Perhaps because this engrossing domestic/legal drama deals with a custody battle, A Separation has been dubbed an Iranian Kramer vs. Kramer. Yet this double Oscar nominee—for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Original Screenplay—is deeper and more morally complex, getting into some riveting issues, both legal and otherwise. Needing to take care of his ailing father (Ali-Asghar Shahbazi), Nader (Peyman Moadi) refuses to emigrate to America. In response, his wife (Leila Hatami) files for divorce—and they separate. Nader hires Razieh (Sareh Bayat) to care for his dad, but he fires her after she puts her charge in jeopardy. Soon, Nader finds himself caught in a tangled web of lies and accusations as an escalating legal battle ensues between Nader and Razieh. Although it seems melodramatic, A Separation is extremely compelling because Nader’s behavior is at once justified and inexcusable. Although it unfolds slowly, viewers can’t help but get caught up in Nader’s snowballing crisis of honor, truth, and justice. The film also makes the issues of class and gender, religion, and divorce in Iran equally fascinating. Boasting superb acting, complex characters, and a whipsmart script, A Separation builds its dramatic tension right up to the film’s perfect ending. This is one of the year’s best.
Addiction Incorporated A documentary about Victor DeNoble, a Philip Morris employee who took the company to task for their response to his research on the addictive properties in cigarettes.
Albert Nobbs Oscar nominees Glenn Close and Janet McTeer play women who live as men in this period piece set in a Dublin hotel.
The Grey Liam Neeson tries to fend off wolves when his plane crashes in the wild in this action adventure.
Man on a Ledge The swooping overhead establishing shots that open this crafty B-movie indicate that Man on a Ledge is not for acrophobes. Checking into the Roosevelt Hotel without baggage in midtown Manhattan, Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington) orders room service, pens a note, and climbs out the window. A flashback sequence then provides his backstory, which does little to explain why Nick, an ex-cop behind bars, becomes a fugitive and potential suicide. But as Man on a Ledge unfolds, Nick’s plan to prove his innocence regarding a $40 million diamond heist becomes clear. And he may be convincing Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks), the suicide negotiator whose last job jumped. It’s better not to discuss the interlocking plots that develop in Man on a Ledge, which works quite well for much of it running time—until it doesn’t. What can be revealed is that much of the suspense is less about is Nick going to jump, and more evident in a subplot that has Nick’s brother Joey (Jamie Bell) and Joey’s girlfriend Angie (Genesis Rodriguez) breaking into real estate developer David Englander’s (Ed Harris) offices. If the film does get a bit silly as various plots are tied up too neatly, Man on a Ledge is largely satisfying. Worthington and Bell are adequate in their roles, but Banks is unconvincing and badly miscast. Alas, Harris—along with supporting players Kyra Sedwick, Edward Burns, and Anthony Mackie—are wasted. But the film’s saving grace is Rodriguez who is funny, sexy, and naughty all at once. If nothing else, Man on a Ledge deserves to make her a breakout star.
Miss Bala In this Mexican thriller, a beauty queen contestant gets mixed up with members of a drug cartel.
One for the Money Katherine Heigl stars as a bail-bondswoman in this action comedy. Only cynics would say she made this one for the money.
Pina Wim Wenders shot his Oscar-nominated documentary about famed modern dancer/choreographer Pina Bausch in 3-D so audiences are given you-are-there seats to the synchronized, mesmerizing dancing. And watching the performers—who don’t have an ounce of body fat on them—bend and move to music ranging from classical to Latin—is a thing of beauty. But for those not enamored with Bausch’s work will find Pina to be a boring chore as many of the sequences, such as the “Café Müller” routines, are not only lengthy, but also repetitive. Still, there are some dazzling set pieces—a sequence on an escalator, or dancers performing on stage flooded with water. Just not enough of them. Wenders uses the 3-D effectively, as when a diorama become a stage, or during the brief interviews he conducts with many of the troupe’s dancers. But the actions mainly speak louder than the words as the members of her company describe Pina’s instructions to “keep searching.” The insights, about longing and yearning are few and far between, but the point of Pina is to celebrate the artist’s work. Watching the express themselves physically on the top of a mountain or on the streets of Wuppertal, Germany, will probably be sufficient for Bausch’s fans.