Something in the Air (the English-language title of the French film Après mai, begging for an olfactory review) is Olivier Assayas’s tale of 1971 high-schoolers launching into life. Specifically, a group of friends in Paris find themselves at the fading end of revolutionary times. Try as they might to hang on to the thrill of righteousness in the face of the Establishment (in particular, some thuggish police), their adult lives are a-callin’.
Gilles (Clément Métayer), artistic and willing to draw his own conclusions–he reads an exposé of Mao’s horrors while trafficking with Maoists–is presumably the one following closest to Assayas’s own life trajectory. After an accident that seriously injures a security officer, Gilles and friends scatter to various European spots (thanks to their parents’ well-padded pocketbooks) and Experience Life.
This is an intelligent and honest film; Assayas doesn’t emphasize his subjects’ privilege, but he doesn’t hide it either. But as a result, the kids seem less sympathetic than they might in the hands of a more manipulative filmmaker; this is The Minute Charm of the Boomer-sie. And so when Gilles ends up at (spoiler!) Pinewood Studios and his adult life clicks into place, we aren’t (I’m not) as moved as might be.
Still worthwhile, though.
* * *
The Good Guy is another not-terrible film, but in the end I found myself turning against it. Tommy (Scott Porter) narrates. He is a Wall Street trader and seems to be a cut above most of his co-workers, integrity-wise. He has a girlfriend Beth (Alexis Bledel) who … I forget what she does for a living. At the office he is mentoring Daniel (Bryan Greenberg), a military veteran. Daniel is standoffish, but he hits it off with Beth and her circle of friends because he actually reads books. Check that; he reads literature!
So this is a sort of romantic triangle comedy, with a fair amount of dialogue that is smart-but-not-Sorkinesque (not that there’s anything wrong with Sorkinesque). But the characters, particularly Daniel, end up bland or a bit murky, partly by design; for the film also features a sort of time-sensitive quiz, where you get fewer points the longer it takes you to solve the puzzle. The first time The Good Soldier is mentioned (in the context of a book club), you may think, Ford Madox Ford! Good to hear a worthy writer’s work mentioned in the movies! But then the title keeps coming back, with broader and broader hints, and if you’re like me, you don’t solve the puzzle–you don’t realize there is a puzzle–until the needle is pointing to Muttonhead. I was not pleased.