like T.E. Lawrence and Buford Pusser before her, it seems cosmically wrong that
celebrated war photographer Isabelle Reed died in a motor accident. However,
the awkward circumstances surrounding her death are more likely closer to that
of Ernest Hemingway. Her widower Gene Reed has tried to shield their youngest,
moodiest son from the truth, but an upcoming press tribute is almost certain to
broach the inconvenient subject. The father and his two sons will struggle to
finally come to terms with her death in Joachim Trier’s first English language
feature, Louder than Bombs (trailer here), which opens this Friday in
a round number anniversary of Reed’s passing, her friends and admirers have
organized a career retrospective exhibition. To tie-in, her wordsmith partner
will write a personal appreciation of her life and work for the Times magazine or something very much
like it. He duly warns Gene Reed that he will not duck the eight-hundred-pound
gorilla. That only gives the long-suffering father a few days to level with the
increasingly surly and anti-social Conrad. His grown brother Jonah seems to
have dealt with her loss, but that is only a superficial impression. Deep down,
the new father is probably the most dysfunctional member of the family.
angst-fueled domestic tragedy, a considerable amount of stuff happens in Bombs. Inevitably, it all boils down to
life is not fair. As one might expect of the busy narrative, some of it works
and some of it does not. Poor Gene Reed serves as the glue holding it all
together, constantly sacrificing his subplots for the sake of others. However,
Gabriel Byrne plays him with such profound sorrow, he gives the film a deeply
course, Isabelle Huppert outshines everyone as her namesake. She effectively
haunts the film, dominating the ensemble despite her limited flashback screen-time.
As the not so mature Jonah, Jesse Eisenberg also surprises with the quality of
his work and the character flaws he reveals along the way. However, as the
Number Two Son, Devin Druid feels like he is doing a third rate riff on Wes
Bentley’s brooding teen in American
Beauty. Conversely, David Strathairn dramatically elevates the film during
his pivotal confrontation with Byrne as his wife’s suspiciously close colleague.
the are moments in Bombs that rings
with brutal honesty and forgiving compassion, but there is also a good deal of
uncomfortable filler. Those messy interludes are rather surprising given the
uniformly Spartan elegance of co-screenwriter Eskil Vogt’s directorial debut Blindness, which is sure to appreciate critically
even further as time passes. Still, when Bombs
connects, it leaves you smarting.
It might be
inconsistent and even derivative with respects to Conrad’s resentments and fixations,
but when it finishes, you know you have seen a film. Recommended with all its
warts and ragged edges for patrons of mature chamber-dramas, Louder than Bombs opens this Friday
(4/8) in New York, at the Lincoln Plaza.
Labels: David Strathairn, Gabriel Byrne, Isabelle Huppert, Jesse Eisenberg, Joachim Trier