Saturday, September 28
Directed by Ron Howard
2013 Biographical Drama
2 hours 3 minutes
Alexandra Maria Lara
One thing I really gotta hand to Ron Howard is that he takes on a wide variety of projects. He always has. One can certainly not accuse him of being in a directorial rut. This time out we have a sports movie, more specifically about Formula 1 auto racing.
At the center of the action is the rivalry between easy-on-the-eyes, British playboy-racer James Hunt and not-so-easy-on-the-eyes, naturally grumpy Austrian Niki Lauda. In the 1970s these two challenged one another in races all over the world and each became a champion. Their rivalry took on an ominous tone when Lauda was badly burned and suffered disfiguring injuries after a horrific crash.
What appealed to me was the relationship between these two men and of course the fact that the story is based on real-life people and incidents. Their completely different looks and attitudes are immediately apparent but it becomes obvious it's way more than that. Their styles, attitudes, ambitions, histories are completely different for two men at the top of their sport and it was interesting at some level to see them jockeying for positions and efforting to make their points with one another.
Both lead actors bore strong resemblances to their real-life counterparts and turned in natural, believable performances. The rest of the cast was completely competent as well but I quite enjoyed watching a blonde Olivia Wilde in the role of Suzy Hunt, James' wife who divorced him to marry actor Richard Burton. Wilde is eye-candy of the highest order.
When all is said and done, however, whether or not one cares for Howard's latest film rests on one fact and one fact alone. How do you feel about car-racing flicks? It's that simple. And I don't like them. Never have. Frankly, sports-themed movies aren't my favorites, in general, but watching noisy cars go around a track four million times in a two-hour time slot just leaves me numb. Of course, maybe those of you who do like this stuff are numb to watching marauding Indians circling a wagon train, too, in all those westerns I'm so fond of.
One thing that annoys me in racing films (and this one is particularly egregious) is the myriad ways cinematographers photograph car races. So much of it overlapping of scenes, a frenetic quickness in changing scenes in a whoosh-whoosh-whoosh manner (reminiscent of the colors shooting at audiences in 2001), a jerkiness in handling the camera (like being in the front seat of that car), an occasional graininess, likely to simulate a documentary feel. And all of this is done constantly which annoyed me greatly. I might also add there were many little moments of beautiful shots, all of which had nothing to do with cars. I particularly loved the shots involving new locations of the big races. There were some nice touches.
One might ask, in light of my feeling the way I do about car-racing movies, why I saw this film. Easy. Far and away is that I usually follow this director's work. I love that little Opie turned into movie director extraordinaire. I often quite like his films. Two or three of them will get some special mention in the future. But this was a miss for me. It might not be for you. I'm guessing most reviewers would give it a higher rating than I have. I am objective enough to say that.
But I am too subjective when it comes to car-racing movies. I could pat myself on the back for trying another one but it just didn't work out. I still feel the same. I don't like them. (Once in a few hundred years I try Brussels sprouts again but it's still not working out.) What sports-themed movies I have enjoyed are usually ones where the sport is almost second-nature to the film. (I loved the Mark Wahlberg movie, The Fighter, for example, and thank God the boxing wasn't seen anymore than it was or I would have had a different feeling.)
One thing the film lacked for me was an emotional impact. After all, this was about two real-life people, one of whom had a terrible accident, and I didn't feel what I could have, maybe should have. And that's because Rush is about car-racing through and through. Everything else takes a back seat to that. The deafening roar of engines. Race after race. Racetrack after racetrack. Zoom. Zoom. Around and around. Stop briefly in the pit, get those tires changed, have some quick dialogue, and get back on that track. Around and around. Zoom. Zoom.
Sorry Opie. I feel terrible.
Review of Don Jon