Now that I’m in the interim between graduating and starting my MFA, I decided to catch up on books, T.V. shows, and movies that I missed while wrestling with my thesis. I decided to do something quite unusual for me, and that’s follow an actor’s movies. I generally don’t see a movie just for the actor because often times I start to see more of the actor and less of the character. There are, however, a couple of exceptions.
Adam Driver is one of those exceptions.
I, like many others, was first introduced to Adam Driver as my new favorite angry creepy pathetic space prince Kylo Ren in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. He just has this intense screen presence that I could not get enough of, so I decided to check out what other stuff he made. So here’s a list of what I watched in the last two weeks (in the order that I watched them) and my general feelings about them.
I wasn’t going to put myself through another full episode of Girls just for Adam Driver. Luckily, other people on Youtube felt the same way:
I need a one hour loop of Adam Driver singing “You’re my little pumpkin pop” to a baby. There’s also Youtube clips of him making out, getting naked or both. Enjoy to your heart’s desire.
Anyways, on to the stuff I did sit through!
2. Hungry Hearts
This is a film you need to watch with a friend who loves to yell and crack jokes at the characters as much as you do. Adam Driver plays as Jude, a relatively normal dude who is married Mina (Alba Rohrwacher), but everything goes to hell as soon as Mina gets pregnant. She becomes obsessed with making sure everything is “pure” because she believes a fortune teller’s prediction that her child will be an Indigo child. As a result, Mina nearly gets herself and her child killed because she doesn’t trust doctors and puts herself on a diet that leaves her malnourished. Things get worse when the baby is born and she puts the kid on an improperly-researched vegan diet and keeps him inside at all times. In the middle of this is Jude struggling between making sure his son doesn’t starve to death and his love for his clearly manipulative wife.
This is a film where the sum of its parters are greater than the whole. Hungry Hearts does an excellent job in building tension with a nice twist at the end, but there’s a lot of dead space (especially in the first third) in between. There’s a clunkiness to a lot of the dialogue. Characters like to play hot potato with the idiot ball, and there’s a bit of stretching and contrivance when it comes to family law and child protective services, especially at the ending.
Basically, this movie feels like an extended episode of [Insert Favorite Soap Opera Here]. Watching it at least once was enough for me.
3. While We’re Young
I’ll admit, I was hesitant about this movie to begin with because it’s about baby boomers and millennials. I was expecting your typical millennial shaming by people who grew up in a completely different economy than the younger folk they’re shitting on.
Thank god this movie was so much smarter than that.
While We’re Young is about a middle-aged documentarian and professor Josh Schrebnick (Ben Stiller) and his wife Cornelia (Naomi Watts) befriending fanboy millennial Jamie (Adam Driver) and his girl Darbie (Amanda Seyfried). Josh indulges in his midlife crisis and completely immerses himself and his wife in the hipster/millennial culture. At first, he is enchanted by millennials “generosity” and openness, but as time goes on he starts to see the weeds among the flowers and becomes bitter about it. I don’t want to spoil too much because this is a really self-aware as well as funny film, and I want you to see it in case you haven’t. Josh has this big ass speech near the end that made me groan, but the movie juxtaposes it with a really interesting scene that completely smashes the cliché I originally thought the movie was going for.
If you’re in the market for a thoughtful generational comedy and Adam Driver in an array of silly hats, this is definitely a movie to check out.
4. What If
Behold, that clip is the only bit worth watching of this turd flambé of a “romantic” “comedy”. The story is about a bitter pill named Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe) who falls in love with Chantry (Zoe Kazan) but since she has a boyfriend, he decides to just be friends with her. Allan (Adam Driver) is Wallace’s roommate/friend with a whirlwind fucking romance with Nicole (Mackenzie Davis) that I wished was the actual plot of the movie every time the two were on screen. Adam Driver and Mackenzie Davis don’t necessarily save the movie, but they offer brief moments of bliss before bulldozing back into the bullshit main plot again.
I don’t understand how this movie has a 71% on Rotten Tomatoes. I guess people were enamored with the “quirky” dialogue and the love triangle between a charmless plank of wood, a stale marshmallow, and a box of mashed potatoes?
Do yourself a favor and skip this movie. The only What If to be had is “What if the movie was about Allan and Nicole instead? At least it would have been fun.”
I gotta admit, What If took the wind out of my sails when it came to movies (with or without Adam Driver) for about a week. I was cold, bitter, lost. Could I ever trust movies again?
Enter Frances Ha.
5. Frances Ha
I LOVE this movie, but not for Adam Driver. Don’t get me wrong, he does a great job as a supporting character, Lev Shapiro. The movie is all about Frances Halladay, who is 27 and wants to be a great dancer (but isn’t) and is forced to change when her extremely close friend and roommate suddenly moves out.
Frances is so personally relatable to me as a 28 year old writer that it hurts. A lot.
But it’s a good hurt. Even at the parts that I don’t relate to Frances are executed with kindness. The film treats her internal struggles, fears, and anxieties with all the consideration of a concerned friend or family member. The conclusion is so wonderfully satisfying and hopeful. Please, please, please see this film if you get the chance.
And now, our final film in this marathon!
Paterson is about the week in the life of a bus driver and extremely private poet Paterson who lives in Paterson, New Jersey.
I FUCKING LOVE THIS MOVIE.
I decided to rent it last night and watch it by myself in bed. I genuinely wished I saw it when it came out in theaters last December because I think it would have helped with my thesis blues.
There is no pretension about writing here. It is simply a story about a quiet guy who loves and supports his wife’s (Laura, played by Golshifteh Farahani) dreams and writes poetry about the world around him in his secret notebook. Oh, and Paterson’s visuals showing how Paterson observes and listens to the little details that later inform his poetry?
I cannot recommend this movie enough. Even if you’re not a writer/artist kind of person, it is a charming little movie that will leave you with the warm fuzzies at the end.
Aaaaand that about wraps it up for this movie marathon, and I’m extremely glad I did so. We’ve hit some highs and lows (thankfully ending on a tremendous high), and I watched quite a few films that I liked that I would have probably not seen if not for this little marathon.
In fact, I enjoyed this so much that I’m thinking of doing this again soon, but with another actor I
crush on would like to see their body of work.
But wait, I spent all this time watching movies because of Adam Driver, and haven’t really said much about his acting! This guy has range my friends. I believe him as the reserved and empathetic Paterson as well as the extremely jerkish but nonetheless charming Jaime. He was my beacon of hope in What If because he took the really poorly written dialogue and exaggerated it in a way that actually made it not so painful to listen too. His screen presence is especially intense when he’s given a lead role, like he’s determined to leave an imprint of his character on my computer screen long after the movie’s over.
A lot of his intensity stems from his history with the Marines and his struggles of transition from military to civilian life. There’s a whole TED talk about it and the theater arts program, Arts in the Armed Forces, he created to bring the worlds of theater and military together:
That about wraps it up, folks. He’s an actor I’m probably going to be following for a long time, and I can’t wait to see what he does next. The movie he’s filming right now, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, seems interesting. Let me know if you’ve watched any of these films or other films/TV shows I hadn’t watched.
Why are you still here?
Oh, all right. But it’ll be brief because I plan to talk about Kylo at another time.
7. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
I do not have the words to express how perfect Adam Driver is in this role. He has the chops to flip from “You’re how old?” temper-tantrums to creepy yet pathetic obsession to all of the internal struggles that is tearing him apart subtle nuances in his face and it all WORKS. I cannot imagine anyone else as Kylo Ren, and honestly I don’t think I’d enjoy picking apart his complexities if anyone else played him.
Ok. That’s it. See you soon!