Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me

 

Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me is sad, funny, nostalgic and informative. But mostly, it’s sweet. Glen Campbell and his family show and tell how his Alzheimer’s has affected each of them.

As Keith Urban, one of many fellow musicians who offer comments, points out, much of our lives consist of memories. And when memory goes, a large part of our existence goes. Thankfully, for Glen Campbell, his abilities to play guitar and sing remain intact, although he cannot remember the words to his songs.

In I’ll Be Me, Glen and his wife Kim visit doctors at the Mayo Clinic. Results of brain scans are analyzed and explained. Drugs are prescribed and life goes on. For now.

The documentary begins in 2011 when Glen Campbell goes public with his diagnosis. It follows him and his entourage through a farewell tour that includes stops at iconic venues Ryman Auditorium (Nashville) and Carnegie Hall (New York). It’s not easy—not for Glen, nor his sidemen who include three of his kids.

At the Ryman, his teleprompter (with song lyrics) goes out and he is lost until it is restored. The family is concerned when he does the Leno show, but he turns in a successful performance. A tribute medley at the Grammy Awards show in early 2012 goes well. At gigs in late 2012, however, as his abilities decline, he has more difficulties. It’s not hard to respond emotionally to his ordeal.

Among the performers who offer comments about Glen Campbell and/or Alzheimer’s are Jimmy Webb, Brad Paisley, The Edge, Sheryl Crow, Bruce Springsteen, Blake Shelton and Kathy Mattea.

Most of the performances in the film from his farewell tour range from good to stellar. Most of his hits plus a few new songs are presented. Other highlights include a tour bus duet with daughter Ashley on Hank Williams’ Lovesick Blues, several clips from Campbell’s TV career and home movies and videos from all stages of his life.

For baby boomers and some Gen-Xers, Campbell has been prominent showbiz figure for half a century, thanks to a string of pop-country hits and a weekly TV show. Performances in Vegas and Branson kept him working long after the hits stopped coming.

It was brave for Glen and his wife and family to make this film and show how Alzheimer’s affects an individual, as well as caregivers and other loved ones. Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me brought tears to my eyes several times during its 1:44 or so run time. But it also made me appreciate the body of entertainment that Glen Campbell has delivered during his lifetime, especially these last concerts. I’m sad about what’s next, but happy that these performances were documented.

 

Gone Girl

 

Gone Girl is one of the year’s best films. Unexpectedly strong performances from the leads Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike are the centerpiece of the latest from consistently adept storyteller, director David Fincher.

Gillian Flynn adapted her own massively successful novel into a screenplay that reveals plot points gradually while giving shape and form to the complex personalities of Nick Dunne (Affleck) and his wife Amy (Pike).

Nick and Amy live in the river town of North Carthage, Missouri. (The film was shot on location in Cape Girardeau.) They moved from New York to Nick’s hometown to be with his mother as she faced breast cancer. Nick co-owns a bar in the town with his twin sister Margo (Carrie Coon).

On their anniversary, Amy disappears. Police find clues—including signs of a struggle–in the couples’ home, but no body. Because the home is a crime scene, Nick moves in with Margo. As often happens when a wife disappears, speculation about the husband’s guilt spreads. In Gone Girl, it ignites discussion on a Nancy Grace type TV show.

As the investigation proceeds, detective Boney (Kim Dickens) plays by the book to build a case but her sidekick officer Gilpin (Patrick Fugit) is eager to arrest Nick. When public opinion turns against him, Nick brings in attorney Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry) to advise him. Meanwhile, as the search continues, Amy’s old boyfriend Desi (Neil Patrick Harris) moves from the background to the foreground.

Among the supporting cast, Coon and Perry are strongest. Dickens delivers her dialogue in a truly authentic Southern accent. Harris is low key and coolly straightforward, almost distractingly so.

Apart from being a police procedural that causes a viewer to wonder about the outcome, Gone Girl paints a telling picture of a troubled marriage. Both husband and wife are shown to have character flaws. Their courtship and the early days of their marriage are shown via flashback. Amy’s diary entries, which she reads in voiceover, provide the audience with her takes on married life.

The soundtrack from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is genius. Early on, the sounds are ethereal, dreamily romantic. But as things get serious, the music turns darker.

Clearly, Fincher has not only assembled talented individuals on and off camera, but also has obtained supreme efforts from all involved. The result is an excellent movie which, despite its nearly 2-and-a-half hour run time, never drags. See it and be careful what you say afterward. No spoilers.

 

 

The Great Gatsby

Director Baz Luhrman’s version of The Great Gatsby is, above all, great storytelling. Yes, it has moments of sensory overload, but Luhrman and his cast also slow things down to let us get to know the characters in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s story of life in the early 1920’s, aka the Jazz Age.

With some characters, motivations are obvious. With others, the character’s needs and wants are more gradually revealed. One person leaving a Gatsby screening observed that the casting of the key players was almost perfect.

Leonardo DiCaprio, in a performance that’s among his best, plays the title role and keeps Gatsby initially mysterious. Tobey Maguire is also a standout as Nick Carraway, the narrator of the book and movie, a callow Midwesterner who is awestruck by what he experiences in New York. Cary Mulligan captures Daisy Buchanan’s grace and charm, as well as some of her less savory qualities. Another impressive player is Joel Edgerton as the impetuous Tom Buchanan, who reveals all of his character’s anger and resentments. In a small role, Isla Fisher shines as Myrtle Wilson.

Trailers for Gatsby and Luhrman’s reputation for bombast may have set the bar high for those anticipating a loud and splashy, over-the-top production. Indeed, a couple of the parties at Gatsby’s mansion are mind-blowers. And the fireworks scene, accompanied by Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, is jaw-droppingly spectacular.

Luhrman loves the fast fly-in shots and so do I. (They’re like zoom-ins, but the feeling is of the camera’s moving.) His bookending the film with the black and white vintage look titles is clever, but not quite as clever as the titles sequences seen two months ago for Oz the Great and Powerful.

Those who hold Fitzgerald’s novel in high esteem will appreciate the filmmaker’s respect for Fitzgerald’s text. Those who rolled their eyes upon hearing that the movie would use contemporary music in its soundtrack will find that most of the selections work in harmony with the film’s events. Lana Del Rey’s Young and Beautiful is particularly memorable.

The Great Gatsby is a classic novel, one that’s taught at schools and colleges. Transferring such a tale to film is not easy. Painting a portrait of the characters that’s true to the printed work and including major plot elements requires a variety of skills. Those skills are evident here, particularly in the time management of the story.

My only qualms: I thought Gatsby’s home was substantially grander in the movie than I’d imagined from the book. Also, I pictured Gatsby to have a more weathered, rugged appearance than does DiCaprio, who looks fit and healthy.

It’s notable that The Great Gatsby is rated PG-13. Hats off to Luhrman for making a great movie without a single f-word. (High school English teachers, feel free to send your students to see The Great Gatsby without fear of getting yelled at by the school board.)

The Great Gatsby is solid, with few flaws. Enjoy the story, the characters, the settings, the cars, the wardrobes. Don’t miss it, old sport!

Arbitrage

Every character in “Arbitrage” has to make choices. Deciding between doing what’s right and doing what’s expedient is not always easy to do.

“Arbitrage” crams a lot of plot and a good number of characters into this two-hour movie. And, yes, many choices.

Richard Gere plays Robert Miller, a New York finance tycoon who makes big deals and big money. As he turns 60 and prepares to sell his company, things begin to spin apart. His biggest deal may collapse. His mistress is angry that he is missing her art show opening. Should he cut out from dinner with the buyer’s reps and attend to the mistress? Choices.

To make amends he takes her for a drive away from the city. He crashes the car and she dies. He runs away and calls an old friend to pick him up. Should Miller go to the cops and fess up or should he attempt to move on and avoid being connected to the accident? Choices.

Turns out his company’s books are cooked, too. Should those who are privy to the irregularities speak up or risk fraud charges? Choices.

Should his wife, played by Susan Sarandon, put up with his infidelity in order to share his wealth? Choices.

Should the old friend who gave him the ride deny involvement to avoid possible jail time? Choices.

Should the associate who lent Miller 400 million to cover certain losses be patient about getting repaid or should he turn evidence of fraud over to the feds? Choices.

Should a detective play by the rules or should he do whatever he needs, to be sure a judge and jury hear the truth. Choices.

More on the cast: Miller’s mistress is played by former Victoria’s Secret model Laetitia Casta. The man buying the company is played by longtime Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter. Tim Roth plays the detective investigating the accident. Attractive unknown Brit Marling plays Miller’s daughter and handles a couple of pivotal scenes well.

The lead role in this movie requires a strong performance and Gere delivers. As you make your own choices for grownup entertainment, “Arbitrage” is a good pick.