Scott Marks noon, Jan. 11
The Sisters Brothers
Director and co-writer Jacques Audiard knows that the old west’s big open spaces make room for the asking of big open-ended questions, and the biggest one he asks here is, “Can a man change?” Can he break from what origin and circumstance have made him, and actually choose a better life — even a better society — for himself? And if such a change is possible, how may it be effected? Through tiny efforts (say, the purchase of a toothbrush), through grand epiphanies (say, the realization that you’ve lived your whole life in reaction your father), or through something altogether more drastic and painful? Audiard makes his inquiry over the course of a rambling, ambling chase down the west coast, as the titular hired guns chase a high-minded prospector from Oregon to California’s gold country. Younger brother Charlie (Joaquin Phoenix) is the arrogant, unthinking alpha, while older Eli (John C. Reilly) finds himself growing weary of his work. Their bicker-banter sometimes works (“Our father was stark raving mad.” “Our father drank.”) and sometimes doesn’t (“I don’t think we’ve ever gone this far.” “You mean between us, in our conversation?”), and the rest of the film is much the same. For every revelation woven into the action, there’s a bit of obvious philosophizing to remind you of the real point here. (It sure ain’t the gunplay, though the way the six-guns spit sparks is fun to look at.) With Jake Gyllenhaal, Riz Ahmed. 2018.