Sunday, February 3, 2013

Arbitrage; The Words; Lage Raho Munna Bhai (Hindi)

Dir. Nicholas Jarecki, 2012

A billionaire who is corrupt, greedy, scheming, philandering, believes only in money -- and yet ultimately we want him to get away with his considerable crimes and misdeeds.  Richard Gere is charismatic and tense at the same time, and we end up rooting for him to escape the consequences of infidelity, a hit-and-run, cooking his empire's books, and using a poor black kid to get him out of trouble.  The script doesn't make easy judgements, is comfortable seducing us with snippets of glamour and the good life, and yet is completely believable in terms of the scale and cravenness of the fraud at the heart of the financial crisis.

My only complaint was that the drama of the poor black kid felt oddly distant.  This may have been intentional: ordinarily it would have made Richard Gere's character unbearably cold, but the distance allowed us to feel sympathy.

The Words
Dir. Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal, 2012

A story within a story within a story.  Usually I would find this too clever, too hip, and too full of literary pretension.  But the struggles of the young, ambitious, limited writers is easy to empathize with, although depressing.  And the beautifully shot interiors and attractive characters makes up for too many, well, words.  Voice-over is overused and straight exposition using flimsy devices (a literary reading, for instance) is irritating and ham-handed.  The acting is good -- Bradley Cooper has great blue eyes, Zoe Saldana is stunning, and Jeremy Irons does his thing.  

Interesting that the interracial nature of the relationship between Cooper and Saldana is not even glanced at -- are we at a new place in society, or this is just the film trying to be hip?      


Lage Raho Munna Bhai (Hindi)
Dir. Rakumar Hirani, 2006

Hilarious, endearing, and surprisingly touching in places.  The hit song "Pal Pal Har Pal" is blatantly stolen from a Cliff Richard tune (Theme for a Dream), but is very effective, and its picturisation is cute.  The relationship between Sanjay Dutt and Vidya Balan has great chemistry, and Arshad Warsi ("Circuit") is a wonderful foil as well as moral touchstone.