They say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and that may have been the case with Linklater’s last round of films. Me and Orson Welles and Bernie should have been commercial hits, or at least had respectable showings at the box office, but poor promotion, Linklater’s Achilles heel, resurfaced.
ME AND ORSON WELLES (2009)
Box office prowess shouldn’t be a defining trait of a filmmaker, unless you make disaster-porn like Michael Bay. Me and Orson Welles may not be one of Linklater’s most standout pictures, but is an example of a movie that doesn’t have his fingerprints all over it. Instead, this period comedy about a teenaged actor hired by a young Orson Welles has a personality that’s more akin to his sensibilities than the hollow shell of Bad New Bears was. (4 stars out of 5)
I’m always curious about how filmmakers pick their projects. Sometimes directors chase passion projects, sometimes they’re hired guns, and then sometimes there are pictures that seem like challenges directors wanted to tackle just to see if they could pull it off. That third one is where Bernie lies. Somehow, it works and yet is also bit of a letdown. Jack Black plays a mortician who kills his lover, played by Shirley MacLaine. Spliced between fictional scenes played by Black, MacLaine, and Matthew McConaughey’s lawyer are scenes of real testimonials by actual residents of the town. A straightforward movie may have been a dud, but the non-fictional scenes of the residents give the film a good balance. (3½ stars out of 5)
BEFORE MIDNIGHT (2013)
They say that good things get better with age, and if that’s the case, Linklater has become a fine Cabernet. With Before Midnight, Linklater continued his rejuvenation of the past few years. Before Midnight may be the antithesis of his filmmaking sensibilities: wonderfully written dialogue, perfectly paced scenes, mature acting, and a camera eye that doesn’t linger too much. Every scene of this movie is a well-crafted, one-act play, filled with intensity and subtlety. With many improvised movies, you can tell when scenes are being cobbled together, but the naturalistic dialogue and simple presentation of each scene makes Before Midnight one of Linklater’s best. (5 stars out of 5)
Interested in more Richard Linklater? Check out Chris Luckett’s review of his newest movie, the brilliant Boyhood, right here.