In years past, Tribeca has gotten flack for leaning more popcorn than indie, often screening films that seemed more suited to the MTV Movie Awards than a fledgling film fest. “Spider-Man 3” and “Shrek Forever After” both premiered here, and in one infamous year, the fest closed out with “Speed Racer” (‘memba that masterpiece?).
This year’s slate has notably dialed down the Hollywood flash—no summer blockbusters in sight. (Why slug it out now with festivalgoers when you can slug it out a few weeks later with opening-weekend mobs!) That said, there was still some semblance of starpower at the fest, notably in two films that are worth seeing when they finally hit theaters.
In “Everything Must Go,” Will Ferrell trades his funny bone for dramatic muscle with a performance that seems ripped right out of the Jim-Carrey-does-Truman-Show-to-prove-he-doesn’t-just-talk-out-of-his-butt-playbook. The film, from first-time director Dan Rush, is based on a short story by Raymond Carver and centers on an alcoholic sales exec who—in one day—is fired from his job and gets ditched by his wife, who locks him out of their house. He ends up living on their front lawn, where he tries to sober up and pull his life together. A very muted movie—at least by Will Ferrell standards—and a quietly enjoyable one, too. I liked its many tender moments, which skillfully balanced just the right amount of drama (not too weepy) and humor (not too hokey). And Ferrell has an empathic dramatic presence that belies a whole other side to the actor I’d love to see more of.
If Ferrell seems keen on showcasing his serious side, then Sam Worthington seems keen on proving he can actually act alongside real people—and not just plug his freaky Na’vi pontytail into CGI animals. The brawny Aussie, of course, shot to fame slugging it out with all sorts of CGI baddies in “Avatar,” “Clash of the Titans” and “Terminator: Salvation.” But in the sexy, intimate drama “Last Night,” he’s up against another formidable foe: infidelity. Worthington plays a married Manhattanite tempted by a hottie coworker, but whose own wife finds herself seduced by a former lover in town for a brief visit. Upping the starpower are Keira Knightley as his wife, and Eva Mendes as his office temptress (but of course! Maybe time to start stretching things a bit, Eva?). I found it to be an engrossing character study on fidelity and fantasy, charting the symbiosis between the two and how one fuels the other. Worthington does a so-so job—his acting tends to be so serviceable but unspectacular that you don’t often feel anything for him. Knightley, on the other hand, is beguiling as his conflicted wife, and you see her deftly rifle through layer upon layer of cluttered emotions, going from wistful glance to questioning glare with effortless fluency. She makes this “Night” one to remember. —Alexis L. Loinaz
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