July 23, 2014

New York Film Festival offers rich movie choices

Each week, the Reel Dad checks the nutritional value of a movie — new or classic — to help you choose what to watch. This week, our critic looks at new films premiering at the New York Film Festival, Sept. 28-Oct. 14, at Lincoln Center in the city.

With the 50th New York Film Festival opening this weekend, movie buffs in our area can savor some of the most talked about films of the year at the second oldest film festival in North America. And, because 2012 has delivered so few strong movies so far, interest is high in the films that will premiere at this gathering sponsored and directed by the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

A highlight of this year’s festival is Noah Baumbach’s magical comedy Frances Ha, a delightful look at the loves, challenges and priorities of 20-somethings in Brooklyn. With insight, care and humor, Baumbach invites us to their wonderful world where each day brings challenge to pay the bills, hang out with abandon and live with purpose. Through its central character, a young woman searching for what her life can mean, Baumbach paints a picture of a generation struggling to navigate a world that can confuse and frustrate. And he films in glorious black and white to honor the characters and the setting. As the writer/director described in a post-screening discussion, “I wanted to shoot the film in a new way, as if I was making my first movie. That is less about the budget and more about my philosophy. And it is my way to reinvent how I make movies.” This wonderful film premieres Sept. 30.

Bill Murray embraces a formidable acting challenge to portray a former President of the United States in Hyde Park on Hudson, also starting Sept. 30. This lovely historical movie recreates a little-known chapter in the life of Franklin D. Roosevelt when he romantically pursues a distant relative. Murray, so effective earlier this year in Moonrise Kingdom, beautifully portrays the President, highlighting his sense of humor, secret passions and political savvy. And he offers an unflinching look at the day-to-day impact of the President’s disability. Samuel West, who dares to play King George VI just two years after Colin Firth’s Oscar-winning turn in The King’s Speech, almost steals the film with his fresh and touching performance as the British monarch.

From Germany comes Barbara, a moving drama about life in the German Democratic Republic in 1980. Highlighting the day-to-day work of doctors in a clinic in a small East German town, the film reveals the challenges that people face, the hopes they are forced to deny, and the dreams they willingly take risks to pursue. Director Christian Petzoid reminds us that boundaries on a map do not define aspirations of the heart; that people, no matter the limitations of their lives, can commit to bring meaning to themselves and others. As he discussed after the film, “We shot the film in sequence and, by the end of the shoot, you got the feeling these characters will open a new society.” Barbara opens Oct. 1.

Brian DePalma, the creator of such classic thrillers as Carrie and Dressed to Kill, returns to his favorite genre with Passion opening Oct. 6. While this over-the-top entertainment may lack the substance of more serious films at the festival, it certainly entertains with its exaggerated story, visual style and fun performances. Rachel McAdams delights as a driven career woman who will do anything to stay ahead; Naomi Rapace is sublime as a coworker who demonstrates she can be as tricky as her colleague. This remake of a French film, Love Crime, may lack the insight into character of the original, but DePalma compensates with a delicious hunger for the jugular. This is a popcorn movie for any viewer who simply wants to be entertained.

For details and tickets for all the New York Film Festival offerings, go to www.filmlinc.com/NYFF or call 212-875-5601. How lucky we are to be such a close distance to so many movies worth seeing.