Viggo Mortensen Confronts Abusive Parenting in His Directorial Debut ‘Falling’

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Falling (CREDIT: Brendan Adam-Zwelling/Quiver Distribution)

Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Lance Henriksen, Sverrir Gudnason, Laura Linney, Terry Chen, Hannah Gross, Gabby Velis

Director: Viggo Mortensen

Running Time: 112 Minutes

Rating: R for Just About Every Ethnic and Gendered Slur You Can Think Of (and Brief Nudity)

Release Date: February 5, 2021 (Theaters and On Demand)

I’m generally not terribly excited to watch movies about emotionally abusive parents, whereas I am generally excited to watch the directorial debuts of actors whose work I consistently enjoy. So I find myself internally conflicted at the prospect of Falling, in which Viggo Mortensen directs himself as John Peterson, a family man attempting to deal with his profoundly irascible father Willis (Lance Henriksen). Surprisingly enough, while watching I didn’t find myself entirely anxiety-ridden by all the familial strife on display. Perhaps my mood just happened to be in enough of a state of equilibrium to handle it, and quite possibly I wouldn’t have reacted as keenly on a more stressful day. Or maybe it had something to do with the variety of ways (frustration, gritted teeth, amusement, insults, etc.) that Willis’ kids and grandkids employ to respond to his provocations and declining mental health.

If there is one major takeaway above all others to Falling, it is the Power of Patience. John appears to be genuinely happy that his dad is spending the weekend at his house with his husband Eric (Terry Chen) and daughter Monica (Gabby Velis), but we know that his feelings can’t possibly be all (or even mostly) positive, as childhood flashbacks present a father-son relationship in which Willis browbeats his son over every single major or minor decision that he makes. And yet for all the decades of turmoil he’s endured, John is still conscientious enough to honor his own internal sense of familial loyalty. I wouldn’t judge him if he were to instead decide that the healthiest choice would be to cut his father off, but I’m glad that he tries to keep the peace with him long enough so that we have a family dinner scene in which John’s sister (Laura Linney) and her kids show up so that everyone can have a chance to declare what they really think about Grandpa.

The final act of Falling is a little more slow going, as it departs from John’s place on the West Coast back to Willis’ farm in Upstate New York. John is helping to put the property on the market, but Willis is deeply connected to his horses and intent on spending more time with them. At least that’s what I think is going on. Frankly, the story becomes significantly less dynamic when John and Willis are away from the rest of the extended Peterson clan, and I must admit that my sense of connection to what I was watching started to drift during the farm scenes. But overall, this is still a fairly compelling piece about how intergenerational trauma has a long tail but also about how it can be digested and rejected for a different approach.

Falling is Recommended If You Like: Angsty family dinner scenes, White horses

Grade: 2.5 out of 5 Pathological Insults

Movie Review: ‘Her Smell’ Puts Elisabeth Moss Through Hell as She Fights Her Way Back to Punk Rock Redemption

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CREDIT: Gunpowder & Sky

Starring: Elisabeth Moss, Agyness Deyn, Gayle Rankin, Dan Stevens, Eric Stoltz, Cara Delevingne, Ashley Benson, Dylan Gelula, Amber Heard, Virginia Madsen, Eka Darville, Lindsay Burdge, Keith Poulson, Alexis Krauss, Craig Butta, Hannah Gross, Daisy Pugh-Weiss

Director: Alex Ross Perry

Running Time: 135 Minutes

Rating: R for The Rock ‘n’ Roll Lifestyle at Its Most Rock-Bottom

Release Date: April 12, 2019 (New York)/April 19, 2019 (Los Angeles)

Her Smell is not about riot grrrl punk rock so much as it just takes place in the riot grrrl milieu. Although I suppose it would be fair to say that a person like Becky Something, lead singer of Something She, would be most likely to have the breakdown that she has in this particular setting. Hers is a story as old as show business: she grew up with a profound inner sense of emptiness and sought to fill it with the stage, but she also turned to drinking, drugs, and suspect shamanism. Elisabeth Moss is fully, almost painfully committed to a performance of Becky as a shell of a person who cannot cover up the destructive whirlwind she has become. This is The Elisabeth Moss Show, with Becky’s bandmates, ex, daughter, manager, and mom left to simply react in horror.

Writer/director Alex Ross Perry conveys Becky’s unraveling and possible redemption over the course of a couple of long nights and one afternoon, favoring long takes that will not allow us to escape the bowels of hell. The camera tracks around backstage hallways without ever finding the exits, keeping us stuck in a claustrophobic nightmare. The music is surprising, but effective. While Something She plays the expected Sleater-Kinney-style bangers, the score resembles that of a mystical sci-fi flick set in rural England. It contributes to the sense of how otherworldly this whole situation feels. Punk rock, and indeed all rock music, has long had a reputation of being the devil’s music. Her Smell does not believe that at all, and in fact all of Becky’s loved ones are fully supportive of her rocking endeavors. But if demonic possession is something that exists, she appears to be suffering from it, and this film makes absolutely clear which vices are ¬†really the ones causing that destruction.

Her Smell is Recommended If You Like: A rock star biopic infused with a horror vibe

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Spin Magazine Covers