Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Kate Beckinsale and Vera Farmiga deliver high-powered performances in Nothing But the Truth (***1/2), Rod Lurie's absorbingly melodramatic political thriller centering around a Valerie Plame/Judith Miller-esque scenario involving a headstrong journalist (Beckinsale) who refuses to name her source in relation to an article that she's written which exposes an undercover CIA agent (Farmiga). Lurie, who also wrote and directed the slightly better political pot-boiler The Contender, clearly has an understanding of journalistic ethics and the government's desire to keep a lid on sensitive information, regardless of the outcome. The film has a wild twist in its final moments, one that is both extremely clever and potentially preposterous, but it's all kept in check by the excellent supporting cast (Matt Dillon and Alan Alda are standouts), the focused work by Beckinsale (who's only better performance was in last year's underrated Snow Angels), Farmiga's live-wire portrait of a woman under extreme stress, one big plot surprise, and Lurie's clear-eyed direction and stylish eye for simple yet engrossing composition.

Without the benefit of having Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson as his stars, Joel Hopkins' Last Chance Harvey (***) would have been mediocre at best; instead, because of the star-wattage brought to the table by these classy screen vets, this enjoyable but extremely light dramedy goes down nice and smooth. Hoffman is Harvey, a guy who loses his job, misses his transcontinental flight, and is dissed by his daughter in favor of her step-father at her wedding in the span of about an hour; thankfully he meets the frumpy but fun Kate (Thompson) at the airport bar and finds a new reason to give a shit about life. The film is sappy and obvious, and some of the dialogue is the very definition of banal, but Hoffman and Thompson are both given one terrific scene each to work with, the film moves along quickly, and sometimes a feather-light movie such as this one is all you need for an evenings worth of casual, amiable entertainment.

No comments: