Saturday, February 16, 2019

Everybody Knows

I have not, historically, been one to complain about film runtimes - what am I going to do with another fifteen minutes that's better than watching a movie?, right - but this thing is 132 minutes long, and even if it handles that length pretty well, that's kind of a heck of a thing to be confronted with at the theater when you arrive just too late to make the 7pm show. Heck, last show of the day is at 10:15 - tack on twenty minutes of previews, and I can't help but wonder, is this really something worth staying up for until after the MBTA stops running? I honestly almost course-corrected to Isn't It Romantic, which is 88 minutes long.

Nevertheless, it was probably the right movie to see last night; I wasn't really in the mood for silly. It's kind of a pre-fab art house movie - foreign stars the audience nevertheless recognizes, rustic European locations, murkiness that makes one feel like they're seeing something more sophisticated than mainstream fare but seldom steps all the way into real darkness. I mock movies like that on occasion, especially when they seem like all there is on offer outside the blockbusters at the expense of something really interesting and new, but they can be done well. This isn't a bad movie at all, just not actually better than a pulpier take on the same material could have been.

Todos lo saben (Everybody Knows)

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 15 February 2019 in AMC Boston Common #15 (first-run, DCP)

Right about halfway through Everybody Knows, I had a horrible thought - what if this is one of those art-house thrillers where we just tread water for a couple hours, nothing is resolved, and the audience is expected to nod appreciatively at the truth of how nobody can ever really know anything for sure? Those films may not be bad by definition, but they can be rote and deflating unless there's something more interesting than the crime itself exposed. This film is not quite that sort of thing, but it's not far off.

It starts out enjoyably enough, with Laura (Penélope Cruz) returning to her hometown in Spain for the first time in a few years for the wedding of her sister Ana (Inma Cuesta), bringing teenage daughter Irene (Carla Campra) and adorable moppet Diego (Iván Chavero) while husband Alejandro (Ricardo Darín) is stuck in Argentina on something work-related. It's a big, fun event, including not just family but Paco (Javier Bardem), her best friend since childhood and his wife Bea (Bárbara Lennie). It's eventful enough that nobody thinks much of it when the boisterous Irene starts to drag relatively early, but when Laura goes to check on her kids later, Irene is missing and clippings from newspaper articles about an abduction a few years back on on her bed. Texts warning not to call the police soon follow, and by the next morning, everybody is well on their way to looking with suspicion at the troublemaking teens in Bea's class, the migrant workers at Paco's winery, the way Laura's father has made enemies all over town, and how Alejandro is maybe not quite so successful as folks in town think.

Looking at this film's running time, one might think that it's got a somewhat leisurely pace for a thriller, but a lot of that comes from a first act of getting to know everybody that is actually quite charming; writer/director Asghar Farhadi captures the feeling of going to a wedding and not really knowing a fair chunk of people there, quickly catching up with others around the actual purpose, cousins falling in together despite not seeing each other in years, etc. It's a fine introduction to Irene as well, establishing her as reckless but sweet and enough of a wild card to make the minutes after her disappearance feel like they could go in a lot of directions Farhadi hints at the fractures that will show up later but gets the audience to enjoy it, getting through a lot of prep with a smile on its collective face.

Full review at EFilmCritic

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