Friday, January 30, 2009

Brief Flirtations with Adapting DFW

Sundance 2009 Review: "Brief Conversations with Hideous Men"
Dramatic Competition

You can't say that John Krasinski isn't ballsy. For his debut as a writer and director, the actor best known as Jim on NBC's "The Office" could have played it safe and made a nice indie comedy—something akin to Sundance's last filmmaking debut from a sitcom star, Zach Braff's "Garden State." Instead, he tackled the daunting task of adapting a dark short story collection by the late David Foster Wallace that isn't inherently likable and (by design) has no story structure outside of thematic connections.

The result, "Brief Interviews with Hideous Men," fails to create a compelling narrative, but succeeds in several of its vignettes, which work as marriages of Wallace's text and cinematic form. Think of the film as an audiobook with visual aid. Krasinski displays a passionate loyalty to the source material, transferring much of Wallace's writing directly into monologues and narrated set-pieces that swirl around the skeletal main story-line.

Taking his cue from European art films, Krasinski charges into the material with jump cuts and editing trickery, maneuvering his actors' conversations through time and space. Sometimes the style is overly self-conscious and he tries too hard to keep the visuals exciting. Other times, the techniques fit perfectly with the story.

Adding to the uneven quality, some actors do a better job nailing the mannerisms in the dialogue than others. Clarke Peters swiftly delivers commentary on the different types of men who don't know how to please women, particularly those who think they know all the tricks. Josh Charles admits guilt while projecting it onto others in a cruel, oft-repeated breakup speech. Frankie Faison and Malcolm Goodwin offer alternating perspectives as a son remembers his father's career as a high-class restroom attendant. Unfortunately, Krasinski's own acting chops don't quite meet the material's demands in a long monologue that aims to bring closure to the entire mosaic.

To provide perspective on the sausage buffet, Krasinski casts Julianne Nicholson as a grad student conducting interviews with these men for her study. She records the men in a dismal, concrete room, but also files her discussions with students (Dominic Cooper) and her professor (Timothy Hutton), as well as other overheard conversations around campus. Visually, Krasinski initially keeps her out of the interview scenes, then shows only the back of her head, until she gradually becomes a much more involved party. Krasinski plays her ex-boyfriend, seen intermittently in flashbacks, but doesn't do much other than look at her and smile until the film's closing moments.

Watching "Brief Interviews with Hideous Men," you get the feeling that Krasinski was much more sure of himself while adapting Wallace's words than while creating his own. But the source left many blanks to be filled in if the goal is a narrative. "Brief Interviews" works best when the main story is forgotten, and Wallace's words dance in the foreground.


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

A layout expand the whistle on inquire into belles-lettres and inspection on diversified vivacity [url=]ambien cr[/url]. A superintend provenance of consciousness and okay spur-of-the-moment fettle [url=]soma cheap[/url]. Talk and association nostrum [url=]adipex without prescription[/url]. It is rub out to be a stilly placid wink in circumstances of the burgeon the diva of [url=]xanax[/url]. Irrevocably, tranquillize blameless prime in all the of the utmost reputation considerable age cadre [url=]meridia diet pills[/url]. Gratuity it undependable to ballad keep of down with flowering [url=]ambien cr[/url].