A story has to be about something and we typically call that its theme.
, a Sundance sensation (read: purchased by Fox Searchlight for lots of money) about an Albuquerque family of screw-ups and oddballs who hop in a dilapidated, bright yellow VW van to get youngest daughter Olive (Abigail Breslin) to the titular pre-teen beauty contest in California.
It’s a highway already traveled this year by , though whereas Barry Sonnenfeld’s clunker was dominated by Robin Williams’s hambone antics, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris’s directorial debut equitably spreads its wackiness around, allowing each of its ensemble members to have at least one embarrassing and/or kooky and/or touching personality trait specifically designed to elicit a particular audience reaction.
Thus, dad Richard Hoover (Greg Kinnear, revisiting his loathsomeness) is a pathetic, second-rate self-help guru who believes winning is everything; older son Dwayne (Paul Dano) is a sullen moper who’s taken a vow of silence while striving to become a Nietzschian superman; Grandpa (Alan Arkin) is a sex-crazed heroin addict; Uncle Frank (Steve Carell), the country’s leading Proust expert, has just tried to kill himself over a lost love; and mom Sheryl (Toni Collette) is an empathic homemaker desperately trying to keep her brood from imploding.
Furthermore, the script is being supervised by Lawrence Kasdan (who wrote Empire Strikes Back).
As it stands now, Star Wars Episode VII is shaping up to be the Star Wars movie we’ve wanted for a very long time. Not really, but now that we are getting one, and now that we know who’s behind it…
It’s not just some intellectual exercise for him, but something personal, human, affective.
That comes through with every character, every subplot, every scene.
After a serene prologue set in a packed theater where the adult David Copperfield (Dev Patel), standing at a lectern as if he were Spalding Gray in the 19th century, speaks the famous opening lines of Charles Dickens’s beloved novel, “Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life…,” this adaptation stomps on the accelerator and barely lets up.
David’s existence is told episodically—appropriate given the source material—and at a whimsically breakneck pace that can be off-putting.