Early in this meandering low-budget drama, there is an extended scene involving Keanu Reeves sitting on a bench outside a bakery, eating an entire cupcake. Like many of the sequences that follow, it seems random and pretentious, with Reeves playing John, a disconsolate Manhattan man going through a mid-life crisis whose day spent with two escorts is filled with sex, drugs and booze — all recorded by John on a cheap camcorder just to demonstrate how raw and edgy it all is. While Reeves brings more depth to his character than the script warrants, the film overall lacks compelling characters and winds up depressing instead of profound. (Rated R, 97 minutes).
Michael Shannon’s wonderfully understated performance in the title role drives this otherwise formulaic low-budget gangster saga. It’s a biopic about Richard Kuklinski, a devoted family man who becomes a ruthless contract killer for a Manhattan crime boss (Ray Liotta), keeping his profession a secret from his wife (Winona Ryder) and two daughters for almost two decades prior to his arrest. The film is able to capture its period setting, but the script is a collection of generic Mafia dialogue and cliched violent shootouts. Shannon, however, deserves credit for playing Kuklinski with a sympathetic edge. The eclectic supporting cast includes Chris Evans, Robert Davi and James Franco. (Rated R, 106 minutes).
Love is All You Need
This bittersweet, multilingual romantic comedy from Danish director Susanne Bier (In a Better World) is just as fluffy and forgettable as its title suggests. Its main highlight is a charming performance by Trine Dyrholm as Ida, a Copenhagen hairdresser who has lost her hair to cancer treatments. While in Italy for her daughter’s wedding, she bonds with Philip (Pierce Brosnan), an affluent widower with a grudge against the world. As it introduces other members of the quirky ensemble, the film juggles moments both broad and intimate, producing a few solid laughs amid the lush seaside setting. But overall, the script is contrived and predictable. (Rated R, 116 minutes).
Post Tenebras Lux
The latest experiment in cinematic mood from Mexican provocateur Carlos Reygadas (Battle in Heaven) is a sporadically captivating but thoroughly confusing project that is almost devoid of traditional narrative structure. Instead, it shifts randomly between stories about a father (Adolfo Jimenez Castro) whose spiritual family finds a move from the city to the country difficult for various reasons. And then there are sequences involving rugby and prostitutes. The film contains plenty of powerful imagery, but its arbitrary approach to storytelling makes it difficult — perhaps intentionally — for the audience to grasp an emotional connection. Muddled and atmospheric, the result is more frustrating than fascinating. (Rated R, 115 minutes).
What Maisie Knew
This uneven contemporary adaptation of the Henry James novel depicts a bitter child custody battle from the perspective of the young girl caught in the middle. In this case, Susanna (Julianne Moore) is a musician and Beale (Steve Coogan) is an art dealer whose relationship is dissolving quickly as the film opens. Both are absentee parents whose loyalty to Maisie (Onata Aprile) seems more about obligation than love. As a pair of potential caretakers, Lincoln (Alexander Skarsgard) and Margo (Joanna Vanderham) come into the mix, things get messier, and the film subsequently turns more contrived than provocative. The worthwhile subject matter becomes trivialized in the process. (Rated R, 98 minutes).