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Overall Rating
3.38

Awesome: 12.5%
Worth A Look: 12.5%
Just Average75%
Pretty Crappy: 0%
Sucks: 0%

1 review, 2 user ratings


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Brief Interviews with Hideous Men
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by Jay Seaver

"Definitely brief, but hideous is kind of harsh."
3 stars

How can you spot a first film written and directed by an actor in a crowd? I've probably mentioned this before, but look for the one where the story is told entirely through talking and facial expressions. That is, after all, what actors do, and thus what they will likely consider important or interesting in a movie. I imagine if cinematographers and editors got the chance to direct their own screenplays, they'd crank out movies that leaned heavily on compositions or juxtapositions, respectively. This isn't a hard and fast rule, but, wow, does it nail John Krasinski's "Brief Interviews with Hideous Men".

The interviewer is graduate student Sara Quinn (Julianne Nicholson); most of the interviews are actually monologues delivered by various character actors sitting across a metal desk from her in a room that is unmemorable but not abstract. Some are snippets of overheard conversation; others appear to be some sort of chorus. Most center around their relationships with women. The impetus behind these interviews and this eavesdropping is, supposedly, her doctoral thesis, but it's very clear that her recent breakup with boyfriend Ryan (Krasinski) is at the very least an influence.

Or it would be, if we ever saw Sara and her subjects really interact. As I mentioned, most of what we see is monologues, bits of oration that may have been copied into the script verbatim from author David Foster Wallace's original work. We don't get much of a glimpse of Sara reacting to, interpreting, or directing the interviews, despite being on the lookout for it at least from the time her professor (Timothy Hutton) none-too-subtly points out that the documentarian exerts as heavy an influence on what we learn that the subject. Until late in the movie, she seems to be a fairly complete non-entity, so that when she and an undergraduate (Dominic Cooper) clash over a paper that she graded, it's hollow, manufactured conflict because she's got no point of view. She's suddenly sticking "as a woman" into her explanations of her opinions as if that's supposed to be enough, but we've got no idea what that means to her. Julianne Nicholson, unfortunately, doesn't add enough to the character to make her especially interesting in the time she's got on screen.

On the other hand, the interviews themselves are all kinds of not bad at all. Krasinski has put together an quality actors and given them the opportunity to just do their thing, and few if any falter. Ben Shankman, Chris Meloni, Bobby Cannavale, and Krasinski himself all have interesting stories to tell (you'd better believe Krasinski saved the longest and strangest for himself), and they mostly hit what they were aiming for on the bullseye, whether it be awkward comedy or predatory creepiness. A pair of standouts are Frankie Faison and Malcolm Goodwin, telling the same story without directly interacting, and making the bit that could be pulled out and released as a great little short film because it doesn't directly connect with the others, but is great regardless.

Krasinski plays around a bit in his directorial debut; that scene with Faison and Goodwin owes just as much to the way Krasinski stages it as it does to the performances, for instance. He'll often shoot both people telling a story and the story itself with the narration laid over, but knows how to push the latter back half a step, to remind us that what we're seeing is perhaps what Sara is imagining. The flaws of how he handles Sara are still there, though, and sometimes, he gets too clever for his own good. He uses the chorus of Max Minghella's Kevin and Lou Taylor Pucci's Evan to stick in ideas that he can't seem to communicate any other way, and a sequence toward the end that jumps a speech from character to character, and situation to situation, is incredibly well cut, but also weirdly disconnected from what is going on around it.

In fact, the way he cuts and shoots shows enough talent that I certainly look forward to future projects. Here, he winds up creating the odd contradictions of "Brief Interviews" - it does feel like a film in spite of mostly being people talking, and despite all that people pour out their hearts and histories, not a whole lot seems to be said.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=18167&reviewer=371
originally posted: 11/20/09 20:50:56
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2009 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

8/09/10 Simon Watched on Hulu. Outstanding acting with a meager (only book's) script, there's potential 4 stars
12/30/08 Jack in Wisconsin Julianne Nicholson's performances are always top-notch! 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  25-Sep-2009 (NR)
  DVD: 16-Mar-2010

UK
  N/A

Australia
  25-Sep-2009
  DVD: 16-Mar-2010




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