When first-time director Ned Benson debuted his two-picture film experience, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, it made a lot of waves for being a unique and encompassing look at the well-worn relationship drama genre. The movie is actually two features – Him and Her – examining the complicated relationship between a man (James McAvoy) and a woman (Jessica Chastain) from each individual’s personal perspective. It is a super ambitious project to pull off, but The Weinstein Company – Eleanor Rigby’s distributor – has never seen a movie it didn’t want to cut, so before the film comes out the way Benson intended, we are first getting a more objective mash-up, known as Them.
In one of the earliest moments from Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Tim Meadows’s character Sam declares, “Dewey Cox has to think about his whole life before he plays.” The movie – a parody of musician biopics – then goes on to show us Dewey’s entire life, from childhood to death. It is a pitch perfect satire of one of the most frustrating elements of the genre, and one hopes it would be so biting that screenwriters would never be so obvious in their intentions again. But here we are, seven years later, and the new James Brown film, Get on Up, opens the exact same way. But there’s no wink here. Screenwriters Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth (still my favorite names in show business – that hasn’t changed since Edge of Tomorrow) play into almost all of the tropes in their depiction of the soul legend.