to Recognizing Your Saints (***)
review by Jon
Dito left New York in 1986. He just couldn’t handle
watching his friends spiraling further down into the gutters.
He didn’t want to end up following the same path and
regret never trying to make something out of himself. His father
thought of him as a traitor for leaving his family and his
home, and subsequently stopped speaking to him. Years have
past and now that his father is sick, Dito finds himself forced
to finally come back home and confront all the demons he left
behind as well as recognize the saints.
I’m sure the book probably doesn’t suffer this
problem, but I think the movie would have been much better
if all the present day stuff were taken out entirely. Those
sequences were already few and far between, plus the tone of
the film doesn’t quite match, nor does the caliber of
acting. The scenes all seemed forced, and the horrible present
day ending honestly almost ruined the entire movie for me.
It was that bad. Up until that point, however, I was riveted.
Shia LeBeouf plays a young Dito Montiel (who wrote and directed
this adaptation of his own autobiographical book), while Robert
Downey Jr. plays the all grown up Dito. I’m surprised
to find myself saying this, but I really wanted Robert Downey
Jr. to look more and act more like his younger counterpart
Shia, and not the other way around. Normally when I see younger
actors in flashback roles, I want to see someone that matches
the look and acting style of the grown-up. Now, obviously Shia
and RD2 look nothing alike, but even their acting isn’t
close. I wish Downey would have taken some cues from the much
better performance that LeBeouf gives. The rest of the actors
are pretty good, too, with the other stand being the equally
surprising Channing Tatum (“Step Up,” “Supercross”)
who played Dito’s best friend and roughneck instigator,
It’s great that the acting is so strong, because although
the use of post-modern techniques is good and usually works
to the filmmaker’s advantage, the variety and frequency
of the gimmicks can be a little overwhelming and overbearing.
Montiel plays around with the time line not just by jumping
back and forth between past and present, but also by jumping
around within a conversation. You’ll hear voiceover conversation,
and then see them have the conversation. You’ll see screenplay
text in lieu of a scene. You’ll hear what sounds to be
an actual voicemail used to sell a key plot point. You’ll
also see all the young characters from the past introduce themselves.
That last one bothered me a little bit, because aside from
young Dito’s short introspection at the beginning, all
of them were clumped in around the middle of the film, when
we already had a good sense of the characters and motivations.
Still the movie is more hit than miss. The cast of characters
are extremely interesting and fully worth exploring. The situations
they find themselves in and the subsequent repercussions flow
well and present a nicely constructed gamut of emotions. And
although this is a minor point to most, I give Montiel a lot
of credit for filming scenes where multiple audible conversations
are taking place at once. It helps to add that extra touch
of realism in an already immersing story. If you’re looking
for something that’s a little bit “Requiem for
a Dream” and a little bit “Boogie Nights” but
not quite as depressing (or as good) as either of those two,
then “Guide” is your movie.
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