Indie Weekend: ‘Promised Land,’ ‘Rust and Bone,’ ‘Barbara’

Matt Damon in 'Promised Land'
Matt Damon in ‘Promised Land’

A light release schedule for the end of the year, but this trio of indies holds great promise.

  • Promised Land. Matt Damon stars as a high-powered fracking salesman for a mighty corporation. Damon co-wrote the far too schematic and manipulative script with John Krasinski, who co-stars as an environmental activist. In this pre-fab world, all corporations are Evil and the little guy is always pure in heart — except when he’s not. It’s earnest, sincere, and altogether unconvincing. The issue of fracking deserves a better, more layered treatment. Gus Van Sant directs in straightforward manner; the film’s best assets are the fine supporting performances by Frances McDormand and Hal Holbrook. (AMC NorthPark)
  • Rust and Bone. ¬†Another highly-acclaimed drama from director Jacques Audiard, this drama follows the romance between Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenarts; she’s lost her legs in an accident, and he’s an impoverished single father. (Angelika Dallas)
  • Barbara. Nina Hoss continues her collaboration with director Christian Petzold in Germany’s submission for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award. She plays a doctor in 1980s East Germany who applies for an exit visa and is promptly banished to a rural community, where she falls in love and questions her future. (Angelika Dallas)

Recently opened in wide release:

  • Django Unchained.¬†Quentin Tarantino riffs on slavery in his most openly comic movie to date, albeit one with his usual devotion to the n-word and other profanity, as well as a more-than-generous helping of blood and excessive violence. He mixes 30s plantation dramas with 60s Westerns and 70s blaxploitation, drawing equal inspiration from Sergio Leone, Sergio Corbucci, and Fred Williamson. It’s lesser Tarantino, but still far more entertaining than most multiplex fare.
  • Les Miserables. Not being a fan of the Broadway musical or its plaintive songs, I found the histrionic dramatics to be unearned and the talking/singing/growling/mewling of Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman, Sacha Baron Cohen, and company to be excessively “actorly.” Tom Hooper’s in-your-face direction merely calls attention to itself, without any particular style or rhythm. Anne Hathaway, Eddie Redmayne, Samatha Burke, and Amanda Seyfried fare the best, but this is a musical best appreciated by those who have already memorized the songs.

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