Seeking Justice, Delicacy, and Jeff, Who Lives at Home

Personal bests

Seeking Justice

The new Nicolas Cage movie—wait, don’t bolt!—is kind of fun, actually. It’s a cartoon vigilante film with a nice line in gaudy villains, and while it doesn’t make, shall we say, complete sense, it’s worth a look. Maybe a Netflix kind of look, as opposed to a 10-bucks-plus-parking-and-popcorn kind, but that would depend on the extent of your face-palming obsession with the wayward Cage oeuvre.

This time out our man is a sparsely goateed New Orleans high school teacher named Will Gerard. Will is married to a knockout blonde named Laura (January Jones), who is—why not, since it has no bearing on the plot—a cellist. One night, on a dark street, Laura is raped, robbed, and beaten. Will rushes to the hospital, where he’s approached by a strange bony man in a black suit and a severe buzzcut. His name is Simon (Guy Pearce), and he not only knows Laura’s name, he also knows who raped her. “We can take care of this,” he says. And there’ll be no charge—although Will may have to do Simon an unspecified “favor” at some time in the future.

Will could just say yes or no to this proposal, but, this being a Nicolas Cage movie, pointless convolution is to be preferred. Simon tells Will to indicate his decision by going to the vending machine in a nearby hospital snack room and purchasing either one or two candy bars. This scene goes on rather longer than you might think absolutely necessary, but in the end Will opts for two candy bars. That would be a yes.

So Laura’s rapist is anonymously dispatched, his executioner calling in the hit by phone with the words “The hungry rabbit jumps”—a mysterious code phrase that goes on being mysterious for the rest of the movie. Will moves along with his life, but some months later Simon reappears to call in that favor, ordering Will to carry out a hit of his own, on a vicious child-molester.

Things get complicated, and intermittently laughable, very quickly. The child-molester turns out to be a source of several surprises. There’s a frame-up, a wild chase through traffic, a letter to Santa Claus, that sort of thing. At one very odd point, a copy of Edmund Burke’s A Philosophical Enquiry also comes into play. In addition, we are reminded yet again that whenever an insane killer has a gun pointed at your face and is steadily tightening his finger on the trigger, the best thing to do is tell him he’s insane, which will cause him to lower his weapon and waste useful time debating the point with you.

Cage paddles through this chowder of lurid confusion with his usual straight face and dauntless commitment—he doesn’t phone it in. And director Roger Donaldson keeps his foot planted so firmly on the action pedal that you might not notice some of the sillier plot details winging by (although they’ll surely occur to you later). The movie’s not a classic, as you’ve no doubt gathered, but it’s an enjoyably loopy genre exercise. Connoisseurs of the Nic will need no further recommendation.         

Jeff, Who Lives at Home

Jeff (Jason Segel) is a man in search of signs. Unmoored by the death of his father 15 years ago, he’s now 30 years old, unemployed, and still living at home with his mom, Sharon (Susan Sarandon). Jeff is waiting for fate -- for his destiny—to find him. He has watched Signs, the M. Night Shyamalan movie, many times, and has taken to heart its message that there are no coincidences in life, only beacons of meaning. Doing bong hits in the basement one day, he receives a wrong-number phone call seeking someone named Kevin. Jeff doesn’t know any Kevins, but now, sensing yet another sign, he sets out to find one. “What if there are no wrong numbers?” he wonders.

In Jeff, Who Lives at Home, the writer-directors Jay and Mark Duplass, onetime mumblecore kings, have fashioned a sweet parable about a man’s search for purpose in a world of drifting indifference. The picture has some inventively constructed scenes that stay with you, and some agreeably modulated comic performances, especially by Segel, whose good-natured shlub with something unexpectedly serious on his mind warms the whole movie.

Jeff’s younger brother Pat (Ed Helms) appears to be less of a mess than his muddled sibling. He’s married and has a pretty good job. But it’s Pat who has never really grown up. He sneaks off for midday “business meetings” at the local Hooters, and treats his wife Linda (Judy Greer) as little more than a requisite accessory in his life. She wants them to save up for a house and have kids. He wants to buy a Porsche they can’t afford. He never really listens to her, and it’s driving her nuts. In fact, it may be driving her toward a more sympathetic man. “I need to find out what’s going on,” Pat tells Jeff suspiciously, “so I’ll have the upper hand later.”

The plot is cleverly woven. In the midst of his search for a Kevin, Jeff suddenly finds himself caught up with Pat in tailing Linda, to see what she’s up to. Meanwhile, at the office where their mother works, Sharon, who has never remarried, is receiving mysterious IMs on her computer from a “secret admirer.” Her coworker Carole (Rae Dawn Chong) sees this as an excellent thing—a sign, maybe. “You need to get your pipes cleaned,” she tells her too-long-single colleague.

As the characters are steadily drawn toward the movie’s elaborate conclusion, the directors engineer some radiant moments. In one scene, when a fire alarm triggers the sprinkler system at Sharon’s office and her coworkers scurry for the exits, she stays behind, raising her eyes ecstatically toward the ceiling as water sprinkles down like a tropical shower on the parched life she had once hoped never to have. And when Sharon finally meets her secret admirer, and they kiss, Sarandon—even though confined in a profile shot—manages to convey both resistant hesitation and grateful surrender with the tiniest of facial shifts. After more than 40 years of making movies, she’s still a reliable wonder—this time in a little movie that’s quietly worthy of her work.

Delicacy

Delicacy tells the story of a princess who kisses a frog, notes that he doesn’t turn into a prince, then decides she kind of likes the frog the way he is. The movie is very French in the way that it illuminates a simple story with precise comic detail. It’s a little too long and deliberately paced, but its star, Audrey Tautou—whose elfin face will be familiar from such past films as Amélie and the regrettable Da Vinci Code—carries you through the slow spots; and there’s a wonderfully galumphing performance by François Damiens, playing a frog that any woman—after some thought—might well love.

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  • Out of It||

    OT -- What's with all this stuff about Hunger Games? The media is acting like it's real news or something.

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  • Out of It||

    Well, that's not quite the response I was looking for ...

    Any humans care to comment?

  • Mint Berry Crunch||

    From lurking on movie-related forums, I guess some people think the Hunger Games franchise has the potential to be "the next Twilight." Because it's based on a book series popular with young adults, and maybe there's a love triangle subplot.

    Oh, and the star, Jennifer Lawrence, might be The Next Big Thing.

  • Out of It||

    I see. Thank you.

  • H man||

    Isn't the basic premise basically Theseus and the Minotaur?

  • rather||

    Ya know when you try to generate publicity by announcing you're not a vampire, the movie sucks

  • ||

    You know when you try to blogwhore but you're a stupid cunt?

    Yeah, you know.

  • ||

    I need to see a Nick Cage movie like I need an asshole on my elbow.

  • ||

    What about 'Face/Off'?

  • ||

    Well, if you have not seen Vampires Kiss it is well worth it.

  • Ska||

    Well if you could shit out of your elbow, you might be able to pull off some pretty boss pranks.

    Why are you looking at me like that?

  • ||

    It would be easier to wipe too. Unless you have only one arm.

  • Ska||

    In the land of the one-armed elbow shitters the two-armed man is king.

  • Mr Whipple||

    No, not necessarily. Instead of Piss Boys, there will be Wipe Boys.

  • The Christmas Atheist||

    Damn. I just ran out of elbow wipe.

  • ANONYMOUS||

    Raising Arizona

  • BakedPenguin||

    Leaving Las Vegas.

  • lurker||

    Lord of War

  • Xenocles||

    The Wicker Man

  • Cabeza de Vaca||

    You liked the Wicker Man remake?

  • Stepherzzzzzz||

    It is hilarious

  • Xenocles||

    Yeah it is. "Not the bees!"

  • John Egbert||

    what about con air?

  • CE||

    Jeff is a Reason commenter?

  • juris imprudent||

    Connoisseurs of the Nic will need no further recommendation.

    Is that with or without the plate of pickled herring?

  • ||

    So Roger Donaldson is doing bad Nic Cage movies now ... *sad*

  • ||

    Well, he did bad a bad Tom Cruise movie over 25 years ago, and a bad remake of a Sam Peckinpah movie after that, and a bad volcano disaster movie after that, so I don't think doing bad Nicky Coppola movies is that much of a departure.

  • ||

    I've gotta stick up for my countrymen!

  • A Serious Man||

    I guess Cage feels that since he already got his Oscar he has no need to do serious movies. And why not? He gets paid, and a lot of them are pretty fun.

  • ||

    Nicky Coppola buys a lot of extremely expensive real estate and has big troubles with the IRS for not paying his taxes.

    He needs the money. Badly. This is probably why he'll do any movie that crosses his agent's desk that will pay him a lot.

  • Mint Berry Crunch||

    You've all probably seen this already, but......

    Nicolas Cage's Agent

  • ||

    I think he has some financial problems, he need to make every film he can

  • Run D.M. Paul||

    "Jeff, Who Lives At Home."

    Finally, a movie with a titluar libertarian protagonist.

  • Crapulous||

    Annie's boobs are back

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  • fuck||

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  • fuck||

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  • ||

    I've joined the why-does-Reason-have-movie-reviews camp. I really feel like it's a waste of resources to have Loder (or any paid staffer/contributor/consultant) review movies for Reason.

    The combined commentariat produces a better review. Just do open threads for the Week In Movies or something.

    And the money you save can be spent on a full time proof-reader!

  • SIV||

    I always recommend cutting the dead weight and hiring Moynihan back.

    What's with the ex-MTV shit anyways?
    Loder, Kennedy? I don't see Samizdata.net hiring Downtown Julie Brown.

  • ANONYMOUS||

    I'm waiting for music reviews.

  • ANONYMOUS||

    TEST

  • ANONYMOUS||

    Message received.

  • ANONYMOUS||

    nothing says respect like tattooing the word under your left eye.

  • ¢||

    The combined commentariat produces a better review.

    Of movies we've seen. They're more than a hundred years old!

    But the plan is to have new-movie reviews for the with-it youth of today to sext to each other on their iFace and twatphones while the vodka tampons they're smuggling into the mall-plex fill up.

    So the reviews are written by a guy who was last kinda cool back in Reagan's first term, in the weird, flat style of a medium not even the agingest hipster consumes anymore. Then they're published on a website that if any with-it youths got caught linking to it, they'd be denounced by peers and authority figures alike as racist suckers of the neoKoch who if they don't plead ignorance-until-just-now and beg forgiveness and never sin so gravely again, their whole lives and futures might just hafta get wrecked for them.

    "Tightest plot since The Killing!"

  • Loki||

    Ghengis Khan was a Mongol, not to be confused with Mongoloid, such as the actor Nicolas Cage.

  • ||

    Sounds like a pretty good plan to me dude. Wow.

    www.Anon-World.tk

  • myfriend123||

    Good.

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