Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.

Nobel Son

 
Review by Matthew Frendo

I wonder if a day will come when I agree with the mainstream critics (and I kind of hope it doesn't).  Once again, a great film such as this is reduced to nothing by the likes of RottenTomatoes.com.  Although, (and those of you who don't understand this should read my earlier review of How to Lose Friends and Alienate People) it may have to do with the fact that director Randall Miller basically gave the middle finger to the establishment when he directed and released this and Bottle Shock (another great film released earlier this year) himself, only having another company come on for distribution.  The old hounds in Hollywood don't particularly like it when someone comes along and shows how little they are actually needed for a film to make the rounds.  This man did it twice in one year.  No wonder the horrid reviews!

Another problem may be the audience.  Word to the wise: you will need to THINK when you see this movie.  I've read numerous people now either admit to not fully getting it, or who obviously didn't get the right thing out of it.  It is complex, in structure and in story, which kind of makes a synopsis useless without spoilers, but here's a bit to keep you going.  Alan Rickman plays Eli Michaelson, a professor who's just been informed that he won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.  He and his wife (played very well by Mary Steenburgen) leave for the event, hoping to meet their son Barkley (Bryan Greenberg) there.  Well, Barkley runs late and ends up being kidnapped.  That's about all I can say without ruining the rest.  And that's just the first fifteen minutes. 

I was really impressed with the direction.  While the look was similar to Bottle Shock (it would not surprise me in the least if they shared a Director of Photography as well), Nobel Son has a constant change of music in the background, almost scene by scene.  This sounds rather annoying on paper, but adds a bit to the chaotic feel of constant changes, while adding some tension to the plot.  With a supporting cast made up of Ted Danson, Danny DeVito and Bill Pullman, there is no shortage of acting prowess, but particular notice should be made of Shawn Hatosy (from TV's short lived Drive) and of Eliza Dushku, who hasn't been seen in much on the big screen since Wrong Turn.  Both give stellar performances that make the convoluted plot more believable.

Obviously, I would recommend you see this movie.  You may love it or hate it, but you will at least have to respect what can be done by a man outside of the Hollywood system.  Here's to more being made in that vein (imaginary champagne glass now lifting in the air)...

4 ½ / 5 stars

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