Thursday, April 27, 2017

Dog Years (2017) Tribeca 2017

I was sick the day DOG YEARS was shown during the pre-Tribeca press screenings. Immediately afterward and in the days that followed I was told about how the film laid out the press corps and how many people were saying it was best of the fest. I would have to wait until after the world premiere screening to see it and form my own ideas.

The plot of the film has Burt Reynolds, playing essentially himself. He is a faded star who is notified that a film festival in Nashville is going to be awarding him a Lifetime Achievement Award. If he wants to come he would get first class treatment. Mourning the death of his dog and trying to come to terms with his own mortality he flies out to find his first class accommodations are not as promised and the festival is being held in the backroom of a bar. Wanting to head home he instead forces his driver, Lil, the sister of the festival organizer, to make a turn on the way to the airport and he ends up going down memory lane.

A melancholy comedy drama DOG YEARS gives Burt Reynolds the best role he's had in maybe two decades. A stunning piece of acting, the role shows just how good a performer he is and makes you wonder what would have happened if he had done less comedies and more dramas, It is conceivable (though probably unlikely) that a wave of nostalgia could put Reynolds back in the running for an Oscar. (Yes he really is that good)

Outside of Reynolds the film is an odd mix. A rambling film that picks up and drops plot threads at random the film never gets enough narrative traction to be truly great, despite having great things in it. Watching the film I was frustrated by the way the film would go off on an odd tangents at the drop of a hat or simply not finish one thing before picking up another one.

The thing that shows off the random nature is the one thread that I'm sure lays everyone out, mostly because it had me crying as well, That is the the thread involving Reynolds going to visit to his first wife. The series of scenes, probably the best in the film, seem to be inserted at random in the film. The sequences when looked at in context of the film, especially that last one in the sequence, seem not to belong. While ultimately they are the  point of the whole film, they don't really feel connected to it,  I'd say cut them but they are the scenes you remember.

I blame writer director Adam Rifkin who only occasionally seems to stage sequences  that they feel real instead of feeling like we're on a soundstage. I'm not sure why he chose some of the shots he did or why he positioned Reynolds as he was in many scenes, it seems its like Burt sat down and Rifkin just shot around him.. Was it a clash of star and director or was it just a poor choice. I'm not sure but there are times the film looks like a film that's a middle of the road director to home video release instead of a film where it's star could be hunting Oscar gold.

While I have a lot of problems with the film (its not even close to the best of the fest) I do like the film. I like it because Burt gives a performance for the ages, and I liked it because Ariel Winter as his reluctant driver Lil shines everytime she's on screen.  She is also is Reynold's equal which bodes a very long career if she wants it. I also like the fact that this very messy film has three or four scenes that in combination rip your heart out.

Strong reservations aside DOG YEARS is a must see for Burt Reynolds- and worth a shot for everything else

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