A Dangerous Method


Viggo Mortensen is not amused at Michael Fassbender's knock-knock jokes.

Viggo Mortensen is not amused at Michael Fassbender’s knock-knock jokes.

(2011) Historical Drama (Sony Classics) Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen, Michael Fassbender, Vincent Cassel, Sarah Gadon, Andre M. Hennicke, Arndt Schwering-Sohnrey, Mignon Reme, Mareike Carriere, Franziska Arndt, Wladimir Matuchin, Andre Dietz, Anna Thalbach, Sarah Marecek, Bjorn Geske, Markus Haase, Nina Azizi. Directed by David Cronenberg

 

These days, psychoanalysis is part of the landscape. A fairly high percentage of people have utilized the services of a mental health care professional, and many undergo regular treatment. We have come to accept that talking out our problems is far healthier than repressing them.

In 1904, that wasn’t the case. A screaming, hysterical young woman named Sabina Spielrein (Knightley) is brought by carriage to the Burghölzli Hospital in Switzerland. She is seen to by Dr. Carl Jung (Fassbender), a gentle, handsome doctor whose rich (and gorgeous) wife (Gadon) keeps him in a lifestyle to his liking while he explores a science in its infancy and one that, frankly, doesn’t pay well. He becomes intrigued by Sabina’s case and is eager to try out the new “talking therapy” being championed by Dr. Sigmund Freud (Mortensen) in Vienna.

The sessions seem to help and soon Jung, who had been corresponding with Freud about the case, becomes a believer in the Vienna intellectual’s work. That correspondence grows into mutual respect and eventually, a friendship. However, that friendship doesn’t endure. Jung has some misgivings about Freud’s reliance on the sexual for explanations of human behavior. When he sends Dr. Otto Gross (Cassel), a colleague, to Jung for psychoanalysis, the seeds of discord begin to be sown. Gross, a libertine of the highest order, becomes a confidant for Jung, who has begun to feel desire for Sabina, still his patient. Gross essentially gives Jung the go-ahead to initiate an affair with her.

Eventually, Jung’s intellect and compassion win out over his baser side and he breaks things off. Sabina goes to Vienna to study under Freud (and it seems, do a lot more under Freud) on the way to becoming one of the first women to practice psychoanalysis in the world.

Cronenberg has been fascinated with the terror of flesh in previous films; here he seeks to examine the terror of mind, disguising it as a Merchant-Ivory historical piece. Or perhaps, it’s the other way around. In any case, his fascination for the subject is clear.

The execution? Not so much. This is a dialogue-heavy movie – being based on a stage play, that’s unsurprising – and of course that it revolves largely around the birth of psychoanalysis also lends itself to a talky production. That doesn’t make it any less monotonous when the talking grows tedious. Now, I don’t have a problem with movies that are more conversational than action-oriented but the dialogue needs to at least be interesting. Often it comes off as intellectual posturing rather than delivering insight.

Fortunately, there are some pretty good performances. Mortensen, on his third collaboration with Cronenberg, gives Freud a bit of a less stodgy personality as he’s often assigned. Mortensen’s Freud is passionate, stubborn and maybe a little bit fixated on the sexual. Fassbender, in the midst of his breakout year, was brilliant as Jung; a bit timid and bookish but never reserved when it comes to his ideas. Cassel gets the memorable part of the libertine and runs with it, having a good time with a character who certainly thought he deserved it.

Much of the movie was filmed in the places where the events took place, lending an authenticity to the project. While the affair between Jung and Sabina is merely conjecture, most of the rest of the film is historically accurate with some of the dialogue coming directly from the letters and writings of the characters in the movie.

How you feel about the movie will largely depend on how you feel about psychoanalysis. There is some fascinating material here, particularly on how the workings of the science were arrived at and bitterly debated. That some of Jung’s ideas would later fuel the Nazi party (which is alluded to in a graphic and unforgettable sequence near the end of the film) is a tragedy that is laced with irony as many years after the events of the movie Sabina Spielrein would fall victim to the Nazis.

Perhaps if I saw this mid-afternoon when I was a little more alert I might have enjoyed this more, but it is a little dry. That doesn’t mean the ideas or discussions here aren’t worth listening to; there’s an intellectual stimulation here that’s rare in most movies and heaven knows I don’t want to discourage that. However, those who go to movies for big explosions, big breasts and big guns would be well-advised to steer clear of this one. Although what Freud would have made of those sorts of people would be amusing reading to say the least.

WHY RENT THIS: Fascinating material. Nice performances by Mortensen, Fassbender and Cassel.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Slow and monotonous in places.

FAMILY VALUES: There is quite a bit of sexual content and a smattering of bad language.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Cronenberg states on the director’s commentary that more CGI was used on this film than any other he has directed to this point.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: There’s a Q&A session with Cronenberg and an audience of American Film Institute students who’d just seen the film.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $27.5M on an $18.8M production budget; the movie didn’t quite recoup its production costs.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Henry & June

FINAL RATING: 6.5/10

NEXT: Beware the Gonzo

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New Releases for the Week of January 27, 2012


January 27, 2012

THE GREY

(Open Road) Liam Neeson, Dermot Mulroney, Frank Grillo, Dallas Roberts, Joe Anderson, James Badge Dale, Nonso Anozie, Ben Bray, Anne Openshaw. Directed by Joe Carnahan

A group of oil roustabouts, cocksure and rowdy, are getting ready to go home. Flying back on a chartered plane from their remote Alaskan oil field, their plans of spending their hard-earned money back home comes to a grinding halt when their plane crashes. At first the survivors thank their lucky stars that they survived the crash. Then, they begin to face the daunting prospect of carting the injured and themselves through miles of desolate and rough Alaskan wilderness to make it to civilization. Their task gets exponentially more difficult when a pack of rogue wolves, desperate to survive the winter themselves, begins to stalk this new source of fresh meat.

See the trailer and a clip here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Thriller/Action/Adventure

Rating: R (for violence/disturbing content including bloody images, and for pervasive language)

Albert Nobbs

(Roadside Attractions) Glenn Close, Mia Wasikowska, Aaron Johnson, Brendan Gleeson. In 19th century Ireland, it is most certainly a man’s world. For a woman to make it in that world she must be exactly like a man to survive. In the case of Albert Nobbs, a woman becomes a man, wearing the guise for 30 years, hoping to eventually buy her own shop but she finds that in expanding her opportunities, she has created a prison of her own device. Close in the title role has received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress.

See the trailer, clips and a featurette here.

For more on the movie this is the website

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Drama

Rating: R (for some sexuality, brief nudity and language) 

A Dangerous Method

(Sony Classics) Viggo Mortensen, Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley, Vincent Cassel.  Director David Cronenberg takes us to turn-of-the-century Vienna where two giants of psychotherapy, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, find their professional and personal relationship tested by the appearance of a troubled but beautiful woman who becomes patient to one and lover to both. Into this highly volatile mix comes a second patient, a hedonist who yearns to push the boundaries further. The results of this fact-based affair will shape the modern science of psychiatry as well as 20th century philosophy.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Drama

Rating: R (for sexual content and brief language)

Man on a Ledge

(Summit) Sam Worthington, Elizabeth Banks, Ed Harris, Jamie Bell. A man steps out onto the ledge of a high rise. Suddenly an ordinary afternoon is transformed into a media event. But this isn’t an ordinary suicide attempt nor is this some loner who has come to the end of his rope. No, this is merely window dressing meant to obscure the man’s real agenda – to prove his innocence and to expose the machinations of a man who stole everything from him. A city stands captivated while the drama is played out on a stage 27 stories up.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Crime Thriller

Rating: PG-13 (for violence and brief strong language)

One for the Money

(Lionsgate) Katherine Heigl, Jason O’Mara, John Leguizamo, Debbie Reynolds. Desperate for work after six months unemployed, former lingerie salesperson Stephanie Plum takes a job working for her cousin’s bail bonding agency. Her first job is to pick up the biggest bail jumper on her cousin’s roster; a former ex who broke her heart and dumped her in high school who is on trial for murder. It turns out that this case is going to be much more complex and personal than Stephanie thought. From the best-selling series of novels by Janet Evanovich.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Action Comedy

Rating: R (for language)

Four-Warned: November 2011


Every month I’m going to look at every movie on the release schedule and try to assign them a numerical value corresponding to how anxious I am to see it. The lower the number, the more I want to see it. A one means I would walk through hell and high water to see it; a four means there’s no interest whatsoever. The numbers are not arrived at scientifically but they aren’t arbitrary either.
The numbers aren’t a reflection of the artistic merit of any of these films, but merely a reflection of my willingness to go to a movie theater and see it. The top four scores will be gathered as a means of reflecting the movies I’m anticipating the most; you may use that as a guide or not.

Each entry is broken down as follows:

NAME OF FILM (Studio) Genre A brief description of the plot. Release plans: Wide = Everywhere, Limited = In selected markets. RATING A brief comment

Keep in mind that release dates are extremely subject to change, even at this late date.

FOUR TO SEE
1. IMMORTALS (1.4)
2. HUGO (1.9)
3. ARTHUR CHRISTMAS (2.0)
4. TOWER HEIST (2.1)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)
1. THE ARTIST (1.4)
2. THE DESCENDENTS (1.7)
TIE. A DANGEROUS METHOD (1.7)
4. INTO THE ABYSS (1.8)

RATING SYSTEM: 1) Must-see, 2) Should-see, 3) Perhaps-see, 4) Don’t-see

NOVEMBER 2, 2011

FIVE STAR DAY (Breaking Glass) Genre: Drama. A man who believes in astrology suffers the worst day ever on a day that was supposed to be his best; he determines to test his newfound disdain for astrology by interviewing three strangers all born on the same day and same place as he. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 An interesting idea but not sure Cam Gigandet is the guy to play this part.
THE OTHER F WORD (Oscilloscope Laboratories) Genre: Documentary. Former punk rockers from the 70s, 80s and 90s cope with fatherhood and try to fit in the needs of parenting with their punk rock values. Release Strategy: New York City (opening in Los Angeles November 4). RATING: 1.9 A really riveting look at how our needs change as we age – and the struggle to maintain our values as they do.

NOVEMBER 4, 2011

A VERY HAROLD AND KUMAR 3D CHRISTMAS (New Line) Genre: Comedy. The two buddies, estranged over a six year separation, reunite to save Christmas. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 3.0 Not a big fan of the Harold and Kumar movies but I have to admit this one looks rather interesting – and any movie with NPH in it is all right by me.
KILLING BONO (ARC Entertainment) Genre: Comedy. Two Irish brothers are part of the second best band in Dublin in the 80s, forced to watch as the best band – U2 – rises to world prominence while they languish in obscurity. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 The trailer looked pretty fun; the music sounded pretty good too.
THE LAST RITES OF JOE MAY (Tribeca) Genre: Drama. An aging hustler is forced by circumstances into a reluctant friendship with a single mother and in a most unlikely fashion finds the redemption he was long seeking. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Dennis Farina has always been an actor I’ve appreciated.
THE SON OF NO ONE (Anchor Bay) Genre: Thriller. A young cop is assigned to the working class neighborhood he grew up in which leads to the unearthing of a secret that threatens to destroy his career and family. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 An extremely strong cast but the trailer left me a little cold.
TOWER HEIST (Universal) Genre: Caper Comedy. The staff of an exclusive New York City apartment tower plot to steal their money back from the Bernie Madoff-like financier who stole it. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.1 An all-star cast led by Ben Stiller and the return of Eddie Murphy to the kind of role that made him a star.
YOUNG GOETHE IN LOVE (Music Box) Genre: Period Romance. The man who would become one of Germany’s most revered authors falls in love with a woman promised to another. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.3 This was another one I didn’t get to see at the Florida Film Festival this year – now I wish I had.

NOVEMBER 9, 2011

J. EDGAR (Warner Brothers) Genre: Biodrama. The story of one of the 20th century’s most polarizing figures, a man who would symbolize law enforcement and it’s abuses for many – J. Edgar Hoover. Release Strategy: Limited (expands Wide on November 11). RATING: 2.2 They had me at “Directed by Clint Eastwood”.

NOVEMBER 11, 2011

11-11-11 (Rocket Releasing) Genre: Horror. An American author whose family has been taken from him tragically returns home to a dying father and a growing realization that he is being given a dire warning regarding the date November 11, 2011. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.9 Hopefully that dire warning has nothing to do with the box office for this first release from Elton John’s new distribution company.
THE CONQUEST (Music Box) Genre: Biographical Drama. The incredible rise to power of French president Nicolas Sarkozy and the price he paid for that power. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Like any good story, the trailer looked both amusing and tragic.
ELITE SQUAD: THE ENEMY WITHIN (Variance) Genre: Action. A captain in Rio de Janeiro’s elite anti-gang unit is promoted to a government position and finds that the evil that pervades the favelas truly resides in the halls of power. Release Strategy: New York City (opening in Los Angeles November 18). RATING: 2.5 One of the most acclaimed international action films of the year.
THE GREENING OF WHITNEY BROWN (ARC Entertainment) Genre: Family Adventure. A preteen from the big city is forced to move to the country when her family encounters economic hard times and doesn’t like it one bit. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.8 Looks predictable and decidedly un-entertaining.
IMMORTALS (Relativity) Genre: Fantasy. A CGI-heavy telling of the Greek hero Theseus who battled an evil King and saved the Gods in the process. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 1.4 Looks good but director Tarsem Singh has a history of making movies that are spectacular images for their own sake.
INTO THE ABYSS (IFC) Genre: Documentary. A look at a convicted murderer sentenced to die in eight days, the family of his victims and those performing the execution. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 Werner Herzog has quickly become one of the best documentarians in the world.
JACK AND JILL (Columbia) Genre: Comedy. A successful commercial director’s twin sister comes to visit for Thanksgiving and proceeds to turn his life upside down. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.9 When Adam Sandler’s good, he’s wicked good; when Adam Sadler’s bad…
LONDON BOULEVARD (IFC) Genre: Crime Drama. An ex-con tries to protect a movie star and her troubled sister from a vicious mob boss. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 The directing debut from the writer of The Departed.
MELANCHOLIA (Magnolia) Genre: Science Fiction. As a large object hurtles through space to obliterate the Earth, the inhabitants of our planet prepare for the end in their own ways. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Sounds like a fascinating subject but Lars von Trier has never been one of my favorite directors so I’m kinda wait-and-see about this one.

NOVEMBER 16, 2011

THE DESCENDANTS (Fox Searchlight) Genre: Dramedy. An indifferent father is forced to re-examine his attitudes towards parenting when his wife is gravely injured. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 This looks like another great role for George Clooney.
TOMBOY (Rocket Releasing) Genre: Drama. A young girl is mistaken for a young boy and decides not to correct the error. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.4 Looks like a pretty insightful study on gender identification.

NOVEMBER 18, 2011

ANOTHER HAPPY DAY (Phase 4) Genre: Dramedy. A high-strung woman brings her three troubled children to the wedding of her estranged son and initiates conflict throughout her family. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Ellen Barkin is a tremendous actress – it’s wonderful to see her getting more roles.
GARBO: THE SPY (First Run) Genre: Documentary. The story of a Spanish double agent who was decorated by both the Nazis and the Allies in World War II. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.4 Sounds like it should be a terrific documentary but trailer left me curiously uninterested.
HAPPY FEET TWO (Warner Brothers) Genre: Animated Feature. Erik, the son of Mumble the dancing penguin, has no interest in dancing. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 3.6 The trailer made this look way too much like “So You Think You Can Dance”.
THE HEIR APPARENT: LARGO WINCH (Music Box) Genre: Action Adventure. The heir to a billionaire’s fortune takes over his father’s multinational corporation with unexpected results. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Has almost a video game feel to it.
IN HEAVEN, UNDERGROUND (Seventh Art) Genre: Documentary. A look at the Weissensee Jewish Cemetery near Berlin, the oldest Jewish cemetery in Europe and one of the few institutions to remain in Jewish hands during the Nazi regime. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.3 More a look at what the Cemetery means to the modern Jewish community.
THE LIE (Screen Media) Genre: Drama. A young father who is trying to get a day off from work tells a whopping lie which will have far-reaching consequences. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 I’m not sure whether this was meant to have comedic elements or not but the trailer sure made it look that way.
RID OF ME (Phase 4) Genre: Dramedy. A young girl tries to make her marriage perfect in an unorthodox kind of way. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.9 For whatever reason the studio has taken the trailer down so I’m not sure that bodes well for the movie.
THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN PART 1 (Summit) Genre: Romantic Fantasy. The wedding of Bella and Edward signals a new danger for Bella. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.4 The beginning of the end of the franchise that has polarized audiences for three years.
TYRANNOSAUR (Strand) Genre: Drama. A man with rage issues befriends a young woman with a devastating secret of her own. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 The trailer looked awfully mesmerizing.

NOVEMBER 23, 2011

A DANGEROUS METHOD (Sony Classics) Genre: Historical Drama. The story of Freud and Jung, and the troubled young girl who came between them. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 A solid cast and director David Cronenberg make this one to look out for.
ARTHUR CHRISTMAS (Columbia) Genre: Animated Feature. The clumsy younger son of Santa must save the day when Santa’s high-tech operation goes awry. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 2.0 The latest from the evil geniuses at Aardman Animation.
THE ARTIST (Weinstein) Genre: Romance. The fortunes of a silent film star whose career is on the wane with the advent of talkies and an up-and-coming young starlet are entwined. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 A compelling trailer which indicates that this black and white movie was filmed without sound.
HUGO (Paramount) Genre: Family Fantasy. A young boy lives in the walls of a Paris train station means to solve the mystery of his father’s loss, a grouchy toy shop owner and a heart-shaped lock that has no key. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 Believe it or not, this is the latest from Martin Scorsese. Yes, you read that right.
THE MUPPETS (Disney) Genre: Family. The Muppets biggest fan tries to get the gang back together again in order to save their theater which is about to be razed by a greedy oilman. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.4 Call me Oscar the Grouch but I just never got into these furry little characters.
MY WEEK WITH MARILYN (Weinstein) Genre: Biographical Drama. A young assistant on the set of The Prince and the Showgirl escorts Marilyn Monroe around Britain. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.1 An impressive cast with Michele Williams capturing the look and essence of Monroe down to her toes.
RAMPART (Millennium) Genre: Crime Drama. A brutal L.A. cop finds his life unraveling when he is dismissed from the force. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles (expanding January 27). RATING: 2.5 Looks like a new kind of role for Woody Harrelson.

NOVEMBER 24, 2011

THE LEGEND OF PALE MALE (Balcony Releasing) Genre: Documentary. When a wild Redtail Hawk (who haven’t lived in New York City for over a century) is evicted from its perch in a posh 5th avenue co-op, the resulting protest becomes a New York media sensation. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 A fascinating look at something that a lot of folks outside of the Big Apple aren’t fully aware of.

NOVEMBER 30, 2011

KHODORKOVSKY (Kino Lorber) Genre: Documentary. A man once the wealthiest man in Russia becomes a political prisoner because he dared stand up to the corrupt regime. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.2 This is an acutely Russian tale.

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES
Tower Heist, J. Edgar, Immortals, Jack and Jill, Happy Feet Two, A Dangerous Method, Arthur Christmas, Hugo, The Muppets