Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Talking Tribeca: A Kind of Murder

I’ve had the pleasure this year of screening a number of selections from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, which took place April 13th-24th.

A Kind of Murder
Directed by Andy Goddard
Festival Screenings

Films often tell more than one story, and while they may seem to be unconnected at first, figuring out how they are related is a big part of a film’s exposition. “A Kind of Murder” begins with two parallel stories, one of a man whose wife has been found murdered at a bus rest stop and the other of a man whose wife drives him crazy. The former’s situation entices the latter, who moonlights as a crime novelist, and the line between fact and fiction is hard to decipher in this dark, brooding drama set in the 1960s.

Walter Stackhouse (Patrick Wilson) is an architect who lives in a beautiful, spacious home that he designed. He hosts lavish parties with his wife Clara (Jessica Biel), but it is evident that, despite the presence of many people around her, she latches on only to Walter’s extended conversation with an attractive young woman, Ellie Briess (Haley Bennett). Her jealous behavior infuriates Walter, who is no angel given the fact that he does indeed lust for an affair with Ellie, anything to get him away from his possessive and sometimes suicidal spouse. His fascination with the unsolved case of the murdered Helen Kimmel and her husband (Eddie Marsan), the prime suspect, leads to events that seem to suggest that Walter is going to kill his wife too.

This is a film that very much frontloads its plot, with its title giving away a good portion of the film’s events and leading to the big question of what crime exactly both Walter and Kimmel have committed if they are indeed innocent of the actual physical murder of their wives. Aside from short, spoken protests, neither man does much to argue for his innocence with his behavior. Kimmel is a man who keeps to himself and seems not to enjoy conversation with anyone, and Walter is a boastful, social man who couldn’t be any less interested in his wife. The dogged, aggressive nature of the detective (Vincent Kartheiser) in hot pursuit of both of them is just about the only thing that makes either of them sympathetic.

Wilson spent time recently in the past on the other side of the law hunting criminals in the second season of “Fargo,” and while he was an endearing hero there, he can definitely play the part of the smarmy smooth talker. Marsan is a talented actor extraordinarily suited for this role. Kartheiser makes the eccentric and passionate Detective Corby hard to forget, giving the film three layered characters, none of whom can be described as likeable. While it presents interesting questions and intriguing characters, this film doesn’t do a great job of taking them anywhere, leading to a middling and unexciting resolution.


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