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"Nobel Son"

Directed by Randall Miller.
Written by Jody Savin and Randall Miller.
Starring Alan Rickman, Bryan Greenberg, Shawn Hatosy and Eliza Dushku.
Release Year:  2008
Review Date:  12/7/08


Meg and I strolled over to the local multiplex for a free showing of director Randall Miller's "Nobel Son", which had me at "hello" thanks to a summary that included "...featuring new music by The Chemical Brothers, Groove Armada, Spitfire...", meaning that it had all kinds of the dance music that I could get into.  Oh, and Alan Rickman was in it, so there's that.

The movie itself is hopped up on speed but for some reason I never really got into the story of a Nobel prize winner (Rickman) who is cheating on his wife (Mary Steenburgen, who appeared in the previous Miller wide release, "Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm School") while his underachieving son Barkley (Bryan Greenberg) is being kidnapped by a local crazy kid (Shawn Hatosy) who happens to like cutting thumbs off of his assault victims.  And, Barkley and the crazy kid are both into a local poel named City Hall (Eliza Dushku), who also happens to be crazy.

Edited by someone who clearly must work for MTV, "Nobel Son" is another new release where someone decided it was best to skip around on a consistent style, in order to keep me awake/engaged in what is happening onscreen.  Maybe I'm getting older, but I have no idea why films these days choose to wiggle and dazzle me into submission, but I'm getting tired of it.  Our two main screen time leads, Greenberg and Hatosy, aren't very good actors, and it shows, more often anytime their scenes immediately follow anything that Rickman is doing, who is once again engaging and--even though he is playing a complete bastard--playing a character worth rooting for, if anything to make sure he gets his by the end of the movie.  Even though it is often misplaced, I liked the individual song selections in each scene mainly because I like this kind of music.  Otherwise, I think it would be annoying, so I'm wondering how others would react to the soundtrack.  And, randomly, the film has a couple of violent-to-the-point-of-gruesome sequences, like the opening, where you watch a guy slowly get his hand cut apart.  For what models itself like a comedy/caper/thriller, this was strangely misplaced.

Later in the film, the kidnapping plot is turned on its ear, and in at least two cases--none bigger than an act that leads to the death of another main character--I mock raised my hands in my theater protesting how the fuck the film's writers/editors/script supervisors/"common sense" assistants came up with the logic behind how actions came to be.  Nonsensical behavior aside, the film skips steps in order to paint our characters as a particular shade, which left me disconnected with most of the characters save for Rickman.  I never really got engaged in Barkley (our lead), or any of his supporting a plot-driven film, this is not surprising, but I think there was room within this framework to develop the four or five main characters as more than single-note players in a comedy/thriller.

"Nobel Son" was strangely average to me.  It's served on a high, kinda tasty, never great, and even now, mostly forgotten soon after leaving a theater.  It will not advance the career of anyone involved, but it won't leave a mark on anyone's resume, either.  As another in a long line of "independent films" with a half-dozen major stars, I was surprised at how normal this movie was.  Randomly, even Ted Danson was in the movie, and it was weird how un-cameo-like his role kinda reminded me of Christian Slater's role in "3000 Miles to Graceland", where he showed up for a few minutes as a bad guy.  You were kinda like, "why did they hire Slater for a bit bad-guy part?"  Danson shows up in "Nobel Son" and you're like "why did they hire Danson for a four-line part as a university administrator?"  Ugh.

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09