Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
What Richard Did: the Remorseful Rugby Player
an alpha male, Richard Karlsen enjoys all the benefits of Ireland’s class
stratification and patriarchy. When he
commits an irreversible act, it should be relatively easy for his parents to
circle the wagons of privilege around him.
Is he a strictly deterministic creature or is he an independent ethical
agent? That will possibly be determined
in Lenny Abrahamson’s What Richard Did (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York, hard on the heels of its screenings at this year’s Tribeca
as teenagers go, Karlsen is absolutely brimming with empathy. Of the seniors on the rugby team, he is
always the one who looks out for the new initiates. He is also close to his parents, sparing them
any brooding teen angst. (His Swedish
expat father and Irish mother are clearly loaded though, a fact that will loom
over cynics’ response to the film.)
autumn, Karlsen will enroll in college, but until then he idles the summer away
with his mates, including his less well to do teammate Conor Harris, who is
more of a frienemy. Karlsen woos away
his girlfriend Lara, which is hardly edifying, but these things happen at that
age. At least Karlsen really works for
it, pulling out all the romantic stops.
Then something unpremeditated but profoundly wrong happens.
WRD is hardly Crime and Punishment, let alone the Tell-Tale Heart, but the remorseful
Karlsen will be forced to wrestle with his conscience while sequestered by his
parents. Abrahamson eschews cheap theatrics
at every stage, depicting Karlsen’s guilt and mounting disappointment in his
own moral failings without sentiment or sensationalism.
Abrahamson falls under the sway of his lead nearly as much as the supporting
characters. In long closely observed
scenes we witness his easy charm and camaraderie. Yes, Harris brings out his petulant streak,
but these are a couple of immature kids.
Indeed, the unspoken question frequently ought to be: where are all the
parents? While Abrahamson’s patience
setting the scene and establishing the social dynamics between the characters
is admirable, his efforts make the film top-heavy with exposition and rather repetitive
Reynor is about to become world famous as the co-lead of Transformers 4. Fortunately,
he is sure to get many positive notices as Karlsen before the guilt by
association with Michael Bay reviews come in.
Charismatic but grounded, there is something spooky about his
performance that may well evoke memories of team captains (or some such equivalent)
viewers knew in high school. Lars
Mikkelsen (not Mads), also has some nicely turned moments as Karlsen’s
understanding (perhaps to a fault) father, Peter.
Wisely, Abrahamson and screenwriter Martin
Campbell changed the title of Kevin Powers’ source novel Bad Day in Blackrock, lest anyone confuse it with the Spencer
Tracey classic. Despite the crime committed, WRD is strictly a drama, willfully avoiding any thriller
trappings. Reynor’s work is first rate
throughout, but there is an abundance of slack in the early narrative. Recommended on balance, particularly for
Irish-American audiences and Swedish expat fans of Mikkelsen, What Richard Did opens this Friday
(5/10) in New York at the Cinema Village.
Labels: Irish Cinema