Monday, October 15, 2007

Corporations Kill People. Michael Clayton Kills Me.

a rant:

Tony Gilroy's Michael Clayton is an incredibly simplistic movie that's being rewarded with inexplicably awesome reviews.


Rottentomatoes.com
, the barometer of modern film criticism, lists 123 positive notices and only 13 negative ones for Clayton. Geoff Berkshire of the Chicago Tribune calls the flick, "an engrossing intellectual thriller with a shrewd grasp of crowd-pleasing storytelling ... the kind of Hollywood movie we could use a lot more of." More?

No thanks.

Michael Clayton stars George Clooney as the title character, but who are we kidding? The movie stars George Clooney as George Clooney. He wears snappy suits and skinny black ties and he might as well be on his way to a Vanity Fair photo shoot, albeit with gray hair. As Michael Clayton, Clooney furrows his brow as a sneaky behind-the-scenes lawyer, the kind whose job description toes the line between just-business and murky morality. Clayton's mission is to crack the suddenly-bonkers Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson), a formerly hotshot attorney who loses his head over a multibillion dollar class-action lawsuit and switches allegiances with damning consequences. But is Arthur really bonkers? Or has he learned something about the U/North corporation that makes him legitimately question everything?



The theme of Michael Clayton is pat: corporations are evil and corporations kill people. Period. Forget substance. Forget nuance. Forget suspense. Corporations are evil. That's all you need to know about Michael Clayton.

I can enjoy a movie with political undertones, but when those undertones are so transparent and one-dimensional, that's when I have problems. By the end of the picture, Tilda Swinton's Karen Crowder becomes Michael Clayton's adversary, and we still know nothing substantive about her character beyond a concern for money. That's it. Swinton is an actress of capable range, but she's not asked to do much in Michael Clayton, and that's a shame.

James Berardinelli argues that, "Michael Clayton builds to a fitting conclusion and doesn't need surprise twists or cheap theatrics to get to that point." That's one way to put it. But without twists and theatrics, Michael Clayton is boring, the highest crime in cinema. Gilroy takes the conspiracy-happy DNA of the Bourne movies (he scripted the enjoyable trilogy) and tries to implant it, sans jittery-camera action sequences, into Michael Clayton.

It doesn't work.

I wish I stayed home and watched Friday Night Lights.


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5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the advance warning about this movie, Alex. I won't waste my money going to see it.

I can't wait to see "Into The Wild". Think it will be any good or is there too much hype about it?

JS

Alex Pollack said...

I'm excited about "Into the Wild"; my friend saw it and enjoyed it. I actually made a request for the book at Book Traders but they don't have it in yet...

I'm particularly interested in the book/film because the protagonist (Christopher McCandless) graduated from Emory, my alma mater. But don't count on me heading into the Alaskan wilderness anytime soon.

Anonymous said...

Jon Krakauer did a great job with the book. I really enjoyed it when I read it several years ago. I understand that Sean Penn has been working with the McCandless family for ages; they waited 10 years to give him the go-ahead to make the film. My brother saw it in Dallas two weeks ago and said it was really good. I bet the cinematography will be awesome! Why does it take so long for good movies to make it to Memphis theatres?

I think you'll be much safer in Korea than in the wilderness of Alaska, so stick with that plan. ;~)

BTW, I ordered the new Eric Clapton autobiography yesterday; can't wait to read it!

JS

Michael said...

George-o, as I like to call him, needs to retire. Seriously. I'd like to see him in a movie where he'll have to act as something other than a "clean-cut, concerned badass." He's a one trick pony.

George-o...loved ya in Oceans 11, but were 12 and 13 necessary?

The man needs to get over himself.

Andrew said...

Hey Alex,

The Wheel Entertainment section agrees with your assessment of the movie. Our review said it was like a thriller without and thrills. I don't plan to waste any money on it.

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