Watching Cyrus, by Jay and Mark Duplass, it bothered me that its concept kind of strangled it and held it back, although I didn't have a clear idea of what it should have been, had that potential been realized. I wanted the pedestrian chaos and loose energy of the first act to keep unspooling, but where that might have led that could be satisfying I had no idea.
Their more recent film, Jeff, Who Lives At Home, answers that question: not only does it recapture that energy, it has a brilliant idea of exactly what to do with it. I really love it- it takes big risks, especially when it asks us to care about its somewhat cartoonish leads, and especially at the end, which somehow managed to sincerely move me.
I say "somehow" because I am not A.O. Scott, who seems to know just how this film works. It frustrates me to no end when I fail to deconstruct my own feelings about a film, then I read an A.O. Scott review, and it turns out that he's practically doing it for me. He often gets to the truth first and best. I can even see his face there on the page, chuckling evilly at me behind bookish glasses.
Of course I'm not lockstep with his opinion. But this amazing review is chilling in how sharply it cuts to my true feelings about this film that I couldn't articulate for myself.
Come to think of it, I enjoy what he writes even when I don't agree with it so much; one of my favorite articles he ever wrote, which was about the Sideways phenomenon, takes not only the film but the general response to it and guts the whole thing like a fish, laying out every piece on the table. It's the forcefulness of the writing that makes me pay attention. I just hope it doesn't occasionally hypontize me into agreeing with him as well.