Thursday, November 15, 2012

A New Classic

(77% Tomatometer)
Another !!!!! (5!) movie. I know it hasn't been talked about as a new entry into the list of great alcoholism and substance abuse movies, but it is. It will stand there along with the true classics like Leaving Las Vegas, When a Man Loves a Woman, The Lost Weekend, and Blow.

Director Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future (1,2,3); Forrest Gump; Castaway, etc.) is still at the top of his game in this thriller/drama/morality play.  Denzel Washington is superb living the variations of mood and person that his character, Capt. Whip Whitaker, goes through. He is as over-the-top as any alcoholic and as certain of himself and who he is- a savior of souls destined to die if not for his amazing skill.

John Goodman, again superb, is the comic relief pusher-man. As in Argo he manages to infuse as much chutzpah as possible into a man who in this movie is selling and buying souls.

Don Cheadle underplays his role as the pilots' union lawyer to a "T." Kelly Reilly portrays a recovering addict who finally practices what she is learning. Melissa Leo comes in at the end as the NTSB lead investigator. Bruce Greenwood is the union rep and Brian Geraghty is Washington's co-pilot. The ensemble works well.

Expect a bumpy ride and great acting. I also noted the excellent use of music to reinforce the scenes on-screen and even as hints at what might be coming.

I wonder about the relatively lower Tomatometer score of 77%. I have to admit I wonder if part of it is the perception of "soap-opera-ness" that many can have when watching alcoholism in action. Addiction, when active, is every bit as real and unpredictably predictable as anything you can put on the screen. Whether it's Nicholas Cage, Ray Milland, Meg Ryan, Johnny Depp or now Denzel Washington, the characters we see on-screen are real. I have seen them in real life. When they get up there on the big screen, they can truly take over. It is something to watch and the stuff of true drama. This one will certainly get some Academy Award nominations.

Go. By all means, see this movie. But be prepared as anything can fall apart when you are dealing with active alcoholism and addiction.

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