THE 33. It is certainly time for the wider distribution of movies directed by women, and for movies with roles for Latino actors. This is an example of both. Unfortunately, it works better as a symbol than it does as compelling entertainment. As much as I value earnestness in real life interactions (within reason), in art I tend to recoil from it. And The 33 is so sincere, so devoid of irony, that it undermines its own intentions, feeling artificial in its attempt at authenticity.
Drawn from Hector Tobar's book Deep Down Dark, The 33 tells the story of Chilean miners who were trapped deep underground for 69 days, with limited supplies, following a cave-in in 2010. The narrative picks up shortly before the inciting event, taking time to indelicately introduce us the a few notables within the group. Mario (Antonio Banderas), who will become the de facto leader, is a charismatic veteran with a never-say-die attitude and a beautiful wife and daughter. Yonni (Oscar Nuñez) struggles to maintain peace between his long-suffering wife and his new mistress, who lives across the street. Dario (Juan Pablo Raba), keeps looking for the cure for his depression in the bottoms of bottles, and remains estranged from his sister Maria (Juliette Binoche). One guy does an Elvis impersonation; one is two weeks from retirement; one is expecting his first child and looking for a safer line of work; one is Bolivian and so attracts the scorn of many of the Chileans.
The movie falters at this early stage because it seems to think it needs to find defining attributes for these characters in order for the audience to follow along with them. Really, this effort creates the opposite effect: The digging up of "noteworthy" elements of character feels forced and false, and by default devalues the rest of the characters. The editorial assumption is that we, as viewers, will only care about a handful of these men and their families, the rest are merely set dressing. Also, the notion that lives are defined, or even punctuated, by narrative or emotional thumbnail images like these is a little insulting and suggests a failure of imagination and of observation. While I'm harping on the movie's weaknesses, I might as well add to the list the fact that director Patricia Riggen made the curious choice to have the cast speak Chilean-accented English throughout. This creates an inescapable air of falseness and just doesn't make much sense.
To its credit, The 33 does seem intent on doing right by the real people who survived the events it depicts. After the collapse, the focus expands a little to include the miners underground, their families on the surface, struggling to learn anything they can about what happened, and the would-be rescuers, led by Minister of Mines Laurence Golborne (Rodrigo Santoro) and a team of engineers. That team is under the command of Andre Sougarret, played by Gabriel Byrne, who's also affecting an accent. Most of us watched the ending of this story play out five years ago, so the movie version doesn't hold any real surprises, plot-wise. And that would be fine, if it had something interesting to say about the people or politics involved. It does not. PG13. 127m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
LOVE THE COOPERS. And so we move on to the next installment in the weekend's ongoing earnestness assault. I love Christmas movies, though I tend to go in for the Santa's workshop variant more than the gather 'round the hearth type. (Leaving room, of course, for Scrooged, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Die Hard, but this is likely not the time or place for my Christmas top however-many). Still, I had some hope that the festive atmosphere and strong cast of this one might carry the day. Nope.
Charlotte and Sam Cooper (Diane Keaton and John Goodman), planning their traditional family Christmas, must also figure out when best to tell everyone about the dissolution of their 40-year marriage. Their son Hank (Ed Helms), a recently divorced father of three, is hiding his unemployment. Charlotte's dad Bucky (Alan Arkin) is quietly in love with a waitress (Amanda Seyfried). Sister Emma (Marisa Tomei) is a lonely trainwreck who, after a shoplifting incident, spends much of the movie offering unlikely pop-analysis to a taciturn police officer (Anthony Mackie). Eleanor (Olivia Wilde), dreading the inevitable feeling of disappointing her parents, hatches a plan to bring home an Army recruit masquerading as her wholesome new boyfriend (Jake Lacey).
In a series of over-serious, occasionally effective two-handers, the members of the Cooper family gradually make their way to the dinner table. Their inner lives are unpacked for us through clumsily novelistic narration (voiced by Steve Martin), violating at least a few of the rules of good screenwriting. Because the cast is loaded with exceedingly talented people, scenes that would otherwise be laughable almost play. Wilde and Lacey have an enjoyable dynamic, and the camera is very kind to her. All in all, though, the kitchen-sink approach to the storytelling undermines the cumulative power of the performances. The movie can't even settle on a visual style, much less locate a real narrative center, so it's doomed from the start. PG13. 107m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
— John J. Bennett
For showtimes, see the Journal's listings at www.northcoastjournal.com or call: Broadway Cinema 443-3456; Fortuna Theatre 725-2121; Mill Creek Cinema 839-3456; Minor Theatre 822-3456.
HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART 2. Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and her band of young upstarts wrap up the dystopian teen saga with an attack on President Snow (Donald Sutherland). PG13. 136m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK, MINOR.
THE NIGHT BEFORE. Bros before ho-ho-hos. With Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anthony Mackie regress for the holidays. R. 101m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
SECRET IN THEIR EYES. Julia Roberts, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Nicole Kidman star in the remake of an Oscar-winning Argentinean thriller about a revived cold case. PG13. 111m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
BRIDGE OF SPIES. Steven Spielberg's Cold War prisoner exchange drama resonates with recent events. Tom Hanks and a Coen brothers script yield a crackling, darkly funny story. PG-13. 143m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
THE MARTIAN. Ridley Scott directs Matt Damon as a stranded astronaut in a compelling, exciting and beautiful space drama. PG13. 141m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
THE PEANUTS MOVIE. Snoopy and the gang put their enormous heads together again for this animated feature. G. 93m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK, FORTUNA.
SPECTRE. Daniel Craig returns for more sharp-suited globe trotting and plot foiling with nods to classic Bond films. Innovative action but heavy on the soul searching. PG13. 148m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK, FORTUNA, MINOR.
SUFFRAGETTE. Beatings, bombings and bonnets in a historical film starring Meryl Streep, Helena Bonham Carter and Carey Mulligan as British women fighting for the vote. PG13. 106m. MINOR.
— Jennifer Fumiko Cahill