
Directed by Matt Spicer (R)
An Instagram junkie stalks her online crush.
Aubrey Plaza is “a national treasure,” but even this nearly great comedy “doesn’t take full advantage of its star’s dark, unpredictable energy,” said Bilge Ebiri in The Village Voice. The former Parks and Recreation standout portrays an unhinged Instagram addict who connives to befriend an L.A.-based internet celebrity played by Elizabeth Olsen, and though Plaza is “pretty much perfect,” the movie lets her down. Despite some deliciously twisted moments, Ingrid Goes West proves “ultimately too sweet, too much of a bouncy Indiewood quirk-fest.” But no other film has so well captured “both the lure and psychosis of social media,” said Jen Yamato in the Los Angeles Times. The screenplay “takes particularly accurate aim at the fetishism of enlightened living that permeates Los Angeles,” making Olsen’s character as deluded as Plaza’s is needy. The final twist—far from being a letdown—pushes the movie into “very dark territory,” said Josephine Livingstone in NewRepublic.com. Ingrid “cries out for a sequel,” one that will make us as embarrassed about who we’ve become as this one does. “Like all great movie comedies, it hurts, but it’s true.”
We listeners “almost don’t deserve” Grizzly Bear, said Adam Turner-Heffer in Drowned InSound.com. No other band is making chamber pop that’s “so consistently inventive and appealing,” and this first album in five years suggests the four-man act can’t make anything but quality records built on soaring harmonies and a distinct blend of folk, electronics, and progressive rock. Here and there, the band’s “aggressively tasteful” music falls flat, “like a smile you give to a co-worker in passing,” said Jillian Mapes in Pitchfork.com. Though part of Grizzly Bear’s charm “lies in the odd textures, tunings, and tempo shifts,” the songs sometimes suffer from oversophistication. Painted Ruins unveils a “tougher and heavier” sound, said Jim Fusilli in The Wall Street Journal. “Aquarian” suggests “a gathering threat,” and on “Four Cypresses,” Daniel Rossen’s and Ed Droste’s voices “coalesce as a cry.” The band’s “run of recorded excellence” remains uninterrupted.
Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer
Not Dark Yet
“Better midlife than never,” said Chris Willman in Variety. After more than 20 years pursuing successful solo careers, sisters Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer have finally collaborated on an album—a coversdominated set that “strikes just the right balance” between the country classics you’d expect and more idiosyncratic choices. “Lithium,” a Nirvana tune, will “probably be a lot of listeners’ favorite or least favorite song”—because its harmonies are purposefully dissonant. The sisters sound more at home with the Killers’ “My List,” or the title track, a Dylan song they were “born to sing.” There, you can hear their history, because as teenagers they saw their father kill their mother, then himself, said Jon Young in PasteMagazine.com. “Deep suffering also informs the hushed closing track,” a “stunning” original called “Is It Too Much.” The whole set works beautifully—“ too harrowing to pass for casual entertainment and too good to ignore.”
The War on Drugs
A Deeper Understanding
The War on Drugs could be the best American rock band of this decade; certainly it’s “the one that makes the genre feel most alive,” said Amanda Petrusich in The New Yorker. The Philadelphia-born outfit, led by guitaristvocalist Adam Granduciel, makes wave-like propulsive music that recalls late-career Don Henley, but “the massive scale and deep texture of the work is thrilling.” The band’s first album for a major label was recorded in L.A., and it “contains all the expansiveness of the West.” Few of the keyboard- laden songs knock you over; rather, the music “slowly fills a room, and lingers.” The inner repetition—of riffs, rhythms, and snatches of vocal melody—“somehow transforms the War on Drugs’ music from dad-rock poison to something grander,” said Ryan Prado in PasteMagazine.com. Still, I wish more people could hear the band live. They’re “desperately close” to being rock’s new kings, but on record, they’re too easily mistaken for background music.