Sunday 18 March 2018

Movie reviews: Miles Ahead, Louder Than Bombs, Friend Request

It's a dismal week with 2* ratings across the board...

Clumsy: Don Cheadle and Ewan McGregor star in the Cheadle-directed Miles Davis biopic ‘Miles Ahead’
Clumsy: Don Cheadle and Ewan McGregor star in the Cheadle-directed Miles Davis biopic ‘Miles Ahead’ newsdesk

It's a disappointing week for movies with 2 star ratings for this week's other big releases - Miles Ahead, Louder Than Bombs, and Friend Request

This we know: Miles Davis was a drug addict, a monomaniac, and not an especially nice person to know. He was also a genius of sorts, and this brave but muddled Don Cheadle biopic attempts to reconcile these apparent contradictions. Miles Ahead (2*, 15A, 100mins) is, to be fair, distinguished by a very fine central performance from Mr Cheadle, who wanders around muttering to himself in loud shirts and bad trousers, and utterly convinces you he's the great improvising trumpeter. His work deserves a better film, but then again it's Don's fault we don't get one.

It's 1979, and Mr Davis has been missing in action for half a decade while his record company, Columbia, wait desperately for an experimental album that will never be made.

For Miles is a physical wreck, a coke-snorting paranoiac, and has stopped playing his trumpet altogether. He's deep in this spiral of self-destruction when his doorbell rings and a journalist noisily enters. Dave Braden (Ewan McGregor) claims he's been hired by Rolling Stone magazine to write about Davis's comeback, but in fact he's a bit of a chancer, and just the kind of company Miles didn't need.

McGregor's character is a concoction, and Mr Cheadle's film is part biography, part make-believe. There are none of the childhood flashbacks common in these films, perhaps because Davis had no hard luck story to justify his unpleasantness, but we get glimpses into the Bebop era, and Miles' tempestuous relationship with the dancer, Frances Taylor.

But Miles Ahead shunts clumsily back and forth in time, and at times descends into bizarre action sequences reminiscent of Starsky & Hutch.

It's an odd, disjointed, incoherent film, and only Mr Cheadle's acting and snatches of Mr Davis's divine music make it worth watching.

When I saw Joachim Trier's Louder Than Bombs (2*, 15A, 109mins) during the Dublin Film Festival, I was mystified as to why on earth it had been selected to compete for last year's Palme d'Or. Perhaps its banality was lost in translation: this is the Norwegian director's first foray into English language film-making, and on this evidence it might be his last. And while his film had lots of potential, it goes nowhere very slowly.

Isabelle Huppert is daring war photographer Isabelle Reed, whose provocative images of death and destruction have pricked liberal consciences across the globe until she crashes her car and dies.

Left to pick up the pieces is her emotionally reserved husband Gene (Gabriel Byrne, in fine form), and their sons Jonah (Jesse Eisenberg) and Conrad (Devin Druid). Both boys go off the rails in different ways, and meanwhile dad seeks solace in sex.

Louder Than Bombs is nice to look at and rather self-consciously arty, but never really gets far enough beneath the surface of its characters to make them seem real.

And finally to Friend Request (2*, 16, 92mins), a clumsy and mean-spirited assault on the so-called 'look at me' generation. Laura (Alycia Debnam-Carey) is one of the most popular students at her college, and has over 800 friends on Facebook if you don't mind. When she receives a friend request from a lonely student called Marina (Liesl Ahlers), Laura takes pity on her and says yes. But she soon finds out that Marina is dangerously obsessed with her.

"Un-friend the crazy bitch!", yells one of her friends helpfully, but that turns out to be not such a good idea, and soon a mysterious online presence begins targeting all of Laura's buddies.

A schlocky and charmless horror film with demonic overtones, Friend Request doesn't have the wit to develop what might have been an interesting idea, and smugly passes judgement on the self-absorption of social media enthusiasts.

Captain America: Civil War (Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr.); Demolition (Jake Gyllenhaal, Naomi Watts); Son of Saul (Geza Rohrig); Atlantic (Brendan Gleeson).

Irish Independent

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