Sunday, May 17, 2009

"The Great Buck Howard" (2008) - Movie Review

People like Buck Howard (John Malkovich) have their shift of moments from minute to minute. They annoy you and their face and nuances of expressions invites thousand punches in a get go but there is their best side. The best side of that particular skill. Not the “effects” Buck puts forth in his shows but in their subtle goodness. There is an appreciation of that and their preposterous requests and the little trivial insignificant demands vanishes to see them in their eyes and smile. This is “The Great Buck Howard” an unpretentious film telling a simple story about a young man in the midst of finding his cornerstone of a dream in this existence of life. Of course he does it serving as the Road Manager for the man himself, Buck Howard.

Buck has mannerisms, very unique to him. It is not the cool mannerisms inspiring copy cats but ones you want to escape from. He shakes hands like pumping water from the mechanical handle, uses disappeared similes and unusual comparisons for his state of mind and expression (“You are an embryo” he says to the fill in PR Valeria (Emily Blunt)) and puts on a great show to the itsy bitsy small town hiding in the great states. He hates to be called a magician. He is not one. He is a mind reader for the most part, a hypnotist and is also doubted of using an unknown assistant in the crowd for his signature act. This is the last act in his show wherein he asks two members of the audience to hide his show money amongst them while he is watched in his green room with other two audience member to authenticate his presence. He always finds the money. He has never missed in his 40 years of his career. Every single time he does, we expect the unstoppable failure and he pulls back. In one such which comes in the last, we surely stop for a moment and think back on whether he wants to succeed or not with utmost tension and curiosity.

Here comes Troy (Colin Hanks), a young man studying law because his father (Tom Hanks) told him to. One fine day he closes his laptop and sets off what he really wants to do. And discovers that he wants to do something related to writing. He writes the story I believe because he narrates. That is not going to pay, not now. Hence he answers one of those weirdly placed newspaper ads where it is suspicious and interesting to pursue. He meets the flamboyant, well not so flamboyant Buck Howard. He glows with his smile and of course is nit picky. He is ultra suave but unexpectedly cheap and unpredictable.

Troy is the replica representing a generation waking up in the middle of their busy but monotonous life to discover that they have become a mechanical duplication of the next person to them. Many bundled in the safety bubble fearing of the insecurity has denied their instincts and has led to venture where the money leads them. That is the fact of life which has found its way amongst us sticking to our cell phones and wondering what the heck free time means. Troy wants a new life and mainly sees that there is something he can do which he would actually feel good at the end of the day. But existence needs currency. While he does the job of setting up things for Buck, he sees Buck as a man following his passion for the work.

He sees the show and writes or narrates to us with a striking honesty. He says the show is cheesy and corny which is the way it should be because the audience expect that. But it is not all talk and no show. It is a classic with impressive mind skills and impossible guessing games from this aging man in his trait. John Malkovich would be the last in the list if some body asks me who will be casted for a flashy, demanding, boasting and feeling of grandeur natured Buck Howard. Malkovich pours his demeaning smile on his face at me. He makes Buck the likeable douche bag and a respectable skills-person. He also features a conflicting personality within himself.

Colin Hanks cannot be more easy and casual. He is our eyes and ears making us to vision this goofball of a personality. And there are truly interesting characters and performances from Steve Zahn as the Limo Driver with his sister being proactive and enthused and overworked about Buck’s introduction. As Buck’s PR Emily Blunt does the showy publicist persona while keeping a nice face for the client.

Writer/Director Sean McGinly based Buck Howard on The Amazing Kreskin who found his check at the end of the show precisely. Sean McGinly worked shortly for him as a road manager. McGinly makes us believe that this character is loved for his show in the small towns Troy ventures along. Buck always says “I love this town” and seem to be fake and make the small time theater owners feel better about themselves. But as the film is over, we realize he really means it. McGinly makes a smart and an insensitive man out of Howard while a wise and pragmatic personality out of Troy. Out of them comes a honest story telling with simple emotions and big life lessons in embracing the beginning and end.

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