Capsule reviews for Sept. 20

C.O.G.

This sharply written comedy based on an essay by David Sedaris follows the journey of David (Jonathan Groff), a blowhard Ivy League intellectual who decides to try living off the grid in rural Oregon, where he finds work as a laborer for an apple farmer (Dean Stockwell), and as the assistant to a born-again clock maker (Denis O’Hare). The experiences change his perspective on life and religion. There’s not much context to David’s frustration and final half of the film has some contrivances. But the sardonic humor hits the mark more often than not, and Groff brings sympathy to an otherwise smug and pretentious character. (Rated R, 88 minutes).

 

Enough Said

Underlying truths help to compensate for arbitrary plotting in this mature comedy about an unlikely romance between middle-aged divorcees Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and Albert (James Gandolfini) — both dealing with empty nests as their children leave for college. But their relationship begins to sour when Eva strikes up a friendship with a poet (Catherine) whose stories from her former marriage raise some red flags. The latest from director Nicole Holofcener (Please Give) feels shallow and contrived in spots, but the performances are excellent, including the late Gandolfini in a charming change of pace. There are some big laughs, and the relationship dynamics generally feel authentic. (Rated PG-13, 93 minutes).

 

Plus One

This bizarre attempt to mix elements of a teen sex comedy with a supernatural thriller really doesn’t succeed at either one, despite some amusing moments. The bulk of the story follows college students at a rave, where David (Rhys Wakefield) is trying to repair his relationship with Jill (Ashley Hinshaw) amid the mayhem involving booze and strippers. Then a mysterious electrical surge has a cloning effect on the partygoers, leaving them to wonder what caused the phenomenon and and how it can be stopped. It’s an intriguing if loopy premise that isn’t given much weight by a screenplay that remains focused on formulaic house-party shenanigans. (Rated R, 94 minutes).

 

A Single Shot

A fascinating lead character can’t overcome the familiarity of this atmospheric low-budget thriller that opens with John (Sam Rockwell) accidentally shooting a girl while hunting near his remote wooded cabin. The ensuing cover-up, along with a secondary discovery, leads to his troubled personal life spiraling out of control. The leisurely paced film features some lovely scenery but doesn’t build much consistent suspense. As the lines begin to blur between heroes and villains, it’s a dark and uneven study of how actions affect consequences even under the most innocent of circumstances, with a solid supporting cast that includes Jeffrey Wright, William H. Macy and Melissa Leo. (Rated R, 116 minutes).

 

Zaytoun

There’s not much new about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to be gleaned from this earnest drama set in 1982, following an Israeli pilot (Stephen Dorff) who is shot down and taken hostage by Palestinian refugees in Beirut. There, he befriends a young boy (Abdallah El Akal) with hopes to get them both across the border to safety. The transformation of both characters is predictable, without much depth or insight into the political turmoil in the region. Employing a road-trip structure, director Eran Riklis (The Syrian Bride) never strikes the right balance of comedy and melodrama, and winds up trivializing the plight of his characters in the process. (Not rated, 110 minutes).

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