In Laurent Cantet’s 1999 French feature, written with Gilles Marchand, a student at a Paris business school returns home to Normandy to intern at the factory where his father has worked for 30 years. When the son and other workers go on strike and the antiunion father is let go, the son and father find themselves on opposite sides of the fence. This sharp, convincing, and utterly contemporary political film calls to mind some of Ken Loach’s work, full of passion as well as precision. Fine Arts.
By now we’ve been sated with Pulp Fiction spin-offs. This is perhaps the first of the American Beauty spin-offs, and though I fear it won’t be the last, let’s hope it turns out to be the crudest; it’s so crude that even the sensitive teenage photographer/rebel/outcast is a lout like the others. As a believable and/or meaningful story, it gets worse by the minute, and despite the title and an opening quote, it has nothing to do with Dostoyevsky. The cast includes Vincent Kartheiser, Monica Keena, Ellen Barkin, Jeffrey Wright, Michael Ironside, and James DeBello; Rob Schmidt directed the Larry Gross screenplay. 100 min. (JR)
Slight but savory, this is a road comedy about karaoke competitions, a potent and neglected subject, with three intercut stories about contenders en route to a contest in Omaha. Scripted by John Byrum (writer-director of the underrated Inserts and Heart Beat, not heard from in ages), and directed by Bruce Paltrow, this is largely cast with talented unknowns, apart from Angie Dickinson, Andre Braugher, and Paltrow’s daughter Gwyneth (Braugher and Paul Giamatti are especially effective). With Maria Bello, Huey Lewis, Scott Speedman, and Kiersten Warren. 112 min. (JR)