Wednesday, June 11, 2014

All the Light in the Sky (June 12th at the Cleveland Cinematheque)

[ALL THE LIGHT IN THE SKY screens Thursday June 12th at 6:30 pm at the Cleveland Cinematheque.]

Review by Pamela Zoslov

As long ago as 2007, critic Amy Taubin bade “adieu” in Film Comment to mumblecore – the DIY micro-budget indie movement so named because of the films' poor sound quality and amateur actors swallowing their words.

Apparently, that was wishful thinking; mumblecore isn't dead after all. Last year, Joe Swanberg, an actor and director who is one of mumblecore's leading lights, released the almost mainstream DRINKING BUDDIES, starring Olivia Wilde. This Thursday, the Cleveland Cinematheque screens Swanberg's 2012 ALL THE LIGHT IN THE SKY, which he co-wrote with the actress Jane Adams, who stars in the film.

Adams plays Marie, a 45-year-old actress who lives in a rented beachfront property in Malibu. Her niece, Faye (SophiaTakal), also an actress, comes to stay with her while her dad is in rehab. The very slight screenplay offers a slice of life and snippets of semi-improvised conversation, as Marie mixes smoothies, paddleboards in a wetsuit, spends time with friends and lovers and discusses the vicissitudes of aging and the acting life.

The film has somewhat larger concerns than the romantic relationships that are mumblecore's usual focus. The theme of impermanence is addressed both in Marie's thoughts about what it means to get older – breasts sag, men no longer look at you when you walk into a room – and in the characters' discussions of the rising sea levels that will eventually consume the beachfront “dream homes.” An engineer explains, “The sun is a middle-aged star. It eventually goes away,” a prophecy that also could also apply to middle-aged actresses.

As in most of these films, not a lot happens. Swanberg's camera lingers endlessly on mundane things: people dressing and undressing, a toilet being fixed, a blender whirring. The film's heart is in the conversations, some of which are realistic and insightful, thanks to Adams, the marvelous actress known for, among many other things, HAPPINESS and ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND. The scene in which Marie and her friend Rusty (Larry Fessenden) snuggle on the couch after dinner and share jokey banter feels authentic, as though we're just listening in on actual people. That scene also features the movie's sole bit of humor, as Marie begs Rusty to “be Jack,” and he indulges her with his uncanny impression of Jack Nicholson. 2 1/4 out of 4 stars.

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