Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Having neglected the much-lauded director Ramin Bahrani for far too long, I finally caught up with his recently released third feature, Goodbye Solo. There are certainly some nice points to this low-key drama about the relationship between a gregarious taxi driver from Senegal and a dour, possibly suicidal old man—for one thing, it’s not as trite as that description might sound. But are we really so starved for sincere, intelligent independent movies that we’re ready to roll out the carpet for this bit of soft-sell sentimental pap? True, the film at least avoids descending into an obnoxious homily about the beauty of life and all that junk, but its misty final scenes—set in a lush, multi-coloured forest in autumn—project a gauzy, hopeful-sad aura that’s almost worse. The moral and emotional complexities of the suicide question are buried beneath a mound of cotton-fuzz feeling, and Bahrani wrings unearned impact out of the climax with some lazy contrivances—the worst being when the cab driver discovers the old man’s diary and reads it out loud for our benefit, helpfully explaining away all the loose ends while turning the gruff man into a more sympathetic figure. I’m sorry, but I call bullshit on the attempts to canonize this often facile, strained film as part of the vanguard of a new wave in realist cinema—this is nothing more than old-fashioned treacle dressed in self-seriousness. A three-act structure is a three-act structure, and if this is reality then I guess that means I don’t exist.