The Netflix Report

Movie reviews from my Netflix queue. Highly personal and opinionated!

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Assassination Of Richard Nixon

This film is played like an extended acting class exercise. Sean Penn runs through his usual "dramatic, Dramatic, DRAMATIC!!!!" chops (see any of his recent movies) as he plays the everyman whose inner demons and inability to cope with life's frustrations gradually overwhelm him. He mumbles, he darts his eyes, he explodes in rage - shouting and spitting, he sobs inconsolably. Thank you, Mr. Penn - We'll call you.

The movie suffers from inevitable comparison to Taxi Driver. The regular guy, feeling stripped of power in his life, decides to make a stand and a statement by offing a public figure. The comparison is not helped by the similarity of the character names - Bicke here, Bickle in Taxi Driver. Then there are the scenes where Penn seems to purposely copy DeNiro's sidelong glances, tilted head, and mumbled attempts to connect with people around him.

The difference in the films is in the craftsmanship. "Nixon" is filmed almost entirely with a handheld camera - zooming, swooping, and shaking in the best pseudo-documentary style. Aside from making us mildly seasick and mindful of TV coffee commercials, it simply pulls us away from the storyline, ever aware that we are watching someone filming an actor.

The second major problem is that there really is no story arc or character development. Bicke starts out as an ineffectual man with plans that are constantly thwarted and stays there. His life was the same before we enter the action, remains the same throughout the film's events, and is easy to extrapolate as always going to be the same, no matter what he might ever do.

Even if this is the point, truth does not equal entertainment nor interest. If nothing happens and nothing changes, you might as well summarize the concept. Nothing is gained by playacting it in a tedious and inevitable dramatization. I felt no new knowledge about the character, empathy for his plight, or realization about myself at the end of the film that I didn't have at the 10-minute mark.

Parents: This has swearing and violence, along with adult themes that would bore children.

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