Josh Charles

TIFF 2014: ‘Bird People’ is an unconvincing take on personal liberty

There’s no easy way to write about Bird People without spoiling the ostensible magic and surprise it so valiantly strives for. Cut almost dead in the middle between depicting the mundane and the thrilling occurrences between two people at a modern and disconnected hotel in Paris, Pascale Ferran’s (Lady Chatterley) film aims to be ambitious and magical, but never quite comes together as it should, often feeling incomplete and insubstantial in the process. Opening with a playful prologue that includes different people on a commuter train, we quickly eavesdrop as they play on their phones, listen to music, and engage in conversation. It’s a curious way to start things off as it suggests the random importance of these brief human snippets that we drop in on but never revisit.

Cannes 2014: ‘Force Majeure’ shows maximum control from the powerfully subtle Östlund

Ruben Östlund’s powerful tale of moral expectations begins in a pure-white canvas as a photographer cheekily moves the family through mundane vacation picture poses. The camera, though already framing excellently in 2.35, swerves along with the family of skiers to create a silent, elegant painting of action. Scenes are often shot in long-take, though the conversations they encompass may elevate its transfixing pace. It’s slow, droll, and has the visual competency of an action film which sets it up initially as a natural black comedy. However, an instigating event suddenly transforms relationships within the nuclear family and beyond adding a significant undercurrent of tension that’s been rightly compared to The Loneliest Planet. From a storytelling and tonal perspective, it’s a different kind of beast that relies and succeeds through timing the combinations of drama’s basic components.

The Good Wife S05E19 promo image

The Good Wife, Ep. 5.19, “Tying The Knot” is a twisty meditation on perception

The Good Wife is obsessed, especially lately, with memory, with subjective experience and the way it colors our entire perceptions of the world around us. We never get out of our heads, after all. Everything we ever experience is colored by this limitation. Our senses and our recollections are all we have to tie us to the past, and to help us pull ourselves forward. The world outside ourselves is something we can only do our best to conceive of. Anything but our own flawed memory is pure conjecture.

The Good Wife, Ep. 6.16 “The Last Call” leaves questions forever unanswered

Death closes off the greatest venture we can ever undertake with another human being: the effort to know them fully. In life, a person’s true self is elusive, but we convince ourselves it is somehow attainable, dancing just out of our reach. But in death, all ellipses become periods, all question marks are left to dangle. There is no person left to know. There are no answers left to find. There’s just the seeking, and the void.

The Good Wife, Ep. 5.15, “Dramatics, Your Honor” changes everything

Sometimes something happens and the world falls apart. Gravity drops out and you are left floating, untethered to your surroundings, separate in a way. Nothing makes sense anymore. The world doesn’t work in the way it’s supposed to and it may never function in that way again. Reality feels unreal, sounds reach you as if they are traveling through water. Nothing can touch you, because if it did, everything would fall to pieces.

The Good Wife, Ep. 5.14, “A Few Words” cannot solve Alicia’s woes

Everything that really happens in “A Few Words” happens in the quiet spaces, in silent moments of contemplation, in missed connections and quiet epiphanies. This is an episode set in the space between, with all of the characters out of their element in New York City, angling to land rainmaker Rayna Hecht (Jill Hennessy) while navigating the ABA conference where Alicia is slated to give the keynote address. There’s no case-of-the-week here; in fact, the only law we really see is pending. Everyone is taken out of their element, out of their comfort zone, and left to contend with themselves. Perhaps that’s why there’s so much drinking going on this week.

The Good Wife, Ep 5.13 “Parallel Construction, Bitches” brings dormant plots back

The mid-season break The Good Wife took over the last few months was almost certainly not built into the show’s plan for the season (if it was, it was not handled particularly elegantly). Where plenty of other network shows have taken to doing “mid-season finales” and structuring their longer, more unwieldy episode counts like two mini-seasons that form a more coherent whole, this is a show that works best as a behemoth, a large series of interconnecting plotlines that slowly fade in and out of relevance and become increasingly or decreasingly important across the season.

The Good Wife, Ep. 5.12 “We The Juries”: Judicial gimmickry with a Kalinda problem

A few times a season, The Good Wife likes to do a “judicial gimmick” episode, throwing the attorneys into a fish out of water situation and watching as they flail, trying to adapt to something they simply do not prepare for in an average trial. “We, The Juries” is one such episode, throwing Will, Diane, Alicia, and Cary into a complicated single trial with two defendants and a bifurcated jury—one for each client. This complicates things not only for both prongs of the defense, but for the prosecution and the judge (played by the always welcome Victor Garber as an imminently decent, efficiency-minded jurist increasingly overwhelmed by the demands of the system he decided on to try the case).

The Good Wife promo image S05E11, "Goliath and David"

The Good Wife, Ep. 5.11, “Goliath and David” is a wacky blow-off episode

The Good Wife returns from its short winter break this week with an episode that is erratic at best. “Goliath and David” has a mediocre case-of-the-week, an annoying plotline involving Marilyn’s baby, sub-par Lockhart Gardner drama, and hints that the Kalinda/Damian story is going to get as bad as we’d worried. Basically, it is an episode that shows that even at its best, The Good Wife makes the occasional misstep.

The Good Wife, Ep. 5.10, “The Decision Tree”: Landmark ep considers past and future

“The Decision Tree” is the show’s landmark 100th episode, and it spends a lot of time ruminating on where it has been in a season that has markedly been focused on where things are going. The episode opens with a shot of the 100 on a speedometer, as if to signal fans that things aren’t slowing down anytime soon. And while much of the episode is as propulsive as the series has been of late, it also takes time to slow down and ponder what has come before.

The Good Wife, Ep. 5.09, “Whack-a-Mole” has a strong center, problematic fringe

Ah, The Good Wife. You’re always good for a thinly veiled riff on a relevant piece of internet culture, aren’t you? “Whack-a-Mole” focuses on Scabbit, a website that is distinctly not Reddit (just kidding. It totally is.) which the FBI uses to crowd source an investigation of a terrorist attack, leading them to suspect Alicia’s kindly professor, who is writing a book on jihad, but not that kind of jihad.

The show’s interest in social media and internet culture occasionally leads to it being silly and obtuse in a vain attempt to be hip and relevant, but it returns to these issues again and again for a reason. Say what you will about it, but The Good Wife is incredibly skilled at keeping tabs on salient legal issues and building episodes around them. And the old refrain that privacy will be the issue of the twenty-first century means the show will look again and again at these debates. The internet is a fascinating place from a legal perspective, a playground where anonymity is theoretically guaranteed, where law can be subverted or ignored, and where regulation is either nonexistent or completely ineffective. Alicia’s efforts to get an injunction tonight are a perfect example: everyone agrees the legal system is woefully inadequate to deal with the situation, which makes it easy for Scabbit to exploit the law for its own benefit.

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