One of the best things about the Jameson International Film Festival is the blind luck of what you might discover if you take the chance. Instead of studiously looking into every film's background on IMDb, or only going to the ones that have famous people involved, you should try out (metaphorically) throwing darts at the JDIFF programme and go to see whatever it lands on. That's what I did this last weekend, closed my eyes and picked films at random.
First up on Saturday was In A Bedroom, a Polish drama dealing with a homeless con-artist who poses as a prostitute, drugs her clients and then lives in their home for the night, before leaving the next morning with the contents of their wallets. Trouble arises when the con-artist finds herself falling in love with one of her victims. There were some great performances, but the story-telling was confusingly muddled, and the sudden ending didn't help matters.
Next was The Good Man, a crime-drama split between events taking place in Northern Ireland and South Africa. When a man (Aiden Gillen) accidentally causes the death of a stranger, he finds the guilt almost unbearable to deal with. Meanwhile, a teenager (Thabang Sidliyo) is dealing with helping his poverty stricken community. Trying to figure out how these two stories will connect keeps your attention, but the weak script lets it down. Writer/director Phil Harrison was on hand after the screening for a Q&A with the audience.
The Paperboy was up next, a truly twisted, off-kilter erotic thriller. Matthew McConnaughey, Zac Efron and Nicole Kidman are trying to prove John Cusack is innocent of killing a local sheriff, but the murder mystery takes a back seat to the characters themselves. All of the above four actors deliver some career highlights in this movie, with particular to praise going to an incredibly trashy Kidman and a highly creepy Cusack.
Last up for Saturday was Cloud Atlas, and you can read Gav's review for it right here. Yes, it was wildly uneven, but it's also hugely ambitious, taking in the big themes like love, death and destiny. A marmite film if ever there was one.
Sunday kicked off with a bang; the Ryan Gosling/Bradley Cooper starring The Place Beyond The Pines. From the director of Blue Valentine and with a plot not dissimilar to Drive – Gosling plays a stuntman who moonlights as a bank robber – anticipation was high. Unfortunately it fell short of both of those modern classics, due to an over-reaching plot and a deep insight into the mentality of male relationships, but not much else. Both Gosling and Cooper were fantastic in it, though.
Side Effects followed, the final theatrical release from the fantastic Steven Soderbergh (Ocean's Eleven, Traffic, Magic Mike). Rooney Mara plays the wife to a just-released-from-prison Channing Tatum, and she is suddenly afflicted by debilitating depression. Jude Law is her new therapist who prescribes her some new-to-the-market medication, but wouldn't you know it, they have some nasty "side effects". A twisty, turny, Hitchcockian thriller that is definitely worth checking out.
Finally for Sunday we had John Dies At The End, winner of biggest spoiler in the title since The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Based on the hilarious novel of the same name, the movie version comes across as a hipster mish-mash of Ghostbusters and The Evil Dead, with not enough comedy or horror to be properly entertaining. Disappointing.
Both nights were topped off with some Jamesons at The Church Bar on Mary Street, the Festival Club for the duration, with the likes of a Mad Men-themed party and a number of DJs playing their over the weekend.
Keep checking back on entertainment.ie for more updates on the movies we catch over the festival!