MOVIE REVIEW: Return to Montauk

Drama.  A writer is in New York to do readings of his new work.  While there he runs into his old friend Walter, who it’s hinted at was his mentor in some way, this reunion brings up feelings for an old flame.  Max, the writer, pressures his personal assistant and ignores his wife to find the old flame and tries to reignite the feelings from years ago.

Although I love action movies, the more mindless sometimes the better, as I just want to escape the reality that I’m faced with everyday, there are days where you just want a good drama.  Something story driven with great performances and dialogue that just makes you swoon.  These are sadly too far and way too few in between.  When one comes along I will step up and pressure friends and family to go see the film, to the point that I’m outside their bedroom windows at two in the morning and screaming the name of the film through over and over again.  Yes I obsess.  When they are like Return to Montauk I take my time to write the review because my knee jerk reaction is to trash without thought.

There are two stellar performances in the film.  Nina Hoss as Rebecca the old flame.  Stunning and powerful acting without the need of words to tell you how she feels.  You can tell the unfinished business that she has with Max is still affecting her life now, a long time after the relationship has ended, and it breaks your heart at some point.  The second performance that I enjoyed was the Personal Assistant played by Isi Laborde, her discomfort in the role in the finding of the old flame makes her uncomfortable to the extreme.  I only wish that we learnt more about these two characters rather than staying with Stellan Skarsgard as Max.

Max has to be one of the most unlikable characters that I’ve seen on the screen this year.  Other than an obvious talent for writing there seems to be nothing that makes him appealing to the viewer.  The script is mostly to fault here.  New York is photographed in a way that doesn’t place emphasis on location, one of the best filming locations, in my mind, and it seems to be wasted.

My problem is that the film offers the viewer many chances of a good story to unfold, but it wants to be so smart that it leads to confusion, which spoils the enjoyment that is promised.  I can take Woody Allen without the comedy, I’m that old that I remember his films that left humour behind, because he managed to bring the location and story to the forefront.  Return to Montauk wants you to know how clever it is, taking time away from proper character and story development, just to show that the writer and director can make a grown up movie.

As much as I love a big action film, I want that quiet of a drama, but a good drama, it doesn’t have to shout that it’s intelligent through a constant barrage of intellectual nonsense.  It has to communicate a story, it has to give me a character that I may not understand, but that I like in some form.  Max isn’t a great character to follow through a film and I honestly can’t tell you that this is the drama you are waiting for.  The two performances that I’ve pointed may or may not be worth the price of admission.  You pay into a cinema, for a film, for the complete package.  When the story and main character don’t live up to that standard you should wait.  Trust me we’re coming into great drama time of year.  Sadly this one isn’t it.

Director: Volker Schlöndorff (as Volker Schloendorff)
Writers: Colm Tóibín (screenplay), Volker Schlöndorff(screenplay) (as Volker Schloendorff)
Stars: Stellan SkarsgårdBronagh Gallagher, Susanne Wolff, Nina Hoss & more See full cast & crew

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