Palatable: In Like Flint

In Like Flint (1967)
Directed by Gordon Douglas, Robert ‘Buzz’ Henry, James Coburn
Written by Hal Fimberg
Produced by Saul David, Martin Fink
Starring James Coburn, Lee J. Cobb, Jean Hale, Andrew Duggan, Steve Ihnat, Anna Lee, Hanna Landy, Totty Ames, Thomas Hasson, Yvonne Craig, Mary Michael, Diane Bond, Jacqueline Ray, Herb Edelman, Robert ‘Buzz’ Henry, Henry Wills, Mary Meade
Never one to squander singular success, David sped this sequel to Our Man Flint into production to extend his property’s lucre a year later, penned again by Fimberg with the same gratifying balance of action and comedy. Ruggedly rangy Coburn returns as enlightened, polymathic, coolly charismatic superspy Derek Flint, who braves federal soldiers, KGB agents, hostile environments and gorgeous ladies at a security complex of intelligence agency ZOWIE, on rooftops in Moscow, amid the rampant forestry and cascades of the Virgin Islands, in a cryogenic chamber, and aboard a space capsule in sublunary orbit to oppose a nefarious general (Ihnat), his presidential impostor (Duggan) and a cabal of distaff industrialists (Hale, Lee, Landy, Ames) plotting an artistic agendum to effectuate global female supremacy. One-liners, sight gags and gadgetry galore make this spy spoof a pinch more risible than its predecessor, dryly played with prowess by a game cast, and especially toothily indefatigable Coburn and Cobb as ZOWIE‘s defamed, bumblingly lovable chief. Directorial journeyman Douglas helmed this affair with deft disinterest; consequentially, Coburn and co-star/second unit director/stunt arranger/stuntman ‘Buzz’ Henry directed and performed plenty of its most exciting shots. This movie fits the bill for purely amusing adventure, but sends up institutional rigidity, women’s liberation and the Cold War with far more dash and wit than that observed in most cinematic satires. Third- and fourth-wave feminists are likely to loathe Flint and his second outing without grasping that Fimberg was poking fun at both sides in their endless war of the sexes.

Recommended for a double feature paired with Our Man Flint, Casino Royale or Batman: The Movie.

Palatable: Batman: The Movie

Batman: The Movie (1966)
Directed by Leslie H. Martinson
Written by Lorenzo Semple Jr.
Produced by William Dozier, Charles B. Fitzsimons
Starring Adam West, Burt Ward, Lee Meriwether, Burgess Meredith, Cesar Romero, Frank Gorshin, Alan Napier, Neil Hamilton, Stafford Repp, Reginald Denny
Holy collusion! When the Penguin (Meredith), Joker (Romero), Catwoman (Meriwether) and Riddler (Gorshin) assay to abduct nine delegates of an international security council and eliminate Batman (West) and Robin (Ward) with a weaponized dehydrator that reduces its targets to colored dust, the dynamic duo investigate and confront those four flamboyantly fiendish felons with their arsenal of chiropterously-themed weapons, vehicles, gizmos and solutions for every eventuality! Effectively an extended, widescreen episode of the gaudily deadpan, televised farce, this theatrical feature’s dotted by Semple with an argosy of his eccentricities: sight gags, cockamamie contraptions and punch lines integral to its plot; amusingly aimless extravagances; historical and literary references; fulsome fracases; abundant adnomination. Halting West and squawking Meredith are parceled and optimize his funniest dialogue, but all of these wry heroes and manic rogues make every minute hilarious. In routine conformity to the series’ style, Martinson frames the scoundrels exclusively in Dutch angles at their hideout, but reserves those exclamatorily onomatopoeic captions for a climactic melee upon a spheniscine submarine. Fans of the series have naturally seen this; anyone else partial to high camp is sure to adore it.

Recommended for a double feature paired with Superman III or The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension.

Palatable: The Manhattan Project

The Manhattan Project (1986)
Directed by Marshall Brickman
Written by Marshall Brickman, Thomas Baum
Produced by Marshall Brickman, Jennifer Ogden, Bruce McNall, Roger Paradiso
Starring Christopher Collet, John Lithgow, Jill Eikenberry, Cynthia Nixon, John Mahoney, Abraham Unger, JD Cullum, Manny Jacobs, Charles Fields, Eric Hsiao, Robert Sean Leonard, David Quinn, Geoffrey Nauffts, Trey Cummins, Fred Melamed

“When the bomb is detonated in the middle of a city, it is as though a small piece of the sun has been instantly created.”

–Philip Morrison, 1945.12.6

Some opportunities are more obvious than others, swelled as their salience seems for pique, pressure and perspective. An upcoming annual science fair in his native New York and the courtship of his mother (Eikenberry) by a nuclear physicist (Lithgow) inspire a mischievous teen genius (Collet) to pilfer particularly potent plutonium from a newly-erected laboratory where the elder egghead’s employed as a supervisor. Late in the Cold War, what could be a more relevant and impressive project than a personal nuclear bomb? Woody Allen’s most conventionally inventive collaborator bravely bares both his flair and failings in this underrated science fiction, which compulsively supposes a potentially explosive confluence of adolescent recklessness and the intellectual allure of dangerous technologies. Brickman’s direction and script are equally fine, farced with witty dialogue and a satisfying romance between Collet’s whiz kid and his co-conspirator/emergent girlfriend (Nixon). Withal, a couple of Brickman’s and Baum’s best scenes are all but speechless, such as their protagonist’s infiltration of the laboratory and abstraction of radioactive specks suspended in gelled scintillant therein, executed with two Frisbees, an RC toy truck, and a catoptric array emplaced to direct the facility’s powerful laser beam. His bomb’s construction during a mandatory montage is fascinating enough to overcome the implausibility of its safety, and with quips and action aplenty, these proceedings are swiftly paced and tonally balanced. When a joint team of federal agents and military officials led by a suspicious Lieutenant Colonel (Mahoney) investigate Collet’s homemade doomsday device, that playful parity of humor and suspense is sustained surprisingly well to a slightly sloppy but charming conclusion. The main theme of Philippe Sarde’s jaunty score is derived equally from his autoplagiarized love theme in Le Choc and The First Noel, and subjected to numerous, cleverly melodic variations. For none of its few flaws did this ambitious feature deserve its critical and commercial failure.

Recommended for a double feature paired with WarGames.

Palatable: Shallow Grave

Shallow Grave (1994)
Directed by Danny Boyle
Written by John Hodge
Produced by Andrew Macdonald, Allan Scott
Starring Ewan McGregor, Kerry Fox, Christopher Eccleston, Ken Stott, Keith Allen, Colin McCredie, Peter Mullan, Leonard O’Malley

“Greed is in: guilt is out.”

–Anonymous, 1987

Applicants of Edinburgh seeking a room let in the ample apartment shared by a journalist (McGregor), a doctor (Fox) and an accountant (Eccleston) are by them subjected to a battery of jocose harassment and irritating interrogation, until a unflappably affable, purported novelist (Allen) impresses them with his sangfroid and a thick wad of bills for deposit and lodging. He perishes not a fortnight into his stay from heroin habituated, leaving his flatmates his corpse, a suitcase packed with cash, and their concomitant millstones: mounting anxiety, an inquirendo conducted by a sardonically subtle detective (Stott), and an eventual visit from a pair of truculent thugs (Mullan, O’Malley) who wouldn’t think to let a few murders come between them and a small, stolen fortune. Still at the crown of their careers — and superior to the wildly overrated Trainspotting — Boyle’s and Hodge’s sharp, spare first feature was smoothly scripted and shot on a small budget to a deservedly warm reception. Pans at every common focal length and a modicum of gimmicky shots are as fun as raillery between the protagonal buddies before and after their relations sour, without ever diverting from terrific performances that propel every scene. One can’t readily imagine anyone better suited severally to play this flick’s queasy creep or obnoxious charmer than Eccleston and McGregor, and Allen quietly steals his few scenes, especially in discourse with Fox, who masterfully balances bitchy jest with glimpses of an underhand frigidity. Unfailingly funny and suspenseful, this umpteenth version of Chaucer’s The Pardoner’s Tale instances how avariciousness and paranoia among some depredates friendships and lives alike.

Palatable: The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser

The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (A.K.A. Every Man for Himself and God Against All) (1974)
Directed by Werner Herzog
Written by Werner Herzog, Jakob Wassermann
Produced by Werner Herzog
Starring Bruno Schleinstein, Walter Ladengast, Michael Kroecher, Brigitte Mira, Enno Patalas, Hans Musäus, Gloria Doer, Volker Prechtel, Volker Elis Pilgrim, Clemens Scheitz, Henry van Lyck, Willy Semmelrogge

“[W]e shall never succeed entirely in extirpating from the heart of man this original credulity which is a principle of his nature, a radical condition of his existence, so much so that we could consider it a characteristic of the human species, and say: credulity is one of the attributes that distinguishes Man from the animals.”

–Dr. Benjamin Verdo, Charlatanry and Charlatans in Medicine: A Psychological Study, 1867

Whoever would now imagine him the princely foundling, victimized naif, tortured wunderkind against crushing odds would’ve surely been as gulled by the mysterious teenager as so many in Nuremberg were for five years in the early 19th century, after he arrived suddenly to fascinate its locals, then deplete the charity of his several benefactors. Picayune, pretentiously paranoid persona, schizoid scammer, querulent, mythomaniac, pampered brat all probably described him accurately, yet this assessment is tangential to his characterization in the dreamily, alternately soothingly and shakingly speculative fairy tale that Herzog educed from the storied oddball’s pseudobiographic lies. Here, Hauser’s lifelong confinement in a cellar is concluded when a gruff stranger (Musäus) frees him, teaches him how to walk, leads him to Nuremberg, and abandons him. The inelegant innocent is housed first by one of his jailers (Prechtel), then by a kindly schoolmaster and philosopher (Ladengast) after a stint in an exploitative circus’s sideshow. Thenceforth he strives to read, write, play music and comprehend the worlds within and beyond him, succored by his caretaker, local clergy (Patalas, Pilgrim), and a milord (Kroecher) whose custody of him is prompted by the intrigue that his charge inspires among townsfolk and high society alike, and which ends when his inscrutably bizarre behavior and provocatively peculiar perspectives embarrass his patron. As genteel characters, the entire supporting cast are fine foils for goggling Schleinstein, whose droll, piteous, exceptional creation of the frustrated aberrant conveys arduous articulation by his haltingly intense delivery. His age was well over twice Hauser’s, but the autodidactic musician and painter proved a strikingly suitable lead, perhaps because the many ordeals that he suffered in his much longer life so often paralleled those that Hauser likely fabricated, fictionalized by Herzog in his discerningly, interchangeably intimate and observational style. Beautifully crafted and replete with allusions and auguries, never does this fiction moot nearly everyone’s first, forever unanswered question: who was he?

Recommended for a double feature paired with The Marquise of O.

Palatable: Escorts

Escorts (A.K.A. High Class Call Girls)
Directed by Dan Reed
Produced by Dan Reed, Tom Costello
Starring Emily Banfield, Cookie Jane
No realm of commerce has been unaffected by online interaction; for the obsolescence of pimps and madams, and its suppled transactional dynamics, prostitution is no exception. Two tart trulls (Banfield, Jane) residing together with their cute dogs in one of London’s richest districts command considerable compensation from a carefully selected clientele as fond of their personable ribaldry as their artificially augmented anatomy and lineaments. Obnoxiously likable and oversexed, they could be easily misappraised as mere dingbats, but their entrepreneurial acumen and ambitions would belie such a facile estimation. These cocottes receive trustworthy tricks, only accept cash, and leave very little to chance. Banfield narrates a crucial, collapsed relationship and addiction to cocaine spanning from her late teens through her mid-twenties, whence she rebounded into the relative comfort and security of pornographic and meretricious careers, while Jane’s metier apparently attends her insatiable libido and aversion to conventionally respectable labor. Interviews with the latter bawd’s parents disbosom their discomfort with their daughter’s chosen profession, as well as a contrast between that quiet desperation of Albion’s past and graying generations, and the histrionic, often hysterical effusions that have come to typify the urban British ethos over the past forty years. Some scenes are instructive for the uninitiated, depicting online discourse between the trollops and their potential and frequent customers, or a house call when they’re administered injections of Botox. As Jane launches her own online agency whereby her circle of escorts can negotiate libidinous encounters, Banfield saves and seeks a permanent partner as her career winds down. Despite Chad Hobson’s largely direful music, Reed’s strictly observational portrait of these cyprians is usually as amusing as its subjects. It also instantiates how molls and johns alike are mutually exploited in their engagements, and explodes the delusion advanced by some feminists that empowerment neutralizes exploitation; here, technology manifestly conduces a harlot’s market of which exploitation’s immanent.

Palatable: The Acid House

The Acid House (1998)
Directed by Paul McGuigan
Written by Irvine Welsh
Produced by David Muir, Alex Usborne, Carolynne Sinclair Kidd, Colin Pons
Starring Stephen McCole, Maurice Roëves, Alex Howden, Annie Louise Ross, Garry Sweeney, Jenny McCrindle, John Gardner, Stewart Preston, Simon Weir; Kevin McKidd, Michelle Gomez, Gary McCormack, Tam Dean Burn; Ewen Bremner, Arlene Cockburn, Martin Clunes, Jemma Redgrave
Perhaps because he scripted this raunchy, riotous, revolting adaptation of three among twenty-two stories from his eponymous anthology, it’s likely the best picture based on Welsh’s fiction. During his life’s last, worst day, a footballing loser (McCole) is cut from his carousing league, by his deviant dad (Howden) dislodged, nubile girlfriend (McCrindle) jilted, manager (Preston) axed and a police sergeant (Gardner) brutalized, then confronted in a pub by cantankerous God (Roëves), who transmogrifies the swilling dud in disgust for his shortfall of ambition. Newly mutated, the bitter flop of The Granton Star Cause exacts petty vengeance with newfound stealth, but not with impunity. If he wasn’t such A Soft Touch, a gutless, married father (McKidd) wouldn’t suffer repeated humiliations by his slatternly wife (Gomez), or the loutish, lascivious lunatic (McCormack) with whom she’s clamantly cuckolding him, whose varied, parasitic impingements aren’t possible without a perfect poltroon. A tab of potent LSD and bolts of lightning swap the minds of a doltish football hooligan (Bremner) and a hideous, vinyl neonate at the moment of exchange born to an insufferable, upscale married couple (Clunes, Redgrave). Reveling in this supernatural infantilization, his devoted girlfriend (Cockburn) designs to remold him into a better person, but a casual encounter between the commuted clods intervenes in The Acid House. Consistently comical and leavened with psychedelic fantasy, this felicifically foul time capsule from Scotland’s late ’90s dramatizes Welsh’s navel-gazing prime with fine, funny, filthy performances against squalid locations in Glasgow and Edinburgh, and good musical selections by The Pastels, Glen Campbell, The Chemical Brothers, Nick Cave, The Verve, etc. Viewers unaccustomed to nearly unintelligible Glaswegian accents will need subtitles.

Recommended for a double feature paired with Trainspotting.

Palatable: The Party

The Party (1968)
Directed by Blake Edwards
Written by Blake Edwards, Tom Waldman, Frank Waldman
Produced by Blake Edwards, Ken Wales, Walter Mirisch
Starring Peter Sellers, Claudine Longet, Gavin MacLeod, J. Edward McKinley, Denny Miller, Steve Franken, Fay McKenzie, Kathe Green, Allen Jung, Danielle De Metz, Linda Gaye Scott, Herbert Ellis, Sharron Kimberly, Frances Davis, Timothy Scott, Jean Carson
Tati meets the Marx Brothers meets Mad Magazine, then bombs after its opening night, which concurred with Martin Luther King’s assassination! Between Pink Panthers, Edwards and Sellers contrived this experimental extravaganza starring the comic genius in brownface as a cordial, calamitously clumsy Indian actor inadvertently invited to a soiree at the swankily hideous mansion of a studio executive (McKinley) whose war epic he’s accidentally wrecked, where he repeatedly makes an ass of himself and a shambles of nearly everything he touches. Goofy revelry and mishaps ensue his encounters with the stuffy harbinger and his wife (McKenzie), a progressively drunken cater waiter (Franken), one friendly, French actress (Longet) accompanying a lecherous producer (MacLeod), a raucous star of Westerns (Miller) flirting with a juicy Italian actress (De Metz), and a painted elephant adopted by the hosts’ sprightly daughter (Green), whose clamorous coterie further enlivens the party, as does a jazz band and a rumbustious, Russian ballet troupe. In wide static shots and drifting pans, slapstick stupidities partially improvised from Edwards’ and the Waldmans’ skeletal screenplay bump, bumble, stagger, stumble and crash in plotless luxury, as the gentle, inelegant Hindu and deliberately disorderly guests carouse with rising ruction to a riotously, redundantly sudsy culmination. Sensible viewers can safely ignore ludicrous leftists who liken Sellers’ silly yet sensitive creation of his lovably mansuete goofball to minstrel shows. A victim of critical misevaluation and unfortunate coincidence, this commercial washout deserves reappraisal as a tarnished comedic gem of late Old Hollywood and Edwards’ and Sellers’ most daring collaboration, shot observationally with understated craft on a stupendous set populated by character actors who don’t miss a beat. For such quality, and its commentary on the predatory predispositions of Tinseltown’s loathsome elites and the culture shock that redounds to half of its protagonists’ follies, this farce is a few cuts above.

Recommended for a double feature paired with A Shot in the Dark or Playtime.

Palatable: The Founder

The Founder (2017)
Directed by John Lee Hancock
Written by Robert Siegel
Produced by Jeremy Renner, Don Handfield, Aaron Ryder, Michael Sledd, Parry Creedon, Glen Basner, Holly Brown, Alison Cohen, David Glasser, David S. Greathouse, William D. Johnson, Christos V. Konstantakopoulos, Karen Lunder, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein
Starring Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch, B.J. Novak, Laura Dern, Linda Cardellini, Kate Kneeland, Patrick Wilson, Justin Randell Brooke, Griff Furst, Wilbur Fitzgerald, David de Vries, Andrew Benator, Cara Mantella

“The definition of salesmanship is the gentle art of letting the customer have it your way.”

–Ray Kroc

In his own words: “I was 52 years old. I had diabetes and incipient arthritis. I had lost my gall bladder and most of my thyroid gland in earlier campaigns, but I was convinced the best was ahead of me.” In the mid-’50s, aging salesman Ray Kroc (Keaton) itinerated interstate, struggling with sporadic success to peddle Prince Castle’s deluxe milkshake mixers to proprietors of drive-ins, whose sloppy refections and shoddy service courtesy of pretty, rollerskating carhops were insults added to every unsold injury. To satisfy a seemingly impossible order for eight such units in San Bernardino, he happened upon a modern miracle of a little eatery that prepared for lengthy queues cheap, savory, instantaneously prepared burgers, French fries and milkshakes by skilled, sanguine, sanitary staff indoors. A tour of this facility by its owners, designers and managers, Richard (Offerman) and Maurice (Lynch) McDonald, fascinates Kroc, as does their alacritous account over dinner of their career in the food service industry: thirty years of presentational and logistical trial and error developed with Mac’s procedural and mechanical inventions, Dick’s showmanship and their shared, reductive intent to eliminate troublesome conventions that resulted in a sedulously subtilized system that optimized both quality of service and product, and a quantity sufficient to satisfy every customer. The loquacious pitchman’s consequently obsessed with a vision to franchise this local invention of fast food; after selling himself and their own business recontextualized as a boldly branded national chain to the circumspect siblings, he contracts with them as a franchiser to succeed where they failed to maintain the cibarious homogeneity and competence of extraneous outlets. Forays into new markets prove remunerative, but frustrating for that recurrent qualitative slide and their menus’ regional drift, so the energetic Kroc replaces their managers with hungry, capable employees with whom he identifies, such as a hawker of Bibles (Benator) and a veteran of the Korean War (Franco Castan) who sells vacuum cleaners door to door. Despite his booming eastward growth, burgeoning eminence and obligation of his mortgaged house for capital, Kroc finds himself at a midwestern impasse and knee-deep in arrears for a deficit of revenue imputable to the restrictions of his contract, but a fortuitous encounter with financier Harry J. Sonneborn (Novak) introduces him to his shrewdest business partner, who convinces him to preveniently purchase prospective plots of his outlets and lease them to his franchisees via a corporation, to which he’s eventually appointed by Kroc as its first president and CEO. By virtue of this M.O., the franchise’s profits and expansion magnified twentyfold, but Kroc’s failing marriage to his neglected wife (Dern), invited designs on the spouse (Cardellini) of a successful restaurateur and multiple franchisee (Wilson) and loggerheads with the brothers McDonald reveal the chatty oligopolist’s amoral avaritia for limitless commerce.
Its intricate period detail and perfectly picked players sell Hancock’s congenially conventional biopic, which is faithful enough to substantially portray a personage who’s as much its antagonist as protagonist. Ever-squirrely Keaton mimics with slight amplification Kroc’s accent and mannerisms, enacting the roguish devil with fidelity to his characteristic brio and glimpses of his elusive sensitivity. Everyone else serves as his foil with buttoned-down bearings true to this staid era. Warhorses of many quirkily mundane roles, Offerman and Lynch look and feel genuine as the ingenuously principled craftsmen who pioneered the revolutionary model arrogated by their franchiser, and Novak’s icily mesmerizing as Sonneborn. Most fictive and biographic features are muddled by exposition and cutbacks, but thanks to Siegel’s accessible dialogue, Hancock’s demonstrative composition and Robert Frazen’s measured editing, these are the picture’s highlights: at a tennis court, Dick and Mac train their staff and gradually devise an ideal layout for their restaurant’s production line with chalked, commensurate diagrams; Sonneborn enkindles in the audience a glimmer of the same excitement and relief that Kroc must’ve felt when elaborating on the potential of the chain’s most significant single strategy; Kroc petitions synagogues, Shriners’ Halls and Masonic Lodges for investment with an exhaustively rehearsed sales talk eulogizing familial values. Siegel’s script often deviates from accuracy for dramatic purposes: neither was Kroc’s divorce from his first wife so suddenly announced, nor his feuds with the McDonalds quite so wroth, and Cardellini seems sexier behind a piano than an organ when she first entrances her future husband. Ultimately, both Kroc and the McDonalds personify phases of postwar prosperity — the former is an avatar of the tenacity and ambition that advanced the United States’ extraordinary industries in the twentieth century, and the latter typical of so many innovators whose creations facilitated it. Bombs are still as American as apple pie.

Recommended for a double feature paired with Sometimes a Great Notion.

Palatable: Faults

Faults (2014)
Directed and written by Riley Stearns
Produced by Keith Calder, Jessica Calder, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Roxanne Benjamin, Chris Harding, Brian Joe
Starring Leland Orser, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Chris Ellis, Beth Grant, Jon Gries, Lance Reddick
Few are so vulnerable or amenable than during a forlorn nadir, as that suffered by a disgraced expert (Orser) of cultic phenomena posterior to his career’s collapse: divorced, indebted, indigent, homeless and sleeping as often as not in his godforsaken AMC Pacer, the whilom celebrity hawks a piffling hardback feebly redolent of his prior bestseller when hosting lectures of waning attendance worsened by his peckishly petty personality. After one such seminar, an aging suburban couple (Ellis, Grant) approach him to abduct, sequestrate and deprogram their daughter, an ardent cultist (Winstead). What first seems an opportunity to reverse his fortunes by settling a debt to his brutish, onetime manager (Gries) spirals suddenly into an uncontrollable nightmare: the infamous doctor’s quietly beguiled as much by the resolve and allure of his kidnapped patient as her faith’s intrigue, while her father’s aggression intimates a paternal impropriety, destabilizing their apparent progress no less than a series of mystifying occurrences, all compounded by the pressuring presence of his creditor’s dire, dapper deputy (Reddick), who duns the bedeviled psychotherapist with veiled threats. Optimally static shots and slow zooms constitute most of Stearns’ first feature, which prepossesses at a leisurely pace wherein scarcely a penetrating, amusing or disconcerting moment’s wasted. Orser’s a seasoned character actor who deserves a lead now and again, and creates his shrewd, shallow, ruined pop psychologist at the brink of caricature, but pulls back for glimpses of insight and affirmations of his frailties and humanity. His exchanges with Winstead are as perfectly played as sharply scripted; clinician and subject gradually interchange, she leading by expounding her metaphysical convictions and aspirations, and emitting a sex appeal nearly imperceptible for its nicety. Most of the supporting players are as colorfully outstanding as costumes, sets and cars selected to lend this microproduction a fashion evocative of the early ’80s. Gries is especially memorable as the creepily effeminate professional photographer of domestic portraits, whose squeaky-clean idiolect, replete with minced oaths, contrasts with his violent temperament. A cameo whereby A.J. Bowen uncharacteristically overplays an aggrieved relative who confronts Orser’s fallen specialist at one of his pissant events should’ve been reshot entirely, and some humor during the picture’s first fifteen minutes falls flat. Otherwise, the Texan photographer turned filmmaker adroitly juggles comedy and drama with dashes of arcana all scrupulously shot, and tautly cut by one Sarah Beth Shapiro. Ironically, Stearns lost his leading ladylove to the Anglosphere’s greatest cult after Winstead divorced him in starkly hypergamous favor of a dimwitted, Scottish leading man, with whom she stridently signals her virtue to promote horrendous independent and studio productions to which she’s now committed. That’s a subject for another review or twelve; this penultimate picture in which her histrionic potential was tapped after transitioning to serious roles suggests what might’ve been, and potently portrays how privation of wealth, society and self-respect lays the mind supine to suggestion.