Couch Theater

Strong and Complicated

Isabelle Huppert stars in “Things to Come.”
Sam Struckhoff, May 2017


“Things to Come” (R) — After 25 years of marriage, Nathalie (Isabelle Huppert) learns that her husband (Andre Marcon) is moving in with his much-younger lover. Nathalie still has “intellectual fulfillment” as a professor of philosophy, with strong bonds to her adult children and former students. As she explores the newfound freedom she didn’t ask for, a former student (Roman Kolinka) appears as a potential romance. Nathalie also must care for her ailing mother (Edith Scob) grappling with dementia.

Huppert’s performance already has award rumors popping up, as she handles a strong and complicated character. There’s a fine balance between coping with loss while embracing new beginnings and facing life’s ongoing struggles. All the while, Huppert gives a performance of stern intellect mixed with human vulnerability.

“I Am Not Your Negro” (PG-13) — This documentary picks up an unfinished project by renowned author, poet and activist James Baldwin. In interviews, he speaks about how racial violence and intolerance in America were not just products of outright hate for black Americans, but a product of apathy, of the willingness of others to let it happen and act surprised. The documentary, narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, lays out Baldwin’s points using archival footage and excerpts from a book he never finished.

"A Dog's Purpose" (PG) — A beloved and thoughtful canine narrates his thoughts on the world as he passes away, only to be reincarnated as different dogs, meeting the needs of new owners. "Bailey" (voiced by Josh Gad) begins as a precocious golden retriever watching a boy named Ethan (Bryce Gheisar, then AJ Apa and Dennis Quaid much later) grow up in small-town Norman Rockwell-isota. After Bailey dies, the dog-narrator continues a cycle of rebirth and wakes up as "Ellie," a German shepherd police dog, among others.

This syrupy tearjerker isn't content with the emotional button-pushing of killing off a dog, but has to do it multiple times in one sitting. The dog's perpetually earnest and childlike narration tries to lay down as much cutesy humor into every scene before the next dramatic pivot or hand-tossed tear-grenade.

"The Comedian" (R) — Robert Di Niro stars as a foul-mouthed comic who gets a second chance at stardom while finding new romance with a fellow abrasive person played by Leslie Mann. Jackie (Di Niro) is a rude standup whose edgy material and biting insults don't match the old sitcom role most people know him from. Punching out a heckler gets him jail time and community-service hours, where he finds Harmony (Mann), a much younger dyspeptic serving her own sentence.

With an all-star cast of comedians and generally funny actors cycling in, the movie just seems to be spinning its wheels without getting anywhere. Subplots bubble up to the surface, but it's just new venues for Jackie to heap more mockery, punched up by insult comedian Jeffrey Ross.

"Gold" (R) — This based-on-a-true-story film chronicles the turbulent story of a prospector who made a wild bet on finding a goldmine and got in over his head. Kenny Wells (Matthew McConaughey with a bald spot, extra pounds and unsettling enthusiasm in his eyes), desperate in a depressed economy, has a dream about finding a hidden motherlode of gold in Indonesia. With help from a geologist (Edgar Ramirez), a turbulent series of ups and downs sees Kenny go from the mud-covered jungle to the top of Wall Street, and eventually into a literal tiger's den. The movie strives for the mad energy of "The Wolf of Wall Street," but just can't hit the right note.


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