Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
A Man Called Ove: The Grouch Submitted to the Oscars
by Swedish standards, Ove Lindahl is a rigid cold fish. Of course, anyone who
has seen A Christmas Carol knows
there must be a big, sensitive lug inside him someplace. Instead of ghosts, we
will come to understand Lindahl’s past through flashbacks launched by his
unsuccessful attempts to end it all. Suicide might be painless, but it is
surprisingly difficult in Hannes Holm’s adaptation of Frederik Backman’s hit
Swedish novel, A Man Called Ove (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
is the dreaded enforcer of his townhouse association’s rules and regulations.
He used to be the association’s president, until he was ousted in a coup led by
his former best friend, Rune. Tragically, his usurper has been incapacitated by
a stroke, but the imperious Ove was not asked back. When he is officially
downsized by his longtime factory employer, Lindahl decides it is time to
join his late wife Sonja, which might be
the most considerate thing he has done in years. However, he is interrupted
time and again by his endearingly clueless new neighbors. Against his will,
Lindahl starts to bond with the Persian émigré Parvaneh and her two young
daughters (but her klutzy Swedish husband Patrick remains a bit of a lost
Ove is exactly the sort of Grouchy Gus just waiting to blossom into a butterfly
that we have seen time and again. Yet, the flashback scenes that explain the
making of Ove pack a real punch. It is surprisingly moving to watch Filip Berg
as the earnest young Lindahl, struggling to release the pent-up feelings he is
so ill-equipped to express. He also forges some poignant chemistry with Ida
Engvoll as his beloved Sonja. Ove’s recurring run-ins with bureaucratic
authorities (the “whiteshirts”) further distinguish the film with unexpected
Kafkaesque dimensions. Still, there is no getting around the cloying
sentimentality of the present day narrative.
Rolf Lassgård was the first actor Henning Mankell’s angst-ridden detective Kurt
Wallander, we know he can brood with the best of them. He does indeed wring
every drop of dignity out of the manipulative script. Lassgård’s big,
commanding presence is impressive, no doubt about it.
The fifth biggest domestic Swedish box office
performer ever, A Man Called Ove was
a shrewd choice for Sweden’s foreign language Oscar submission. After all, a
good percentage of the Academy will instantly relate to the crotchety old goat.
It is generally a competent piece of feel-goodism, but there are flashes of
inspiration in Lindahl’s troubled past. Recommended for Tuesdays with Morrie-reading fans of accessible cross-over foreign
films, A Man Called Ove opens this
Friday (9/30) in New York, at the Angelika Film Center downtown and the Paris
Labels: Curmudgeons, Scandinavian Cinema