For a few months earlier this year, everyone everywhere all at once was talking about “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” a break out sci-fi adventure film from the directing duo Daniels. I found a lot to admire in this movie but I just couldn’t get fully on board, despite my best efforts.
I can’t argue that this film doesn’t deserve accolades, but after seeing it a second time within a few weeks of the Nicolas Cage-starrer “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent,” I was able to hone in on what irritated me so much about both: a hugely self-congratulatory streak that seems to stand in for genuine invention. As I wrote in my review of “Massive Talent”:
“These movies are all about echoing back to the audience the stuff we know already, and they’re measured in the frequency of chuckles and hoots of approval from the audience when we recognize something pulled out from our media memory trunks, when our past purchases are flashed in front of us and the value of those transactions are reasserted. They wink and nudge at us and say, “Hey, we’ve all seen this stuff before and here it is again but in a slightly different context. Isn’t that hilarious? And aren’t we all great for being in on this joke?”
By contrast, I was much more energized by Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s “Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy,” a triptych of much more straightforward—and much less bombastic—dramas focused on the romantic lives of young women in contemporary Japan. Hamaguchi hit the jackpot at awards season with “Drive My Car,” which I also watched in April; that film was also released in late 2021 but went on to much greater attention, even winning an Oscar for best foreign film. Nevertheless, “Wheel” is the better film for my money; each of its tales is delicately crafted to achieve a subtle, bittersweet kind of magic. What’s more, the third story, titled “Once Again,” a truly heartbreaking reminder that you can never go home again, is as virtually perfect as anything I’ve seen in recent memory.
Here are all fourteen films I saw in April.
“The Great Beauty” (2013) ★★★½
A somewhat preposterous protagonist makes for a movie that is shallower than it thinks. Still, Paolo Sorrentino’s incredibly vivid direction turns it into something exactly as rapturous as his aspirations.
“Drive My Car” (2021) ★★½
Is Haruki Murakami really that good of a storyteller, or are we all just deluding ourselves? This movie really made me wonder.
This is the latest roundup of my monthly movie consumption. You can also see what I previously watched in March, in February, in January, in 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, and 2016. Also, you can always keep up with what I’m watching by following me on Letterboxd—where I’m also writing tons of capsule reviews.