Tag Archives: John Carroll Lynch

Review: ‘Anything’

dfn-anything-300Timothy McNeil’s Anything surrounds itself in so many ordinary and overcooked Hollywood cliches that by the halfway mark, it threatens to sink into obscurity.

There’s the central idea about a depleted man moving from the deep South to Hollywood in order to drink himself to death. Of course, he moves into a slightly dangerous but mostly anecdotal slum building full of loveless heroin addict musicians and a man whom we hear but never see, crooning songs to his long dead wife whenever he gets drunk enough.

Slowly, this depleted man becomes a sort of father-figure/savior to this Sunset Boulevard broken dreams sect. And, surprisingly, he finds a special relationship with a transgender woman living next door. With the exception of this fairly modern tangent of the story, one can feel the dusty tropes of Hollywood’s past working overtime in McNeil’s script.

But suddenly, something happens and the performances of actors John Carroll Lynch (as Early, the depleted man) and Matt Bomer (as the transgender love interest) bloom and somewhat redeem Anything into a subtle look at how people change and how their environments allow for newfound perspectives to take a chance in life. It’s not a great film, but a good one whose focus is small and naturalistic.

As Early, once-supporting character actor John Carroll Lynch is terrific as a lead. He’s always had that something, almost stealing Frances McDormand’s domestic scenes in Fargo (1996) and coming into his own as suspect Zodiac killer Arthur Leigh Allen in David Fincher’s Zodiac (2007). Only featured in one scene, Lynch gives a menacing and less-is-more example of how lumbering size can certainly be a frightening companion to sinister intelligence.

Recently widowed and depressed, Early is asked to move with his sister (Maura Tierney) to L.A. where she can keep an eye on her brother since his recent suicide attempt almost succeeded. Escaping her overbearing judgments and mothering personality, Early rents his own apartment and spends his days sightseeing Hollywood and drinking … all of this timed to carefully designed pop tunes that not only instill a sense of creaky screenwriting but an encroaching distrust of the film being anything organic or fresh.

Things are still rocky when Freda (Matt Bomer) introduces herself to her new neighbor because she needs sugar to make tea. It’s unclear how Early will react, but the two strike up a relationship. Despite the fact Freda works as a hooker, which of course brings about the usual complication of drug use and random muggings, Anything shifts its narrative line from Early wanting to kill himself to Early trying to save the dispirited inhabitants around him. If he finds love in the process, then so be it.

Much of the film’s current buzz lingers not on the borderline ordinariness of the plot or anything technical. Although I always have problems with films that use their title egregiously somewhere in the film (and this one is a humdinger), the real consideration falls on the decision of the filmmakers to use a male actor when portraying a transgender woman. When it’s done right, such as Daniela Vega in Sebastian Lelio’s Oscar winning A Fantastic Woman (2017) from earlier this year, the dividends are endless.

Although I can honestly say Bomer’s performance isn’t a train wreck, he does falter some towards the beginning of the film, playing Freda like a transplanted figure of Southern-drawl ‘snarkiness’ remade into the California identity he is now by watching other females play this role. Systemic of the film’s inherent weakness, Bomer’s role does resemble something heartfelt by the end, but he also feels designed to hit every cathartic note up to the redemptive finale.

If Anything recovers any of its momentum, it’s due to the performance of Lynch. During the film’s pivotal scene in which he invites his sister and her family to dinner in order to meet Freda, the film achieves a moment of clarity in how each person reacts to the scenario in front of them: some with disdain, some with polite deflection, some with sharp anger. All of the emotions are handled delicately and the film settles into a sharp drama of decisions and reconciliation with the crappy dealings in life. It’s not too late to save the film, but its almost too little.

Anything opens in the Dallas/Fort Worth area on Friday, May 18 at the AMC Grapevine Mills and AMC Mesquite Dine-In 30.






Review: ‘The Founder’

dfn-thefounder-300He’s friendly and outgoing. He looks like an ordinary man. But in The Founder, he’s The Devil.

As portrayed magnificently by Michael Keaton, Ray Kroc is a typical American traveling salesman. He’s got his sales pitch down and he never stops, even in the face of general rejection of his latest sales item, a commercial milkshake mixer.

At the age of 52, he has done alright for himself and his wife Ethel (Laura Dern), able to afford a comfortable, if modest, lifestyle in a placid Illinois neighborhood. They are a childless couple, though, and Ray’s long absences have left Ethel alone and unhappy over the years. Oblivious to his wife’s needs, Ray plows ahead.

One day, he hears from his faithful secretary — and only employee — June Martino (Kate Kneeland) that a restaurant in California has ordered six (?!) milkshake machines. Certain that it’s a mistake, he makes a long-distance telephone call and is informed that, no, that is correct, but come to think of it, better make it eight machines.

Having nothing better to do, and a bit fed up with his the poor sales he’s been experiencing at the drive-in restaurants on his self-made route, Ray drives to California on Route 66 to see for himself. (It’s 1954, and people did things like that in those days.) Upon arrival in San Bernardino, Ray is amazed to see people lined up at McDonald’s, a burger stand that serves its few menu items amazingly fast.

Soon he meets the owner/operators, Dick and Mac McDonald (Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch), and they are only too happy to show him around their small but well-designed facility, and then explain over dinner how their arrived at their “overnight” success story after more than 20 years in business.

Ray, like a friendly, outgoing, ordinary viper, wants in.

The balance of The Founder tells the story of how Ray Kroc brought franchising to the McDonald’s operation and slowly but steadily stole their concept out from under them and introduced fast-food restaurants to the United States. It’s a tale of treachery and ambition and greed, detailing how little businesses can become multinational corporations.

It’s horrifying, yet familiar. Dick and Mac are not stupid; they are, in fact, exemplary and conscientious businessmen. Their burgers may be cheap, but that’s because of efficiency, experience, and expertise, not because they cut corners on the quality of the food or tried in any way to cheat the customers.

Ray, at least as presented in the film, is obsessed with making McDonald’s as big as possible, and making himself look as good as possible in the process. He takes credit for all the ideas dreamed up by Dick and Mac, and soon tires of their contractual control of the business. That leads to the McDonald’s we all know and loathe today.

Director John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side) keeps things hopping and allows space for the actors to shine. The script by Robert D. Siegel (Big Fan) is superbly incisive. John Schwartzman’s cinematography and Carter Burwell’s musical score nicely complement the action.

Among the supporting players, Patrick Wilson and Linda Cardellini stand out for their sharp turns as a restaurant owner and his wife who cross paths with Ray.

The film really belongs to Keaton, Offerman and and Lynch; they each give terrific, beautifully-modulated performances. As the personification of evil, Keaton is sublime. We get the clear sense that the aging Ray Kroc, facing the end of his days as a very modest success, seized upon a great opportunity and then tore apart any who stood in his way to becoming a monstrous success. But quietly and, apparently, politely; it’s not like he wanted blood on his hands or stains on his conscience.

The Founder is good food for thought, especially anytime the prospect of a quick meal at McDonald’s beckons.

The film opens wide in Dallas theaters on Friday, January 20.