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JP on JB

Thanks to a personal connection with the Bourne series (as recapped in my previous post), I will always think fondly of it. But I knew from mixed publicity and a certain lack of interest among my peer group that Jason Bourne would most likely be a toss up, which probably accounts for my relative delay in seeing the film. While I had hoped to catch the film in an iconic and nostalgic Martha’s Vineyard single screen cinema, instead I ended up seeing it back in my Michigan hometown as a re-introduction to that twin cinema and starting my effort to enjoy my town more.

Perhaps inevitably due to the long gap between previous Matt Damon led Bourne adventures, the film seems to force itself to catch up to 2016 with a plot that mixes some “greatest hits” of previous stories in the series alongside some forced contemporary relevance. While the film enjoyed a few tight moments like the old times, overall I felt like it could have gone further in-depth with the story, but was held back by possible script changes, studio interference or pressure to have a certain story element in the film in place of another. The last point was most glaringly obvious in the inclusion of a rather strained “social media” plot angle, along with a wavering focus on Bourne himself, who came to feel more like a side character rather than the protagonist. It probably did not help that the film does not really explore Bourne’s perspective on the events, except for one sharp moment when he reacts to a character’s demise and later when he takes more control of the story and turns the tables on the agents who are pursuing him. But the latter moment was undone by a gratuitous and tacked-on car chase sequence that adds little to the story.

Casting of the newcomers in the film was serviceable if not outstanding. Joan Allen’s presence as the mature and committed agent Pamela Landy was sorely missed, and it’s a shame they couldn’t bring her back in some form after a thankless cameo in the “sidequel” The Bourne Legacy four years ago. Tommy Lee Jones phones it in, with a few brief exceptions, as the unsurprisingly malintentioned CIA director. Recent Academy Award winner Alicia Vikander is believable for the most part as a hotshot CIA agent, but the film made no explanation of her obvious Swedish origins (or if it did, I missed them) – and she did not project the nuances that I so enjoyed in her breakout film Ex Machina.

To its credit, the film makes me want to revisit the original trilogy, so I think I will spend some time doing just that…

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A Good Marriage should not be disjointed

Tonight turned into a viewing party for a messy Stephen King film adaptation… so 1990s. I feel like it has been many years since a King film appeared in the mainstream. With this film, A Good Marriage, it has arrived at the local Cinema Detroit and through iTunes/VOD, so I chose the latter option.

It’s very disappointing to see noted actors Joan Allen (whom I once met in person) and Anthony LaPaglia slumming it here. Allen, who has been seen too infrequently onscreen in recent years, stars as Darcy, a New England housewife who suddenly suspects her husband (LaPaglia) has a demonic streak. The film keeps the story very simple, as Darcy faces several demonic visions suggesting to her that something is amiss, before eventually making a big decision related to those visions following a family event.

There’s little character development and the film doesn’t rise above a TV movie feel to the whole production, with a focus on tight interiors and clumsy storytelling as scenes move awkwardly from one to the next with little clarity. Allen is paired with character actor Stephen Lang (Avatar and numerous other features) for a sequence late in the game, and the sudden intensity in their scenes suggests a different movie entirely.

I was recently reminded of LaPaglia’s sterling work in Lantana, one of my favorite films of the early 2000s, which shares some thematic similarity with the current Gone Girl, but the actor doesn’t register much here aside from a few intense glances and suggestions of offscreen activities. Allen capably carries the film, but is so one-note with her activities and character agenda, consisting of many different variations of screaming and anxiety, that it’s a huge letdown from her established work in earlier films such as The Ice Storm, The Crucible, The Contender and two of the Bourne films.

Allen recently returned to her theatrical roots at Steppenwolf Theatre Company. In spite of mixed reviews, I would have liked to have seen that.