Plight Of Homeless Highlighted In Bittersweet Romance Drama
It’s probably a hard-sell when you choose to make any film, let alone a romance, revolving around the homeless. After all, in real life, most of us avoid interacting with them at all costs.
Sure, if cornered, we might give them the loose change in our pockets. But if we’re being honest, that charitable gesture is generally employed as a way of ignoring rather than engaging a beggar in a meaningful way.
Nevertheless, with Shelter, actor-turned-writer/director Paul Bettany (Avengers: Age Of Ultron) has opted to shed light on the plight of the least of our brethren. Bettany was ostensibly inspired by a couple who lived outside his and wife Jennifer Connelly’s building in New York City.
The compelling, character-driven drama co-stars Oscar winner Connelly (for A Beautiful Mind) and Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker), a versatile Juilliard-trained thespian perhaps best known for his work as the superhero Falcon in the Marvel Cinematic Universe series. Here, the pair play Hanna and Tahir, street people struggling to survive unseen in the shadows of Brooklyn.
Each is down-and-out as the result of a terrible turn of events. Hanna is a widow who developed a heroin habit in the wake of the death of her husband serving in Iraq. And Tahir is an African immigrant desperate for sanctuary in the U.S. who overstayed his visa to escape the violence back in his homeland.
As the film unfolds, the two are complete strangers. Their paths cross in Brooklyn where a friendship is forged based as much on a grudging on trust as on the urgent, mutual need for safety, food and shelter.
Meanwhile, they also find the time to exchange life stories, leaning on each other’s shoulders for the empathy they could never hope to get from a world that no longer cares. Eventually, love blossoms, and together they hatch a plan to rejoin respectable society together.
It would be unfair to spoil further any of the details of this poignant portrait painting a plausible picture of where any of us might be, but for fortune. While it’s no surprise that Connelly and Mackie might turn in powerful performances, a salute is also in order for Bettany for an impressive, timely and daring directorial debut guaranteed to shake you out of your comfort zone.
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 105 minutes
The Man In 3B
One Unit / Flavor Unit Entertainment
Rated R for profanity and sexuality
Suspects Abound In Inner-City Whodunit
It doesn’t take long for Darryl Graham (Lamman Rucker) to start rubbing people the wrong way after he returns to his ‘hood in a rough section of South Jamaica, Queens. First, a miserably-married neighbor in his apartment building falls in love with him at first sight.
Trouble is, Connie’s (Brely Evans) hypocritical husband is very possessive despite the fact that he’s cheating on her. So, Avery (Anthony Montgomery) exhibits a jealous streak as soon as he catches wind of his wife’s keeping time with Darryl and crying on the brother’s broad shoulders.
Another tenant who develops a crush on the handsome hunk is Benny (Robert Ri’chard). However, he’s deep in the closet and only propositions Darryl after mistaking him as gay. After being rejected, Benny feels so humiliated and worried about being outed, that he’s overheard issuing a death threat by nosy Ms. Mamie (Marla Gibbs), an elderly eavesdropper who lives in 3A.
Meanwhile, Darryl’s being back in town has his ex Krystal (Nafessa Williams) thinking about getting back together, although she’s already in a committed relationship. And Daryl makes enemies with some rough dudes on the street after coming to the aid of Benny.
All of the above means that the detectives assigned to the case (Kellita Smith and D.B. Woodside) have a lot of suspects to interrogate when Darryl perishes in a fire that guts his new flat. The ensuing search for the arsonist responsible is the puzzle at the heart of The Man In 3B, an inner-city whodunit directed by Trey Haley (Perfect Combination).
The movie is based on a best seller by Carl Weber, who adapted the novel to the screen himself. Unfortunately, in an apparent attempt to remain faithful to the source material, the production is cluttered with too many characters to fully develop. As a result, the picture feels like an overplotted soap opera, since most of the players are simplistically-drawn archetypes with little to do besides establishing their motives for murder.
On the positive side, Haley has recruited an impressive cast which includes everyone from the legendary heartthrob Billy Dee Williams to the much beloved Marla Gibbs, best remembered as Florence, the sassy maid on The Jeffersons. Another plus is that the cleverly concealed solution to the crime is definitely difficult for the audience to figure out.
A multi-layered mystery where just about everybody but the butler proves to be a prime suspect.
Good (2 stars)
Running time: 93 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening November 13, 2015
The 33 (PG-13 for profanity and a disaster sequence) Fact-based docudrama recounting the 2010 collapse of a Chilean mine which left 33 men trapped underground for 69 days. Ensemble cast includes Antonio Banderas, Lou Diamond Phillips, James Brolin, Juliette Binoche and Gabriel Byrne. (In English and Spanish with subtitles)
By The Sea (R for nudity, profanity and graphic sexuality) Romance drama, set in the South of France in the ’70s, revolving around a writer (Brad Pitt) and a retired dancer (Angelina Jolie) who try to revitalize their flagging marriage while vacationing in a quaint village located along the coast. With Melanie Laurent, Niels Arestrup and Sarah Naudi. (In English and French with subtitles)
Love The Coopers (PG-13 for profanity, sexuality and mature themes) Holiday comedy, set in Pittsburgh, about the hijinks which unfold when several generations of a dysfunctional family convene for their annual Christmas gathering. Co-starring Olivia Wilde, Amanda Seyfried, Anthony Mackie, Diane Keaton, John Goodman, Ed Helms and Marisa Tomei
My All American (PG for mature themes, mild epithets and brief partial nudity) Bittersweet biopic about Freddie Steinmark (Finn Wittrock), the college football great diagnosed with cancer a couple days after leading the University of Texas to the 1969 NCAA National Championship. With Aaron Eckhart, Sarah Bolger and Robin Tunney.
All Rise (Unrated) Legal argument documentary following the fortunes of seven law students from seven different countries (Palestine, Israel, Uganda, Jamaica, Russia, India and Singapore) as they compete in the world’s largest moot court competition staged in Washington, DC.
Casa Grande (Unrated) Coming-of-age drama, set in Rio de Janeiro, about a spoiled-rotten teen (Thales Cavalcanti) who’s decadent lifestyle comes to an abrupt end when his father’s (Marcello Novaes) hedge fund goes belly up. Cast includes Suzana Pires, Alice Melo and Bruna Amaya. (In Portuguese with subtitles)
Entertainment (R for profanity, sexuality, crude humor, brief drug use and a disturbing image) Road drama about a washed-up comedian (Greg Turkington) who does some stand-up shows in dives while driving cross-country en route to a rendezvous with his long-estranged daughter. With John C. Reilly, Tye Sheridan, Michael Cera, Amy Seimetz and Dean Stockwell.
Funny Buddy (Unrated) Romantic dramedy about a childhood obesity counselor (Kentucker Audley) and an emotionally-stunted trust fund baby (Olly Alexander) competing for the affections of a reclusive animal activist (Joslyn Jensen). Featuring Louis Cancelmi, Anna Margaret Hollyman and Marisa Brown.
Ingrid Bergman In Her Own Words (Unrated) Reverential documentary offering a behind-the-scenes look at the life of one of the most celebrated actresses of her time. Featuring archival footage as well as commentary by Sigourney Weaver, Liv Ullmann, and Ingrid’s offspring: Pia Lindstrom, Isabella Rossellini, Isotta Rossellini and Roberto Rossellini. (In English and Spanish with subtitles)
James White (R for sexuality, nudity, profanity and drug use) Christopher Abbott handles the title role in this character study, set in New York City, about a self-destructive slacker, still living at home, forced to mature when his mom (Cynthia Nixon) becomes seriously ill. With Ron Livingston, Scott Mescudi, Makenzie Leigh and David Call.
Man Up (R for profanity and sexual references) Romantic comedy about a woman (Lake Bell) unlucky at love who finally finds Mr. Right (Simon Pegg) after being mistaken for his blind date. With Olivia Williams, Rory Kinnear and Ophelia Lovibond.
Song Of Lahore (PG for mature themes, smoking and violent images) Cross-cultural documentary chronicling the musical collaborations of a Pakistani classical orchestra and Wynton Marsalis’ big band. (In Urdu with subtitles)
Steve McQueen: The Man & Le Mans (Unrated) The making of documentary revisiting the shooting of the legendary actor’s auto racing classic in 1971.
Sweet Micky For President (Unrated) Haitian documentary chronicling Michel Martelly’s presidential campaign in the wake of the earthquake which devastated his homeland in 2010. Featuring appearances by Pras Michel, Sean Penn, Wyclef Jean and Ben Stiller.