Mill Valley Film Festival 2014: “Men, Women & Children”, “The Judge”, “Soul of a Banquet”

SandlerJason Reitman‘s social media spiel, David Dobkin‘s all-star legal drama, and Wayne Wong‘s Chinese food doc are reviewed as Mill Valley 37 continues!

Men, Women & Children


Jason Reitman‘s Crash-esque ensemble tale of ill-fated attempts at intimacy in the age of the internet was the opening night film at this year’s Mill Valley Festival. Neither the self-important trainwreck that Reitman haters were expecting nor the Oscar bait the Juno director was clearly aiming for, Men, Women & Children falls short of its sweeping ambitions, despite some very strong performances, particularly from its young cast of mostly unknowns, who hold their own against the likes of Jennifer Garner, Judy Greer, Rosemarie DeWitt, and Adam Sandler. An ill-advised voiceover narration by Emma Thompson (as the satellite Voyager?) and frequent lapses into silly melodrama stop this one from being anywhere near the masterpiece its director clearly thinks it is.

The Judge

In Order

Director David Dobkin, like the rest of us, clearly misses the days when character-driven dramas for adults were the stock-in-trade of Hollywood (e.g. anything by Sidney Lumet). Perhaps that’s the reason it’s so easy to forgive the shortcomings of his classy family drama. If you’ve seen the trailers, you’ll know Robert Downey, Jr. plays a big-city defense attorney who returns to his Indiana hometown to help his father (Robert DuVall), a respected judge, beat a murder wrap. All the usual father-and-son tensions come out to play in what ends up being a rather overlong affair, but this is definitely crowd-pleasing stuff, with snappy scripting, glossy production value, and strong performances. Moviegoers pining for more intelligent studio fare should vote with their dollars and check out The Judge, preferably on opening weekend.

Soul of a Banquet


Director Wayne Wong‘s foodie doc centers on Cecilia Chiang, the pioneering restauranteur who brought gourmet Chinese cuisine to San Francisco with her world famous restaurant, The Mandarin. While Banquet amounts to little more than a glorified home movie and will likely alienate those not already familiar with the San Francisco culinary scene, the film gets a pass thanks entirely to Chiang, a fascinating and charismatic figure with a shattering first-hand account of cultural revolution era China.

Showtimes for Soul of a Banquet:

Tuesday, Oct 7 – 2:15 PM (Sequoia 1)





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Categories: Festivals, Reviews

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