4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
"You may now formally kiss my fine white [xxx].",
This review is from: Nobel Son [DVD] (DVD)
What a premise for a witty, malicious black comedy: Chemistry professor wins the Nobel and within days his son is kidnapped. The ransom is exactly the amount of the dollar amount of the award. The professor is a genius, a philanderer with his female graduate students, condescending, arrogant and so insensitive to others he makes us smile. Alan Rickman, of course, plays Dr. Eli Michaelson. Dr. Michaelson's first instinct is to keep the money.
Then a thumb arrives.
Nobel Son, sad to say, works against itself. From a setup dominated by Rickman's inflated and amusingly self-absorbed character, we're quickly enmeshed in a dysfunctional family that is plotted to be snarkily venomous but catches a case of directorial auteurism.
The kidnapping turns out to have stories within stories, all of which relate to Eli, and which in turn lead to another kidnapping. There are more malicious stories within stories, some of which might even be true (everyone is a good liar), plus a revelation or two. Do we wind up with ironic and extra-legal justice or just too much lime juice on the mango?
Unfortunately, the director, Randall Miller, isn't up to controlling a convoluted story of some wit and brittleness but which demands style and clarity. He repeatedly uses flash cuts and speed-ups, along with a loud, hip music score. What malicious wit there is, is lost. Particularly in a long scene in a mall involving a car as a prize, Miller's editing, with all his pyrotechnic flash, loses track of the cleverness of the switch.
Miller also has to deal with a cast that, except for Rickman and Mary Steenburgen, is only competent enough. Many seem to have cut their acting teeth in television productions with all those interchangeable roles and actors. Steenburgen, ever appealing and sympathetic, has a chance to add starch and vinegar to her role as Eli Michaelson's long-suffering wife. Bill Pullman, playing the detective on the case who develops a yen for Mrs. Michaelson, this time doesn't bring much to the party. Pullman uses far too much of the slightly scrunched-up eyes matched with a sympathetic or knowing smile. For the record, Danny DeVito has a role that contributes nothing. Still, it's always good to see him, even though his final appearance raises the question, "What the...?
Nobel Son's redeeming factor is Alan Rickman. He plays disdainful condescension better than any actor around. He has a gorgeous sneer, but perhaps to a fault. Many moviegoers only appreciate Rickman for the over-the-top characters he can portray so effortlessly. Watch him in the last Potter movie, however, if you doubt the depth of his acting. In fact, you might also watch a movie called Bottle Shock [DVD]. It stars Rickman. Miller directed it. Bottle Shock is a charming, coherent movie about wine snobbery. Rickman is charming, too.