Wednesday, March 13, 2019

SXSW with Abe: Run This Town

I’m excited to be attending the film festival at South by Southwest for the second time, and I’ll be posting reviews throughout the week as I see as many movies as possible!

Run This Town
Directed by Ricky Tollman
Narrative Spotlight

When a major scandal occurs, there’s often a desire to take the story and dramatize it. Whatever events may be concretely confirmed can be featured, but it’s rare to find an adaptation that doesn’t take considerable liberties in both framing the situation and creating scenes and characters to help enhance the drama. Sometimes the focus even shifts so much that the scandal might be at the core of the plot, but the person or people involved most centrally become tangential to someone’s else story. That can work, but it can also prove to be considerably less interesting than the actual subject matter.

Bram (Ben Platt) graduates from college and gets a job working at a local newspaper in Toronto. Assigned by his editor (Scott Speedman) to write banal top ten lists about food and culture, he yearns for something more. When he answers a phone call from someone claiming to have damning evidence of illegal conduct by Mayor Rob Ford (Damian Lewis), Bram latches on to the story, eager to see it through even when he’s told that he’s not ready for it. Simultaneously, staffers (Mena Massoud and Nina Dobrev) weigh the ethics of working for Ford when they witness him engage in questionable behavior with no hint of remorse.

Ford was indeed investigated and implicated, and that might very well have been worth a spotlight. Yet framing it from the perspective of Bram, a self-professed millennial who demonstrates his overconfidence among friends and an insistent pushiness with those far more experienced in his filed, doesn’t result in a compelling product. There are elements that feel all too familiar and less than engaging as presented here, and for this viewer who didn’t realize before watching the film that Ford was a real person, this narrative feels somewhat unfocused and extraneous.

Platt, a Tony winner for “Dear Evan Hansen,” makes a major leap to a starring film role here, playing someone much less likeable who persists in the face of every single person telling him to back off and do what he’s expected to do. Dobrev, best known for her role on “The Vampire Diaries,” demonstrates that she should be cast in much bigger parts in great projects. Lewis, disguised with makeup and prosthetics to play the extremely overweight Ford, is recognizable by voice only, and his character exemplifies a problematic workplace hierarchy, one that is embedded within a rather standard and unspectacular millennial-centric journalism film.


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