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  • I attended the World Premiere of Nobel Son at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival. That's Nobel as in Nobel Prize, and it takes the festival prize in my book. This winning film, from writer/director/producer/editor Randall Miller (did he make lunch too?), is on my list of Top 10 Picks from among the 30 I saw at this year's festival.

    Professor Eli Michaelson (Alan Rickman) is about to win the Nobel Prize. His son Barkley (Bryan Greenberg) is a promising Ph.D. candidate wanting little to do with his father's pomposity. A scheme is hatched which is sure to pit father against son in a way to maximize their inherent rivalry. Let the madness and mayhem begin. In addition to Greenberg and Rickman, Nobel Son stars a troupe of talented veterans including Bill Pullman, Shawn Hatosy, Danny DeVito, Mary Steenburgen, Ted Danson, Ernie Hudson, and Eliza Dushku.

    It's always hard to single anyone out in such an amazing ensemble cast. Greenberg, the titular son, is a worthy protagonist. The roller coaster ride on which he is taken is chilling, yet his upper crust background and bravado veneer cannot hide his childlike innocence. It is that vulnerability which sucks us in and compels us to look even when we would rather look away.

    Shawn Hatosy is one of the most prolific and versatile young actors in the business, and he is frighteningly brilliant here. The intensity he brings to this role never lets up from start to finish. Nobody is better at psycho-scary. Many will be blown away by his performance. If he wasn't on your radar before he will be after you see Nobel Son.

    Alan Rickman provides most of the comic relief in a film that is much more dark than comedic. A lesser actor could have turned in an over-the-top performance which might have tipped the scales in favor of the lighter side of this film. That would have spoiled the intensity of the violent escapades these young men partake in. But he manages to play the buffoon as only a legend can.

    I was quite surprised by the look and feel of this film. It's much more stylized than one might expect. Digital effects and clever camera work help take what could have been a standard caper movie (a la Oceans 11) and turn it into a psychological thriller, emphasis on the thrills. It is such a fascinating story and an amazing script, and kudos to Randall Miller for being able to create a work which defies categorization. Gasps and laughs are traded back and forth, yet it manages to toe the line between comedy and tragedy without losing its focus.

    If Kubrick inhaled nitrous oxide while making A Clockwork Orange, it might look something like Nobel Son. It will keep you on the edge of your seat, literally. Nobel Son is a breathtaking, refreshing escape from convention.
  • Greetings again from the darkness. "Bottle Shock" director Randall Miller is back ... only "Nobel Son" was filmed first (you really have to love the Hollywood system). While "Bottle Shock" was a pretty straight forward re-telling of a wine industry break through, this film takes us on a dark ride with blazingly quick turns. It can be taken as a entertaining thriller/who-dunnit to who, or even as a psychological study on egotistical, domineering parents.

    Much of the "Bottle Shock" crew is back ... Alan Rickman, Bill Pullman and Eliza Dushka. Add Mary Steenburgen, Shawn Hatosy (Outside Providence, The Cooler), Danny Devito and Ted Dansen, and you have an odd, but talented cast to deliver your odd, but entertaining film.

    Alan Rickman plays the role he seems born to play ... arrogant self-diagnosed genius. His family and co-workers somehow tolerate him despite his blindness to their own talents. This is especially problematic once Rickman becomes a Nobel Prize winner. Without giving anything away, his son, played by Bryan Greenberg (Prime) is kidnapped and held for the $2 million Nobel prize money ... by a guy with ties to Rickman's character. That is the simple part. After that, the script flies through its twists and turns creating quite a mess of fun! Bill Pullman is the detective on the case and he draws from his voice pattern as the odd realtor in "You Kill Me", all while pining for Steenburgen ... who is a brilliant forensic expert in her own right. Danny Devito takes an odd turn as the Reformed OCD gardener who has a couple of memorable scenes. Eliza Duska (the bar owner in Bottle Shock) is quite memorable as the stunningly dark poet who captures Nobel Son's heart the evening before he is nabbed. Coincidence??? What I find most interesting about the script is that it could have focused on any number of story lines. Steenburgen, Rickman and Dushka all have characters that could be developed further. But it really works here to have the division and balance.

    My only warning here is to be prepared for a Guy Ritchie-type experience. There are times of rapid-fire edits and crazy techno-mod music that will challenge your ability to follow along and keep up. I believe it just adds to the fun in this case.
  • I was really looking forward to "Nobel Son". I was thinking, finally, an intelligent thriller that is going to focus on the characteristics of those found in the academic sciences. But I'm afraid that all I got was a jumbled mess that never really accomplished anything.

    The son of a Nobel Prize-winning chemist is kidnapped for ransom. There are a lot of interesting ways to take this story. The main problem is, they take all of them. We have an opportunity to investigate what's really going on in the mind of the son, how has his father affected his life, why does the father live his life the way he does, who is really responsible for the kidnapping and why... . The ways to explore this story are endless, and instead of delving in whole-heartedly, all that came out was a jumbled mess that left me feeling frustrated with no invested knowledge in any part of the story. Another review said the problem was too many cooks. I second that, and will adapt the phrase from "too many cooks spoil the broth" to "too many writers spoil the story". Only two screenwriters were credited, but I'm willing to bet there were more with their hands in it.

    The actors were all quite good, I'm sure. It's the characters that I'm more confused about. Whenever they presented a scene which echoed my experiences in the ivory tower of science, they usually followed that up with a scene that didn't make sense based on what we knew about the characters. Perhaps I was focusing too much on specifics, but I was continuously confused and frustrated by their characterization and story ideas. Too many writers, ideas, and lack of focus spoiled "Nobel Son".
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I admit that I love dark comedies. Something about the mixture of violence, thrills, and comedy just make a perfect amalgam of cinema to entertain my slightly off-kilter sensibilities. When I saw that the film Nobel Son was opening up at the local theatre, I vaguely recalled that the trailer seemed interesting and the cast recognizable. So I said what the hey? I think that the closest cousin I can manage to cull from memory would be the great, underrated gem Suicide Kings from a few years back. Randall Miller's film isn't quite as entertaining as that one, but as far as tone and feel go, it resembles it well. Rather then a truly great story that stands up besides the jokes, a la In Bruges, Nobel Son falls into the trap of having many kooky characters that just happen to enter each other's lives to allow for the shenanigans. It feels as though the people were created first and then the story second, letting the puzzle pieces fall into place. Don't get me wrong, the eccentric players are part of the charm, I just would have liked them to be a bit more real than so obviously playing for jokes and clichés.

    The tale itself isn't anything really new. Take any old kidnapping plot where the victim becomes a part of the plan and double-crossing soon takes over upon completion; erase a few adjectives and verbs; and Mad Libs in the blanks to freshen it up. A jerk of a father wins the Nobel Prize for his work in the field of chemistry, whereupon a man who may or may not be his illegitimate child, whose mother's husband is whom the father's winning work was stolen from, decides to kidnap the man's true son for the two million dollar purse. It's a bit convoluted and Miller enjoys throwing in chemistry jargon throughout to impress us, whether what is spoken about molecules is even true, don't ask me, I kind of zoned during those passages. However, the highly coincidental series of events and relationships does allow for it all to come together. The kidnapped son ends up proving to his assailant that he'd love to get back at his father any way he can, and the two hatch an elaborate plan, involving the full reconstruction of a car within two hours, to steal the money clean and not let anyone get hurt … besides an innocent man soon to be without a thumb. Throw in a beautiful, yet insane girl, who you know is involved more than let on; a detective on the case who is also in love with the hostage's mother, a co-worker; and a "reformed" obsessive-compulsive tenant, and you can understand how off the wall it could potentially get.

    Again, the story is pretty airtight and coherent, besides some logistical questions like putting a working car together in that short of time by one man, putting a car in an above the garage apartment, (I think you have to look the other way on this one), and just the sheer amount of photos and documents that are readily available to prove guilt. As far as motivations and intelligence, all that is understood and believable. No one here is really likable at all; everyone has an agenda and whether it took the events in the film for some to act on them or not, they definitely weren't innocents. The Michaelsons are one messed up family that deserves the chaos, but revenge is always served best cold, I guess. And maybe it really is more vicious to devour a man while he is still alive then dead.

    Those story elements all pretty much run their course without pause, so one doesn't get much opportunity to question it, or care whether it is all kosher. Instead, the real focus is on the characters. Those that standout are the ones with the most issues. Sure Alan Rickman does his usual smarmy best as the aging lothario professor with an ego that cannot be measured and Mary Steenburgen plays the cerebral analyst, always looking and deciphering things before the cops on the case can, but that kind of stuff is expected. Even the star, Bryan Greenberg's Barkley, the son of the aforementioned actors, does his norm. Add a few corny, cheeseball lines, 80's music, and delete the blood—you'd think he came right out of "October Road". No, where the genius lies is in the criminals and supporting roles. Shawn Hatosy, as the half brother/mastermind, has made a career out of playing semi-intelligent headcases that switch from harmless innocence to manic, homicidal delinquency. His Thaddeus James is the perfect villain here because what he does has merit, so when it all starts to unravel, his compassion is believable. My favorites, though, are Eliza Dushku as the love interest and Danny DeVito as the obsessive-compulsive. DeVito is hysterical as Gastner, going through his mental checklists in a calculating monotone and nervous disgust. But if you want true insanity, Dushku delivers in spades. As City Hall, she is one messed up deviant. A psychopath girlfriend type, her actions and artwork juxtaposed with her beauty and sexuality would make any guy confused and willing to play along.

    Nobel Son is a nice entry to the genre and a character piece with a lot of good. I appreciate that Miller tries to be creative and add his own flair, but in doing so, the aesthetic becomes a bit ho-hum and ordinary. The sharp cuts and blurring tricks help deflect what we see until the truth is revealed, and the close-up camera work helps add a layer of detail for us to enter the movie, yet it's all been done before. Even a gimmick that works at times becomes a little overkill with its abundance, however, that final ticker-typed name and occupation caption made all the others before it worth the trouble.
  • rwtmoore10 March 2010
    1/10
    awful
    This movie demonstrates everything that's wrong with Hollywood.

    The overall story isn't that bad; it's the execution. This movie is filled to the brim with myriad plot holes, implausible situations and dialog, lame humor and laughable attempts at poignancy. And if that's not bad enough, it's also crammed with clichéd sound effects, unrelated trendy music and an array of un-called-for camera tricks and 'cool' editing. There's so much absurd stuff here, it would take me hundreds of pages to explain it all. Almost every aspect of this film is so implausible, that right from the start I could not suspend my disbelief.

    It's as if the filmmakers decided to use every cool camera movement and editing that they ever saw and shoehorn it into this movie. That, coupled with the bad music choices, make the tone of this thing jump all over the place. It's disjointed and lacks a unified feel.

    Why are the characters introduced with typing across the screen? This is a pathetic cliché that goes back to espionage type movies, so why is it here? Who's documenting the case? This movie doesn't know what it wants to be. It tries desperately to be Frank Capra, Alfred Hitchcock, Spike Lee and Quentin Tarantino all rolled into one and it just doesn't work. Barkley narrates at the beginning and end of this movie. If it is supposed to be seen through Barkley's eyes, then we've been cheaply duped, because a ton of stuff has been left out that would have been shown to the audience. You can't have a character narrate and then hide what he sees and hears from the audience. It's a cheap trick.

    The tip of the iceberg of plot holes and implausibilities: What is the purpose of the gardener character? He could be removed and the story wouldn't change one bit. And why was he murdered? It seems absurd that they'd kill him just to vacate the apartment. These are supposed to be brilliant people; wasn't there a less illegal, less violent way to accomplish that? And what's with linking OCD with electric cars? The filmmakers often try to make a correlation between things that don't correlate. The Pat Benitar thing was a sad attempt at making a poignant link between the brothers. And how convenient was it that he left City Hall's apartment without his shoes. No one I know has ever been in that much of a hurry. He couldn't just carry them along with his shirt? Like so much of this script it's unbelievably contrived.

    If there's been four thumbs taken in the last month wouldn't it be on the news? Wouldn't everybody know about it? And, if so, why is it crucial to send a thumb, to show you mean business, when everyone knows it's probably not the kidnap victim's thumb. And how did they get the Mini-Cooper in the apartment? Where did the brothers meet and plan it all? How did they know about each other? And Eli's dialog about molecules luminescing is over-the-top sophomoric.

    Thaddeus spends a significant amount of time telling us how much of a horrible person his father is. Then, instantly, he wants his father to be proud of him and he wants to follow in his footsteps. What? He wants to steal other people's work and mess around with grad students and other people's wives? And Barkley seems like a dork even after we're shown that he's some kind of evil genius. I know a heck of a lot of Phds and not one of them ever played a Gameboy. And his mother is proud that he's an evil genius, because I guess, she's kind of evil too, even though she appears to have lived a successful and upstanding life for the past 50-odd years. Another cheap trick. OK, we get that people aren't all bad or all good. What a revelation. I think I got it when I was ten years old. And just in case we didn't get the message, Barkley actually tells us that during the opening credits.

    Fortunately, City Hall lit one hundred candles near her bed on the roof, just in case, she brings home Barkley, virtually a stranger, many hours later. And wouldn't it be funny if Barkley woke up in the morning and stretched, but forgot that he was naked and outdoors in bright sunlight and somebody saw him. Hilarious. If I was twelve years old again. Who's ever heard of moo-shu? I've been eating moo-shi for longer than Barkley's been alive.

    And we're spoon-fed embarrassing amounts of exposition: Thaddeus chronicling the gardener's history, Eli's history, etc. And just in case we missed the fact that City hall has done something twisted, don't worry, because right after she does it, a song is played that tells us that she's a twisted girl. And Barkley tells his whole personal situation to a clerk at a café. It's ridiculous. I've never seen such bad exposition. It's just lazy writing it really insults the intelligence of the viewer.

    There's the poetry reading place, where predictably, everyone's poetry is ludicrous, except, of course, City Hall's. I mean, this gag's got whiskers on it.

    And what's with the twisted logic of Sarah, "I hope it's Barkley's thumb. If it's somebody else's thumb then the kidnapper is a calculating psychopath." So, by that logic, if the kidnapper cuts off Barkley's thumb, then he's a psychopath, just not a calculating one. OK, I'll be on planet earth if anybody needs me.

    You can't tell what's going happen because you're not given enough information. They've stacked the deck where you can't possibly figure it out and by the end there's so many ridiculous and implausible situations that you don't care. A mystery must include all the info needed to get it. Otherwise, it's cheap trick, which is what this is.
  • tom-4567 December 2008
    Warning: Spoilers
    What a terrible, rotten movie.

    To start with, the character played by Alan Rickman, the Nobel prize winner, was not the least bit believable. It isn't that Rickman played the role badly, but just that the character is not a believable character. If you were to come across this story as a novel, I am sure that you would find the 1st chapter ridiculous and put it down and not finish it.

    I don't like movies that clearly are put together so as to convince me of one thing and then turn around and change things. This is not the same thing as a clever plot twist. Early during the kidnapping, you naturally ask yourself if the son is in on the kidnapping. You look for evidence of that, but the way that the scenes play out, it is overwhelmingly apparent from his behavior and the behavior of the kidnapper that the son being kidnapped has no knowledge of the kidnapping. Then after doing everything that they can do to make you think this, they reveal that the son is in on it. This simply bad move making. In fact, it is simply awful. I wanted to leave, but having paid for the ticket, I sat through the rest of it, and it only got worse.

    To pull off the retrieval of the ransom, they do a vehicle switch, which is staged inside a crowded shopping mall, using a couple of Mini vehicles. The first problem with this is that there is no way in hades that a vehicle of that sort could move around like that in a crowded shopping mall without running into all sorts of stuff including people. It is ridiculous. The car that they used for the switch was shipped into the mall in parts and assembled during one night by one person. But the real problem here is how they managed to convert the read car that was on display in the mall, into a car that could be controlled by remote control. They way that they did this, as it really, really was shown in the movie, is that the accomplice set up a distraction and then slapped some sort of gadget onto the underneath of the car when no one was looking. Give me a break. In what fantasy land is it possible to convert a car to a full remote control merely by slapping some sort of gadget to the undercarriage? When this scene was shown, it was not yet revealed what it was about, and only later did it become apparent that this was how he supposedly converted that car to remote control. When I realized this, that was when it was beyond apparent that this movie is just some cheap story that someone threw together in a few hours and then went out and hired some actors and a director and started filming. It is a bad, bad story, with an absurd plot.

    But as bad as all that was, it got worse by an order of magnitude as soon as the kidnapping was pulled off and the son and the accomplice parted ways. What happens after than is so utterly preposterous that I can't even lower myself to telling you about it. The accomplice, who is the bastard son of the Nobel prize winning father and by all evidence a genius in the first part of the movie, now demonstrates that he is really, really stupid beyond belief. It starts off not the least bit believable, and just becomes increasingly less believable as the story progresses. What else can I say? This is just a very, very bad movie, and I cannot believe that there are so many people who would be even moderately entertained by such a bad story, much less give it the high ratings that it is getting. If you are intelligent and enjoy a clever story, you are going to be insulted by this bad story.
  • I somehow managed to get a ticket to the premiere at Tribeca and it was worth the struggle. The film is a freight train that picks up speed and never stops going. Great performances from Alan Rickman, Mary Steenburgen, Bill Pullman, Danny DeVito, Shawn Hatosy, Bryan Greenberg and Eliza Dushku (so hot!). Writers Miller and Savin have us constantly off balance and Miller's direction is reminiscent of early Guy Ritchie (Lock Stock, Snatch). It's amazing that the same team that did the sweet and sensitive Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing & Charm School managed to pull off this wild breathless ride of a movie.

    Can't wait to see it in theaters again when it comes out.
  • jordankynes11 December 2008
    2/10
    Huh?
    After the first fifteen minutes I though perhaps I had paid seven dollars to see an extended CSI or one of those Vegas casino shows that rely on innumerable zooms and ubercool techno music to convince you that something exciting is happening when it really isn't. The only movie with a mildly complex plot to use these techniques to its advantage was "Confidence" and even then it risked being corny at times. The acting really wasn't bad, rightly so with such a cast, but many times I couldn't even make out the substance of the performance because house-beats were blaring in my ears.

    I was initially suspicious of a film that claimed to be a comedy and a thriller and a drama. Now, if your critical film viewing level peaks somewhere around The Fast and the Furious, then read no more. Clumsy plot twists, inappropriate editing and music selection won't phase your iron-trap of a mind. I am by nature a humble and optimistic movie-viewer, but at some point (involving a mall and a remote controlled vehicle) I experienced a mental collapse due to cognitive dissonance. The lingering themes of cannibalism, familial dysfunction, dark sides of human nature, etc were washed away by a wave of unbelievable ( as in un- believable) action sequences. I began to break out in a nervous sweat and wondered if I hadn't wandered into another theater in my delusional state.

    Basically, I feel as if this film was written by several different people who never once contacted each other. There are some decent ideas in all three or four of the genres which it sought to present. But apparently no single one human being ever read the script before production. If you do see it for yourself, hopefully you can figure out why Ted Dansen and Danny DeVito were in it. I'm fairly confident their performances had no impact whatsoever on the film.
  • I love IMDb, and before i go see a movie i will log on and check the rating of the movie before i make the decision to see a movie. I will now be very very careful in the future. I have no idea how this movie is rated 8.5 on this site. This movie had so much potential to be good and it was a muddle piece of trash. They had the actors, a very good possible story of a kidnapping and backstabbing. But nothing angers me more than not showing a good transition to what the actors are doing/feeling in the movie. Then just throwing unnecessary points in the story that do nothing but confuse. I will admit i laughed here and there at the black comedy in this movie... there were some funny scenes. But there where parts of the movie that were so not needed and for a lack of a better word, retarded. I did see the Guy Ritchie comparisons and i liked what they were trying to do in this film, but it was executed terribly. Everything was so agonizingly cliché at the end and as the movie progressed throughout, it just got worse and worse.
  • janos4514 December 2008
    "Nobel Son" is one of the more entertaining movies of the year. It is an intriguing, quirky mix of quick-cutting, edgy direction; an outstanding cast; and some unusually literate text and sophisticated in-jokes for the who-is-doing-it (rather than who-done-it) genre.

    Randall Miller is the MTV director, Miller and Jody Savin - each with a rather meager resume as a writer - are responsible for the winning script.

    It's rare and fortuitous these days to walk into a theater to see a movie whose plot you know, and still be engaged and surprised. Such is the case here.

    With deliberate exaggeration and advance apologies, I'd compare "Nobel Son" to "Sleuth" both for its tit-for-tat, now-you-see-it/now-you-don't continuous cliff-hanger nature, and the sense of amusement and fun even through some rather harrowing action. "Son" is *like* "Sleuth" in the true sense of that grossly abused word: having some of the same characteristics.

    Only a great English stage actor such as Alan Rickman could make the silly cartoon figure of Eli Michaelson believable - and he does, becoming sort of likable in his unfettered loathsomeness. Michaelson is rotten to the core, antisocial beyond the worst case of Asperger's, plus a miserable human being - and the winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

    Mary Steenburgen plays his long-suffering wife, a character with a vaguely delineated past as a storied criminal investigator. Never too far from her is Bill Pullman, a detective, former colleague, current shoulder to lean on. Bryan Greenberg is the son, who - as you must know from all the ads and buzz - is held for ransom, apparently by Shawn Hatosy, a young actor who more than holds his own against the veterans in the cast. Danny Devito and Ted Danson show up, unnecessarily but - in the case of Danson - not irritatingly. Eliza Dushku has a star-turn debut as City Hall (that's the name), a looney poet, painter, and fornicator (their word, not mine).

    There is something inexplicable about the cinematography: everybody in the cast looks like hell, sans makeup, sans Vaseline-smeared lens, sans everything. Pullman wins the race to Showing All the Pores, pasty-white, as unattractive as possible, but the others - including the women - are not far behind. A new trend? Makeup crew on strike? Who knows? For sure it's distracting, but "Son" is too good to allow this stupid quirk to interfere.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Nobel Son seemed like a comedy when I watched the trailer. Thus going into it, I expected to LAUGH. Granted, there's little virtue in judging a film based upon your own expectations, and none at all in judging it based upon its trailer, but with that said, I expected this film to entertain me, which it failed to, and at the very least I hoped it would make sense, which it frequently didn't.

    The story begins with Dr. Eli Michaelson (Alan Rickman) who is a major physicist of sorts and a college professor, who is an unbearable man that everyone around him loathes, who cheats on his wife with college women, and who begins the film by being informed that he is being awarded the Nobel Prize for his work (which is never spelled out that coherently and which adds nothing to the narrative anyway). Then there's Eli's son, Barkley, who is currently working on a thesis about cannibalism of all things, and who spends his time at the start of the film trying to hook up with a poet named City Hall (Eliza Dushku, who is somewhat amusing in this film, unlike most of the rest of the cast). The morning that Eli is going to Stockholm to collect his prize, Barkley gets kidnapped. When the kidnapper calls Eli about the ransom, Eli thinks Barkley's pranking him and is just angry about him not having been there to come with them to get the prize. The kidnapper decides to send the Michaelsons one of Barkley's thumbs as proof/incentive for payment, and the story goes from that point into a tailspin of confusing narrative turns and more changes from hero to anti-hero than I've ever seen in a film. By the end of thing I didn't have any idea WHO to root for, if ANYBODY.

    I really didn't like Nobel Son. I wasn't amused by the plot twists; quite the opposite, actually: they confused me and took me out of the story. I also really ceased to like any of the characters, with the possible exception of Barkley's mother (Mary Steenburgen) who was undeveloped enough at the start of the film to make it less confusing later on when she's involved in various plot twists. I also think she might have been an FBI agent. Didn't really catch that part. I also really don't care.

    Not everything was completely unredeemable. I thought Danny DeVito did good work as a former-OCD patient renting the Michaelson cottage, but his character was heavily underused. Eliza Dushku was pretty interesting, and although part of the movie is her just being very attractive and sensual and all that, she was convincing and semi-developed.

    THe most puzzling thing about this movie is that I don't believe there was studio backing, which means that none of the big-name actors in the film got huge paychecks for this project. That leaves me wondering what pushed them to make it, especially actors the like of Rickman and Steenburgen, who are talented veteran actors. I think they're way above this schlock.
  • I had an open mind walking in the theater and knew next to nothing about the film. I was not pleased. The film makers attempt to shock the audience from the onset, however, the real surprise is the subsequent 2 hours of shockingly bad film making. I felt nothing for the actors, not that the script helped. The music was a noisy distraction from the poor editing. I found there to be very few redeeming qualities.

    Without any connection to the premise, the action, or the comedy I try to rely on a film for entertainment value. I found myself checking the time, waiting for the end, wishing I left earlier.

    Rent it, if you must.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Terrible. Awful. Flawed. Haphazard. I can't think of enough adjectives to describe how bad this movie was. What was an interesting concept was chopped up and pieced together and released to theaters. Here is a sure sign of a bad movie; If, at the end, the characters have to summarize everything that just happened, then it's a bad movie. Characters change without reason, other events occur that seem completely unnecessary.

    SPOILER ALERT----- I think a lot of scenes were written just because they'd make good film. They contributed nothing to the movie, and only added to the confusion. We find out the truth about the kidnapping. If this was the case, then why did we have the original scene in the house, and why did we have the scene involving the thumb later on if the kidnapper had no intention of cutting it off. It makes zero sense. If this kidnapping had been set up from the beginning, then those scenes make no sense to the story.

    I feel like any given scene was only written to cover a loophole somewhere else. SKIP THIS MOVIE. There are a couple of interesting spots in here, but the movie as a whole just does not hold up at all.
  • It's edgy, fast-paced, super hip, has a "bangin" electronica soundtrack (Oakenfold/Crystal Method etc) all the while amazingly witty and funny.

    It's a great combination, being one part psychological thriller, one part comedy. Combining lighthearted romp with details of chemistry and forensics, cannibalism,and kidnapping.... plus such a great cast – great to see actress Mary Steenburgen with such a pivotal role, and Danny Devito is great as the special neighbor. Great cast. Everyone working together so swimmingly, too.

    A list cast, college kids… will appeal to younger AND older viewers. Not a frat house romp. There is a tendency to assume that a combination of college and comedy means necessarily puerile, but there is nothing low-brow going on in this film. Saw a trailer first that didn't come anywhere near telling the story – that trailer made it all about sex… and the film is not about sex. It's good, that's all I can say. We laughed ourselves sick! This film is dope.

    Rickman's character is deliciously flawed and OMG I've had profs like him! His family are altogether typical intelligentsia, and his son... well... you've known a guy like him too.. there's always someone like him in school.

    What's great is how all the ends tie up neatly, without a cliché' reveal. And did I mention the killer soundtrack? Nothing like a perfect soundtrack to carry one through all the action.

    DO NOT miss this film. It was SO good.
  • princess_t_storm8 April 2009
    i was expecting this to actually be good because of a positive review by a critic who knows film and writes for my local paper. i'm surprised at just how bad it is. first off, the lighting leaves much to be desired. it's far too dark throughout the film. i'm sure this is on purpose, for some reason. second, the editing. lots of scenes in this film are shot like a music video, with quick editing and electronic music playing over it. it also doesn't cover up the flat direction that i believe is at the heart of this film. third, the music again. it's not just played in the quick-edit montages but throughout more static moments in the film. it does not help the film, in my opinion. also, i don't believe that it adds the sense of excitement that i think it is probably intended to. although with a film this uninvolving and flat i don't know that there's any music that could have helped. but the electronica seemed a bad choice.

    also, there's little to no character development. i really didn't care what happened to any of the characters after a while, so i stopped watching. all in all, i found this film to be a sub-mediocre disappointment of an attempt at quirky black comedy. i give it a 2 because it has some good-to-decent acting despite the uninspired, flat direction.
  • This wasn't all bad, but it didn't seem to know where it was going. First of all the lousy music. This was intrusive, too loud and in places even drowned out the dialogue. I found myself reaching for the remote to lower it every time the nutter came on. He was accompanied by crazy music to let us know he was crazy. Then you had to turn the sound up again to catch the next bit of dialogue. The music was terrible, and sounded as if it was added at the last minute to change the direction of the movie in post edit. Then I realised what had happened. The original comedy movie had been made into a 'dark comedy' after shooting was over. The cannibalism, mutilation, kidnapping, murders and beatings were a little too much for the review audiences, so it had to become a thriller. The Woody Allen style poetry group and the presence of so many comedy actors, Rickman, Danson, Steenburgen, De Vito surely meant that this began as a comedy, but someone (one of the 5 producers ? ) decided to change tack. Was De Vito originally meant to be more enhanced role and he was cut down to practically a cameo ? Why was Danson given only a few cutting lines as the University Dean ? Given Benny Hill style music, or even a decent rock score, but hey they have to be paid for, the whole film would have been better. Why did this go straight to DVD here in the UK, and then be given away in a newspaper ? I think a fine cast was let down here by a too many cooks effect and a corporate writing and editing debacle.
  • Nobel Son is a labyrinthine clockwork plot that involves one of the trickiest, slickest heists since The Italian Job or the first and second Ocean's films, a con game with more twists and hairpin turns than a script by David Mamet on coke, and a theme of desire for revenge that seethes even more after dubious narrative about-faces. The heist and con game film and the revenge story are a surefire mix for me. But I felt like I was trying to watch a great heist movie at a rave party. Whether techno music is good or bad, it renders you a slave to its beat. But I wanted to be a slave to the movie's beat. It's difficult to do both. Hence, the film is a more difficult viewing than it needs to be.

    As a philandering chemistry professor who as a laboriously detestable character drives the story by winning the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Alan Rickman is the definite anchor for the ensemble cast of characters, all of whom are pawns in the script's scheme to weave the jazziest web the genre's seen in years. It could have easily achieved that goal were director Randall Miller contemplative enough to understand the effects of the audiovisual medium of film. There are not only sequences which require a much different kind of music, but there are several sequences which would be much more impacting to the tension of the unraveling story's pace without overscoring at all. Nearly every American genre film has sequences handled in the less effective way, but few of them soar into the depths of its extreme.

    Rickman is the flagship but Mary Steenburgen is no less charming as his wife. A woman can be married to a man like Nobel Prize-winning chemist Eli Michaelson purely by being masochistic, deranged or in control of a deeply sophisticated feel for bitter sarcasm. But in spite of there being plenty of pleasant surprise in bit roles by Danny DeVito, Ernie Hudson and Bill Pullman as well, there isn't much room to talk about their performances, which are compartmentalized into roles that serve more as functions than characters to create a remorseless plot. Each character's occupation has much more to do with how they could come in handy to tie up loose ends than with who they are.

    Nevertheless, this caper takes you for a turbulent excursion, because whether or not Randall Miller or his wife and co-writer Jody Savin have crafted a top-drawer entry into the con game genre, they remember that confidence tricks manipulate human weaknesses like selfishness, corruption and ego, as they are all things a con artist possesses himself, but also exploited are merits like honor, charity or a forthright belief in good faith on the part of the con artist.
  • samkan27 April 2009
    Warning: Spoilers
    Although funny at times, I could not get myself to care about a character or a plot development. Apparently the mistreated son is our hero, though he certainly does not seem deserving of praise or reward. So obviously and early do we understand Dad is to receive his come-up-pence that we really don't care when it happens. Most annoying was evil son's unexplained transformation from a terror to a wimp, or mom's change into a vindictive spouse. Bill Pullman appears confused about his role, playing it as over-the-top corny. Absolutely awful ending. Without the occasional laugh, would've been a complete bomb. With tone and script changes, this could've been much better.
  • c64-13 March 2009
    A strange movie if you ask me.

    The writing is just plain weird, the plot seems to stretch logic beyond... logic. Most actors in the movie are good, but they seem to be unable to elevate to their true level, what i think is due to a direction problem and the somewhat tortured script. I used to like Danny De Vito (in his very own style) but in this movie...boy.... Same thing for Bill Pullman and the other actors, almost everything seems overplayed and i just couldn't get into the movie for asking myself "what the .... ?" every two minutes.

    The music, although i'm truly into all sorts of electronic music, is extremely annoying, not necessarily because of its quality (that is a matter of personal taste) but because of its exaggerated presence and inadequacy – i truly had the sensation of watching a movie with my kids playing the radio too loud next door several times during projection. I know Paul Oakenfold for a long time as producer and house music DJ, a very respected figure in the business. Though, It seems he really missed what making music for film is about and you have the sensation the director's promoting his new Album for next Summer in Ibiza, especially throughout the first half hour of the film, which mostly because of this becomes truly unbearable.

    I usually wouldn't write such thing lightly but in this case i do: not worth the ticket!
  • Byrdadam7712 December 2008
    10/10
    Art!
    Movies today, are good. I enjoy what they have become, but the art has slowly dripped out of films with a few exceptions. This is definitely one of them. I was very happy with my choice to see this one, having not heard of it I went in not knowing what to expect. I felt that way until the closing credits. It was a fantastic movie of ups and downs and twists and turns, that kept me guessing. The superb acting of the veterans like Alan Rickman, Mary Steenburgen, Danny DeVito, and Bill Pullman. Eliza Dushku continues to excite her audience and prove herself on the screen. Bryan Greenberg and Shawn Hatosy have done great jobs recently and I look forward to seeing them more often. I hope Randall Miller continues his run of good movies after Bottle Shock and Nobel Son, I'm left wanting more!
  • This really was a hard film to watch. And considering many of these known actors are usually quite good I have to assume that the Director wanted to take a fine group of actors and make them look and act as bad as possible. Or this was made with a lot of favors and now lost friendships.

    The lighting was horrific. Either that or the cast has aged twenty years recently. Mary, Bill; everyone except Danny looked like they had become old soft and wrinkled over night.

    The dialogue........who on earth wrote the dialogue.

    Yeah this in one of those films where you see a cast of mismatched actors who have aged and no one wants to hire them. So they take a film, any film and grab the pay check. EXCEPT that this particular group of actors are NOT that. These are all good actors, these are wonderful actors. And when I see wonderful actors who work in a show like this I have to guess a favor is at hand.
  • ricknix5012 December 2008
    I thoroughly enjoyed this film, from beginning to end. The superb acting of Mary Steenburgen, Alan Rickman, Bill Pullman, and Danny DeVito, was icing on the cake of an already fantastic movie. My adrenaline was pumping throughout the film with a great soundtrack by Paul Oakenfold. It's nice to go to the movies and see a truly independent film made with such a wide release, and such a great cast. Randall Miller, who co-wrote, and co-produced with Jody Savin and also directed and edited this film, did a wonderful job, and deserves great respect. Every scene was captivating and fun with Bryan Greenberg and Shawn Hatosy proving themselves in starring roles. While movies like Revolutionary Road, and The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button are getting all the credit for such moving performances and so on, but this film deserves great recognition for the true genius of every second of this film. Truly the unsung hero, underdog, and most underrated film of the year. Don't miss out on any chance to see this film.
  • joejoe498911 December 2008
    Crazy's just a choice? Exactly! This film was crazy because it wanted to be. It did such a great job with everything. Superb acting, a great soundtrack and wonderful story-line. I really loved this film. Alan Rickman, Bill Pullman, Mary Steenburgen, Danny DeVito, Eliza Dushku, Bryan Greenberg, and Shawn Hatosy all gave great performances. I wasn't really expecting what I got, which was really great. This has been the best movie I've seen, so far, this holiday season. I'd like to see more movies like this from Randall Miller, the director, and more Randall Miller and Jody Savin writing collaborations. The twists and turns of the plot really made this movie stand out. The twists weren't the usual cop out twists which really irritate me as a patron. There are so many great scenes and many great lines which sometimes made me laugh and sometimes made me just say wow, this is a great film.
  • I saw this movie with my husband (he tolerates my Rickmania) and part way through the movie he said, well as usual coming to a Rickman movie was worth the money. If you are tired of Hollywood formula want a few laughs and a movie you can't constantly predict this is your movie, I just hope it's still out there when you want to see it. We will probably be buying this on DVD when it becomes available. Unfortunately I don't think it will be nearly as fun to watch some of the scenes on a small screen.

    As usual Rickman and Devito and Pullman turn in very professional work and Steenburger is such a delight I kept wondering why don't we see more of her. The Savin's have found a nice group of actors to work with and are now with two good indie films under their belts (this one and Bottle Shock) they should be able to attract not just good actors to their films but hopefully financing.
  • I love Alan Rickman in anything especially here where he plays a vain, selfish Nobel Laureate chemistry professor, Eli Michaelson. He plays it beautifully. If Alan would reconsider, he should be awarded and accept British knighthood but he has declined in the past. Mary Steenburgen is wonderful as the long suffering wife and mother. Eli's son, Barkley, learns some surprising facts and truths about his beloved father. Eli isn't so keen on giving up his money. There are plenty of memorable moments in the film like the car chase in the mall. Danny DeVito has a features role as their tenant. The cast is marvelous and the story is entertaining as well. It's nice to see Mary Steenburgen in a role worthy of her talent.
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