Thursday, April 18, 2024

Review: John Slattery, Steve Buscemi, Michael Shannon Get Behind Their Respective Cameras for Winning Films

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Among the pleasures of Tribeca this year, actors have taken the helm of movies, working well with other actors, and finding stories that reveal their strengths as directors.

Actor John Slattery, well known for his role in Mad Men, is not just another pretty face. He premiered a film at the Tribeca Film Festival as director: “Maggie Moore(s),” scripted by Paul Birnbaum, could not be funnier given that two, not one, women named Maggie Moore are murdered. Slattery’s “Mad Men” pal Jon Hamm—let’s just say he’s not the Don Draper heart throb we knew, –leads a cast of loony characters. Hamm plays a lonely widower who works as the cop on this bizarre coincidence of a case. “SNL” alum Tina Fey, nutty as a peeping tom neighbor, is divorced and their relationship grounds the dramatis personae, including a pedophile, a dumb fast-food store manager, a closeted Nazi freak, and a large, scary deaf man for hire.

Sad things happen and make you laugh but no one you really know and love gets hurt in the making of this madcap movie. Well, maybe except one.

And, big reveal, Slattery does fine work making all the comedy and poignancy land.

Steve Buscemi’s “The Listener” stars Tessa Thompson on screen, and many voices off. On the phone you hear characters calling in to a suicide prevention hotline. Buscemi has a stunning actress to occupy the visuals: Thompson in closeup or wandering her apartment chatting up depressives on a path to killing themselves and yet offered hope by Thompson’s ingenuity in a soothing voice—until a British woman comes on—the unmistakable cadences of Rebecca Hall—and you see how easily “the listener” becomes “the thinker,” pondering her own path forward.

In “Eric LaRue,” a family faces small-town tragedy. A young man shoots three of his classmates. Now the mother (Judy Greer) must face the community, the mothers of the dead boys, and find spiritual guidance. The father (Alexander Skarsgaard) is already in the throes of some deep faith with a nirvana-faced Allison Pill’s help. Never has Christianity looked so creepy.

The fast pace of blockbusters like “The Flash” may have given Shannon, who plays a supervillain, the thought to slow things down. It does take a while for “Eric LaRue” to build its power. Then again, guns and their availability may be the subtext here, if perchance, the subject of religion in the heartland bleeds into American politics.

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