Wednesday, May 30, 2018


Paul Schrader's films, the ones he's written as well as the ones he has also directed, are usually pretty dark, even despairing. So, even though I admire him as an artist (and have met him through his wife, the great, underrated actor Mary Beth Hurt) I often dread viewing his work. The reason I continue to is because his film BLUE COLLAR was at the time the most realistic take on working class life I was seeing then, and his film MISHIMA was, and may still be, the best biopic ever made.

Usually the first thing people mention is his screenplay for TAXI DRIVER. These and all his credits promise that his films will at least be provocative, original (often one-of-a-kind), and great for serious actors. But dark. Ethan Hawke (who I met when working on WHITE FANG) wasn't known for preferring that kind of material until recent years. Now he's choosing roles like the husband in MAUDIE and the central role of the minister in FIRST REFORMED.

It's a tour-de-force performance, way out of his usual range. But then almost everyone in the movie stretches what we would expect of them. Like Amanda Seyfried (another underrated actor, who the friend I saw it with felt was miscast as a struggling working-class woman because of her beauty and screen charisma) and Cedric Kyles. So, if you like to watch intense acting, FIRST REFORMED may satisfy you. But if you want an escape from the darkness of your life or these times, this might be a little too intensely overwrought, despite the mostly high level of artistry.

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