The Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque is showing several great movies this weekend. Here are our reviews of just a few of them.
The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond
(U.S., 2009) A previously un-produced screenplay by the late Tennessee Williams is the inspiration for first-time director Jodie Markell’s prosaic, plodding slice of southern gothic, about the havoc wreaked by a spoiled debutante (Bryce Dallas Howard) in 1920s Mississippi. Despite the best efforts of a first-rate cast (including the sublime Ellen Burstyn, Ann-Margaret and Chris Evans as the heroine’s reluctant swain), Markell never makes a convincing case for Williams’ hoary script being “discovered” at this late date. The general torpor of this creaky, micro-budgeted production suggests something that might have aired on PBS a few decades ago as a sub-par edition of American Playhouse. At 7:20 p.m. Saturday, April 10, and 8:20 p.m. Sunday, April 11. * 1/2 (Milan Paurich)
Mary and Max
(Australia, 2009) Oscar-winning Australian animator Adam Elliot’s claymation feature tells the ostentatiously quirky story of an epistolary relationship forged in 1976 between eight-year-old Melbourne misfit Mary (voiced by Bethany Whitmore as a child and Toni Collette as an adult) and Max (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a middle-aged New York Jew suffering from Asperger Syndrome. Elliot’s sometimes off-putting mix of gallows humor, egregious sentimentality and poop jokes (lots of poop jokes) distracts from the painstaking craftsmanship that went into the making of his stop-motion animated film. The lack of a compelling narrative and truly engaging characters ultimately makes Mary and Max less than the sum of its intermittently impressive parts. At 9:25 p.m. Saturday, April 10, and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, April 11. ** 1/2 (Paurich)
(France/U.S., 2001) Looking like a curvy duo right off the cover of a 1950s lesbian pulp paperback (which is foreshadowing), Naomi Watts stars opposite Laura Harring in director David Lynch’s 2001 “love story set in the city of dreams” (a.k.a. Hollywood). Watts is Betty, an aspiring actress bunking in L.A., into whose life and career (and shower) slinks Harring, amnesiac after a highly suspect limousine crash, who has named herself after a Rita Hayworth poster. Against a backdrop of movie-studio intrigue, danger and auditions, Rita insinuates herself further into Betty’s personal and professional life. This is such a headspinner that you almost don’t want to know it started as a pilot for a Twin Peaks-esque TV series. When the network bailed, Lynch reworked the two-and-a-half-hours of exposition, multiple characters and mood-setting, and capped it conclusively with a double-axle surprise ending that works perfectly with the reality-vs-artifice-vs-avarice pervasive in film, art, ghosts and life. At 8:05 p.m. Thursday, April 8, and 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 9. *** 1/2 (Charles Cassady Jr.)