Thursday, April 7, 2016
3 Thoughts on Midnight Special
1. Small stories vs big stories - Not only is Jeff Nichols now "3 for 3" with this movie (his two other films, Mud and Take Shelter, in which he wrote and directed, are both sublime), he's creating something special in terms of the types of films he's making. While all three movies are completely different in subject, they are similar in tone and scale. They are individualized stories, focused on developing character and building emotion, within a bigger worldview. It's taking the narcissism out of storytelling. Mud comes from the perspective of a child's view, but as audience members, we know that there is so much more information that is directly effecting the plot. Take Shelter focuses on this man, who from an outside perspective is failing at providing for his family, yet his focuses is on the bigger picture - its symbolism is a little more obvious, but it's still the same in terms of focusing on the individual within this gigantic universe. Midnight Special is even more extreme in its universal scale, but again the focus is on one family, and more specifically one man's relationship with his son. It's beautiful, even when it turns ugly, and it's complicated, even when it seems easy.
2. Michael Shannon and Adam Driver - Michael Shannon is something special. This collaboration with Nichols is even more special (he's been in all three films, although his appearance in Mud is comparatively tiny). It's rare to find an actor who has a large screen presence, but also shines in his ability to be subtle and introspective. Going into this movie, I knew very little about it, and was only aware of Shannon as the star. I was pleasantly surprised by Kirsten Dunst (who has my newfound respect after Melancholia, and more recently her stunning performance in season two of Fargo). Also for Joel Edgerton who had probably my favorite role as the loyal friend, he has no idea what is happening, only that he is part of something bigger than he can ever imagine. Then, fucking Adam Driver shows up and my eyes almost bugged out of my head (I internally screamed "NOOOOOO" the moment I saw his face). He is one of the worst current working actors today. I know he has a big fan base, and I haven't seen the new Star Wars movie yet, but I've seen him in plenty (the first season of Girls, This is Where I Leave You, While We're Young) and I've tried so hard to see what others see, but I just don't. Luckily, this is the first time, I didn't hate him. When the movie was over, I thought, "ok, I still don't like him, but at least he didn't ruin the movie for me". However, I got home and started reading some reviews of the film, and a few people described Driver as the new Jeff Goldblum, and it blew my mind, as the most perfect description. And I LOVE me some Jeff Goldblum, and I love him because he's odd, nuanced, and deliciously awkward. I'm not entirely convinced that Driver is as talented (he needs to work on timing, which is something Goldblum has perfected), but this comparison opens up my mind to the endless possibilities of Driver's career.
3. The ending *spoilers, obviously* - If you've seen Take Shelter, you can guess how this movie will end. Nichols does not shy away from following through with "unrealistic" possibilities. So, the entire movie builds up the fact that this child could possibly be an alien (no other scientific realities are even offered), or, as the cult believes, a God. For a story that is based in our reality, neither is "believable" and yet, the ending, is perfect. It's a jarring spectacle, but that's what makes it so special. The best part is that this is the fourth 2016 movie that I've seen in a row, in which I would be surprised if it didn't make my Top 10 of the year! This year is starting off spectacularly.