Starring: Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson
Directed by: Martin Scorsese (“Goodfellas”)
Written by: Jay Cocks (“Gangs of New York”) and Martin Scorsese (“Goodfellas”)
As a film almost 30 years in the making, from one of the most prolific, respected and decorated filmmakers of his time, it’s almost impossible for Martin Scorsese’s “Silence” to not have impossibly high expectations. Sprawling, beautifully bleak and yet quietly presented, the first trailers indicated that this wasn’t your average Scorsese. As we move into the final wave of awards season films, all eyes are on Scorsese to see what exactly he has been sitting on for decades.
After the disappearance of Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson), a pair of Jesuit priests, Father Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Father Gariupe (Adam Driver), head to the dangerous land of Japan to track him down and to spread the word of Catholicism. As the two priests enter Japan, they see that being a Christian in Japan is a death sentence and they fight to keep the faith alive while trying find their mentor and keeping and their whereabouts a secret.
As an actor on the cusp for a while, “Silence” sees a fully realized Garfield. It’s a physical performance with a bit of weight loss, but also a sorrowful, charismatic, heartfelt and at times, humorous performance. It’s his film to carry with Neeson and Driver taking a bit of a backseat and he handles it well. Much of the rest of the cast is Japanese and very solid across the board. A lot is being made of the performance of Issey Ogata who plays the Inquisitor, and it’s valid. It’s almost strange as the performance seems hammy and cartooney yet completely works due to its commitment and darkly funny personality.
With a film this steeped in the story of priests and Catholicism, it is almost impossible to not say that what the audience takes from this film will largely depend on their own personal beliefs. At a minimum, however, the themes that can be extrapolated come down to “how far would one go to defend what they believe in?” As we watch our protagonists given time and time again to pull themselves, and those who follow them out of a situation at the expensive of selling out their believes, we see their struggle and their faiths tested. Scorsese deserves credit for not delving too far into forcing his beliefs on his audience, but the undertones are unmistakable. Is it meditative? Of course. Is it extremely religious in its themes? Absolutely.
“Silence” feels almost aggressively long, which isn’t helped by its slow pace. While much of the movie is compelling and ripe with strong performances, there are several false endings and a few check your watch moments. As a comprehensive piece, “Silence” probably falls around the middle or mid-to-lower range in Scorsese’s filmography. That isn’t to say it is a bad film on any level. It’s harrowing and challenging. It’s well performed and well written. There’s fantastic sound design and beautiful cinematography. But in the end, it remains a tough nut to crack and a little difficult to connect with on a level beyond its religiosity.
Starring: Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver
Directed by: Noah Baumbach (“Frances Ha”)
Written by: Noah Baumbach (“Frances Ha”)
In American culture, there is perhaps no easier target than the modern day hipster. With their bowler hats, neatly groomed mustaches and vintage bikes, it’s easy to poke fun at their transparent sense of irony and mock them in pop culture. Apparently, writer and director Noah Baumbach figured this was enough to base an entire film off of. Unfortunately for him, every single bit of attempted comedy and satire feels way too obvious in “While We’re Young.”
As Josh (Ben Stiller) and Cornelia (Naomi Watts) meander through their dull, but satisfactory lives, they have a chance meeting with Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried), a young hipster couple. Josh and Cornelia become fascinated with their easy-going lifestyle and rejuvenated when they are able to spend time with them. But eventually, when Josh and Jamie team up for a mutual work project, things begin to appear different than they initially seemed.
Baumbach is no stranger to caustic, unlikeable characters. With all that kept in mind, nearly every single person in “While We’re Young” is completely annoying. Whether it’s in their complaints about their lives or the behavior they exhibit, there’s a level of obnoxiousness that courses through the veins of every element of “While We’re Young.” From the characterization, to the performances, to the script and beyond, there’s something about the film and the way it runs things into the ground that makes you want to say “We get it. You’re eccentric.”
As previously alluded to, hipster jokes are among the most simple to tell. The screenplay puts a reliance on mining the ironic and inherent weirdness of the culture, juxtaposing it with a generation that need their phones for information or communication every second. It’s a message that lacks any sort of nuance and most importantly, humor, as every joke falls staggeringly flat. Are we supposed to laugh simply because Stiller, a nearly 50-year-old man, has decided to copy his decades younger friend and wear a hat everywhere?
Beyond dialogue issues, there is also a problem with the narrative elements of the script. The turn here is unbelievably obvious, and one that any audience member who has been paying attention will be able to figure out in a heartbeat. There are also scenes that feel completely superfluous, such as a scene where the couples head to a weird ritual where they drink some sort of concoction that makes them vomit and hallucinate. It’s funny cause it’s “weird,” right?
It’s clear that Baumbach was trying to say something about the mid-life crisis. The problem is, there is absolutely no subtlety to anything seen in “While We’re Young.” From laughing at the expense of hipsters, to flipping the roles of the technology-reliant and the old fashioned, nearly every second, plotline or joke is way too on the nose to register as funny, biting, or profound.