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George Clooney in The Descendants
For filmgoers, the week of the Thanksgiving holiday is both blessing and curse. On the one hand, new releases are generally pushed out to theaters for a Wednesday opening—studios are loath to open a film on Black Friday, when most of the world has its mind set on bargain-basement flat screens of another variety. So the diehards among us feel a bit like schoolkids getting out of half a week's classes when we skip off to a mid-week screening.
On the other hand, it also means that smaller films can get the bum's rush; a charming indie comedy that opens the Friday before Thanksgiving stands a good chance of getting muscled out of its prime location by Adam Sandler before a week is up. So while the diehards might enjoy that early opening, it can be hard for average moviegoers to keep up with the changes—by the time they're ready to see a "new movie," it might be gone—and good films can slip through the cracks, especially with the holiday maelstrom beginning to whirl around us. To help make sense of it all, what follows is a bit of a guide through this week's shifting sands.
At Pleasant Street Theater in Northampton, The Way presents an intriguing look at father-son relationships in more ways than one. The story of American doctor Tom, who travels to France to take possession of his son's remains, the films stars Martin Sheen and was directed by his son Emilio Estevez, who also plays the ill-fated son who died during a storm in the mountains.
But instead of returning to the States, Tom decides to honor his son by finishing the pilgrimage that took his life: The Way of Saint James, a journey of several hundred miles from France to the burial ground of the Apostle James in northwest Spain. Along the way Tom falls in with a motley crew of international travelers, each on a pilgrimage of his/her own; it's a setup that could have turned maudlin fast, but neither father nor son let things get too sentimental.
Also out now is The Descendants, a tragic-comic tale from Alexander Payne (Sideways). Starring George Clooney as a feckless husband and father, it features Payne's trademark mix of mirth and melancholy—Clooney's Matt King is forced to rethink life (and his connection to his two daughters) when his wife has a boating accident in Hawaii while the family is visiting land handed down to King from Hawaiian royalty.
In Amherst, meanwhile, Margin Call is giving way to Like Crazy. Margin Call, should you catch it, is a financial thriller of sorts that imagines a group of traders debating what to do the night before the markets began to collapse. Should they sell, survive, and ruin their investors; or do they try to ride it out and likely go down with the ship? A talented cast—Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons and Stanley Tucci among them—tells the story.
Like Crazy stars the young Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones as a college-age couple falling head over heels in love. He's an American, she's a Brit abroad on a student visa. When her visa expires, she decides to stay on anyway, but is barred from the country. Desperate for each other, they try to make do with transcontinental romance—but quickly find it a messy affair.
Also this week: Pleasant Street's midnight movie series continues with Suspiria, the 1977 cult classic from Dario Argento, the man known as "The Italian Hitchcock." Bloodier and more macabre than that of the British director, his most famous work is a stylish and stylized romp through one woman's nightmare. Jessica Harper stars as the American dancer who enrolls in a famous German dance academy, only to learn too late that it is under the control of a murderous coven of witches. With a score by Italian prog-rockers Goblin and the bright reds and deep blacks of Italian Technicolor, Suspiria remains a uniquely fashionable exercise in horror.
Jack Brown can be reached at email@example.com.