Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)

     Maybe it is because there are no longer those big chain book stores in the area.  I always imagined that I could have done well in one of those companies, and on top of it all, I would be around books all day.  New books, books to be sold (and all the non-book items that got crammed in to those places).  But those stores are gone, and I get to the library far more often than The Book Table, the surviving local independent book seller.  The point is, I sure seem blissfully unaware of what people are reading, especially when it comes to fluff, the non-literature fiction that makes authors famous (well, known may be a better term) and movies made "based on the book".  I had never heard of The Lincoln Lawyer (2005) until the advertisements for the film started to pop-up during television programming.  Likewise, I had no idea who Michael Connelly was (this was his 16th book, and another of his novels had already been turned into "major motion picture").  I didn't have much interest in seeing The Lincoln Lawyer (2011) when it was in theaters (I passed up a chance to see it for free during its opening weekend), but decided to give it a go on DVD.
     I have a theory that the people who don't hate Matthew McConaughey – I count myself in this group – have a somewhat desperate desire to see him in a role similar to the ones that helped define his career (in my limited judgment): A Time to Kill (1996) and Contact (1997).  Now, it can be noted that it is somewhat ridiculous to expect McConaughey to step 15 years into the past and reclaim that special mix of earnest and man-boyish charm.  Almost anything would be more satisfying than Surfer, Dude (2008) or How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003).  The Lincoln Lawyer also has Marissa Tomei – who has a list of disappointing projects that can easily rival McConaughey's – in a more substantial role than I have seen her in for quite some time.  So I should be generally happy with this movie.
     The problem is I don't think The Lincoln Lawyer worked for me.  Ryan Phillippe (as defendent Louis Roulet) is allowed to bring his menace to full force, but even with this he gives a decent performance.  Tomei is reduced to being on screen more than giving a fully realized performance – and the relationship between ADA Maggie MacPherson (Tomei) and Mick Haller (McConaughey) is too loosely defined for it to have any emotional depth.  McConaughey has some fun with the role, but he has scenes where he is overshadowed by William H. Macy (as investigator Frank Levin) and others where Bryan Cranston (as Det. Lankford) gives him absolutely nothing to work with.  Supporting actors Bob Gunton (somebody give this guy the lead in a major studio picture, please) and Frances Fisher (forever Angie from Strange Luck to me) do much to give weight to their underwritten – at least for the screen – characters.
     The general pace of the movie is slow, which did work for me.  The action is largely off-camera, but even when it is not its slow.  There is an implication in the motive of the bad guy that is never addressed (I would like to imagine it is in the book, because it is a bold and plausible way to take the story), and that was rather unrewarding.  Haller doesn't seem to have any redeeming qualities, and he doesn't seem to be a very good lawyer.  Actually, nobody seems to be a very good (TV or movie version of a) lawyer.  The courtroom scenes has some limited payoff, but otherwise get in the way of the expanding story. 
     I wonder if I would have enjoyed this film more if I were a bigger fan of the genre of fiction from whence it came.  There seems to be a lot of non-horrible elements to the movie, but nothing really appealed to me.  I have spoken with several other who found this to be a "great" film, but they were clearly looking for something far different that I was.  Not a bad movie, and the things that bothered me were different than what usually bothers me, but this one didn't quite click for me.

1 comment:

  1. If Bob Gunton didn't have a lead role before, he never will. The Richard Jenkins of this world are very few.