Review(s) | HUMAN CAPITAL / THE RIOT ACT | It's All In the Imperfections

Sometimes you win, sometimes...

Human Capital

If there is one takeaway from Alex Wolff’s recent filmography, it’s to never let his character drive a car. Bad idea.

At once, Human Capital is a film centered on selfish and vapid grownups, seemingly looking after their families but really keeping their own interests and mistakes and triumphs as personal as possible. As a whole, the movie is a juxtaposition of the failures and missteps of parents with the growing maturity and fading innocence of their children. These themes are expressed well enough here, mostly from its experienced cast (Liew Schrieber, Marissa Tomei, and Peter Sarsgaard) who do everything and anything with the material - and in surprising ways - but all too often we feel a stiff blow of dullness.

Schreiber and Tomei are near brilliant as parents from opposite classes of wealth. As a father, Schreiber is impotent and unable to connect with his daughter but does mean to do right by her and everyone else - if only he had more time. When attempting to make a large business investment, he fudges some paperwork while drinking a small glass of alcohol (I assume grocery store scotch). The speed with which he laps up and swallows down the booze was an inspired choice, showing just how desperate this man is to gain some courage, lie, and make a buck. Pathetic, he is.

As a mother, Tomei is somewhat loving and light, saying and doing the right things for her kids (a son and a set of twins - Schreiber has a daughter and is expecting twins), but suffers from the “trophy wife”/”stay at home” syndrome levied upon her. She seeks hobbies and causes but is turned down frequently by her wonderfully jerk-ish husband (Sarsgaard). When an affair presents itself, she plunges into it with loud gusto, all the while a horror movie plays on tv. Another kind of pathetic, if more aggressive.

Human Capital is more or less about bad decisions, even the ones that have good outcomes. These two parents will ultimately determine the fate of their respective families by way of an almost Crash-esque time looping/”we’re all connected” tale. Almost, mind you. This is a variation on that genre, more lowkey than its predecessors. Indeed, we might be connected, perhaps oh so tenuously, but a line draws us together for sure. All it takes is one moment.

The reason for this season is in the impeccable cast. Again, everyone fires on all cylinders, even the teen roles like that of the troubled Alex Wolff. Here, as an outsider type, is exploited for his awkwardness at least two times, but does find some comfort in one individual. Fate breaks things apart, and the parents do even further damage. For their families? For themselves? For justice? Sometimes, there are no winners in life. Just schmucks.

For Human Capital, a movie made up of schmucks that appear better than us but are more depressed and sad than most, I can only offer light cheer. For certain, it’s a chance for these veteran actors to carve out and chow down on something with meat, even if they have to provide all of the bite. Muddled at best, mediocre at half best.

No, it’s not a bad film. But remember, next time, don’t let Alex Wolff behind the wheel. Please.

RATING: 3 / 5


The Riot Act

Late century/early century vaudeville acts, passionate murder, burning vengeance, and a ghostly spirit should make for something extraordinarily interesting to watch. Indeed, The Riot Act is quite the watch for sure, but not in the way its crew wished for. No, this movie is near discount bin quality with eyes that don’t match the size of its own stomach. The efforts of everyone involved are bold, but the resources to achieve an overall vision don’t come together.

A poor stage act, this is.

Brett Cullen stars as an opera theater owner who, over one evening, ruins the lives of a lead actor and of his daughter, two lovers he chooses to break up over societal class reasons it would seem. We see Cullen’s eyes as the only part of his face lit, in a classic lighting scheme I loved. Steam and fog cover the train station from which the inciting incident occurs. Visually, from a design perspective, things are right. It’s when everyone other than Cullen talks that the movie falls to pieces.

From the vaudeville company leader - an over actor the likes of community theater or fresh out of college - to side characters who can’t choose an accent for a given scene, to the too digital video look of an era gone by that throws the feeling of everything off by massive measures, The Riot Act is pretty terrible. It feels more like a thesis project or high school production that lucked out with a slightly big-name star willing to perform. It’s an unfortunate disappointment, given the initial production value of its opening sequence. Nothing else even comes close to being as good as those first few minutes.

With all of my pseudo-might, I wish whole-heartedly to state that the acting and the writing could’ve and should’ve been on par with the environment, the costumes, and colors. But, here we are. With a movie not as bad as Asylum films, but awfully too close for comfort.

There’s talent somewhere beneath it all, and maybe one day it’ll come out in spectacular fashion. That day was not this day, however.

RATING: 1.5 / 5


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