We’re midway through the 58th San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF), and we’ve got more spotlights for you! There’s still a week of films and events left to go, so it’s not too late to get in on the fun; the Festival closes May 7th. Tickets and more information can be found here, and keep checking Spinning Platters for more coverage. In the meantime, here are four more Festival titles to check out:
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
(USA, 2015, 104 min, Added Programs)
Mostly known for his TV work (Glee, American Horror Story), director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon was the darling of Sundance this January, deservedly winning both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award for this outstanding, off-beat picture based on the popular novel of the same name. Funny, sweet, and sad without being maudlin, Gomez’s film has all the classic quirky charm of a Sundance hit, combined with the refreshing honesty of the best recent coming of age films like The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Way Way Back. When awkward Greg (Thomas Mann) is forced by his Mom (Connie Britton) to befriend Rachel (Olivia Cooke), a classmate with leukemia, he and his best friend Earl (RJ Cyler) embark on a project to make a film for her (their movies are short, altered, and hilarious versions of classics; A Clockwork Orange become A Sockwork Orange, for example, filmed with sock puppets). With terrific supporting turns by Nick Offerman as Greg’s dad and Molly Shannon as Rachel’s mom, the entire cast is first-rate. Gomez has made 2015’s first absolute-must-see film. Don’t miss it.
- Will open widely on June 12th; check your local theater listings.
Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine
(USA, 2015, 127 min, Big Nights-Opening Night Film)
After examining the men from Enron, Lance Armstrong, and L. Ron Hubbard, documentarian Alex Gibney continues his exploration of hubris and power with this look at Apple founder Steve Jobs. A study in contradictions, Jobs seems like the perfect subject for a documentary. He was fascinated by Zen Buddhism, for example, but was often mercurial and arrogant professionally and personally (as one colleague says of Jobs, he had the focus of a monk, but none of the empathy). Gibney’s new film tries to understand these paradoxes, as well as to answer the question of why so many strangers mourned Jobs’s death. The results are mixed, however; as an engaging, informative history of the rise of Apple – with all its attendant problems and scandals – the picture succeeds, but as an examination of Jobs the man, it falls somewhat short. Gibney spends too much time inserting himself personally into the film, which ultimately proves distracting, and, by the film’s end, the picture feels more about Gibney and his issues than Jobs.
- Will open at Bay Area Landmark Cinemas on September 4th.
The New Girlfriend (Une Nouvelle Amie)
(France, 2014, 105 min, Marquee Presentations. In French with English subtitles)
French actor Romain Duris, probably best known to American audiences for starring in Cédric Klapisch’s Spanish Apartment trilogy, was nominated for a Cesar (the French equivalent of the Oscar) for his brilliant performance in French writer/director François Ozon’s utterly engaging new film. Duris plays David, a recently widowed young father, who, after his wife’s death, forms a close bond with her best friend, Claire (Anaïs Demoustier). The less said about the plot developments the better, but suffice to say the picture, based on a short story by British writer Ruth Rendell, is a bit like a French version of Tootsie, only without the farcical elements, and with more depth. Indeed, Ozon’s film unabashedly explores issues of sexuality and gender identity with truth, grace, and humor. Duris, Demoustier, and Raphaël Personnaz, as Claire’s husband Gilles, all give exceptionally realized performances in complex, often demanding roles. Another must-see for 2015.
- On the film festival circuit now; keep your eye out for a possible wide release date.
Time Out of Mind
(USA, 2014, 117 min, Awards & Special Events: Peter J. Owens Award)
A gritty, unflinching look at what it really means to be homeless, director Oren Moverman’s (The Messenger) new film is not easy to watch, but fans of naturalistic filmmaking may find it worth seeing. Cast against type, Richard Gere plays George, an alcoholic living on the streets of New York City. While overly long and often repetitive, the film benefits from interesting camera and sound work; we often see George in long shots, framed through a window or an alley, and the sounds of the City, including traffic and snippets of conversation, frequently take the forefront, as George fades into the background, unnoticed. Such a technique is effective at reminding us how the homeless can become invisible to a city’s residents. Moverman also shows us the vicious circle that is the bureaucracy of social services (George can’t get a social security card because he has no ID; he can’t get an ID because he has no social security card). In showing us these details of George’s struggles, Moverman helps us understand a difficult issue without being excessively preachy. Gere is fine, if a little one note, but supporting players Jena Malone, as George’s estranged daughter, and Ben Vereen, as a fellow shelter resident, fare better, giving strong, nuanced performances.
- Will open in limited nationwide release in September.