- compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2003 1 Jan
Writer/director Alexander Payne's
Some critics describe
Gerri Pare (Catholic News Service) calls it "wonderfully moving. The film locates genuine human emotion and the cast delivers the goods in sharply drawn portrayals. But it is overwhelmingly Nicholson's artistry that drives the film from a simple story of an Everyman at a crossroads to an affecting portrait of grief and self-discovery."
Doug Cummings (Chiaroscuro) found it inspiring. "It's to Payne's credit that he never inserts the sort of easy sentimental scene of tearful reconciliation which plagues other family dramas. As in real life, these clumsy characters must learn to embrace unfamiliar juxtapositions and compromise if they hope to remain in relationship. And the final image is one of tremendous, unexpected uplift."
Ted Baehr (Movieguide) takes a starkly different stance: "
J. Robert Parks (Phantom Tollbooth) disagrees: "I'm not sure the hurrahs being flung at the film are completely earned. I found [Payne's portrait of the Midwest] a little too harsh, a little bit smug. Payne is no longer laughing with us, he's laughing at us. Your view of the movie will probably depend on whether the final, cathartic shot is earned or just an illegitimate attempt to bring some emotion to an otherwise empty landscape."
Mainstream critics are similarly divided. Stephen Holden (
Mike LaSalle (San Fransisco Chronicle) focuses on the film's spiritual emptiness: "The movie … dares to say it's all a lie, that the truisms that movies and mass culture live by are reassuring myths but lead nowhere. Here, old age is a time not of insight but of confusion. Love doesn't grow but grows stale, evolving into a vague contempt. Having a child is no comfort, and even taking off down the road—the great American standby—offers nothing in the way of self-discovery. It's all empty.
Jeremy Lott (RazorMouth) offers a review of