For Ellen C+
Writer-director So Yong Kim is clearly a Sundance Kid, having presented all three of her features at the Festival in the Dramatic Competition.
Her previous features, distributed by Kino International and Oscilloscope Pictures, have shown an evolving director with a strong sense of style, whose work is not particularly commercial—even by standards of indie cinema.
Her new movie, “For Ellen” is sharply uneven and too literal, just like its title. It is mostly notable for offering a good part for the talented and versatile actor Paul Dano (“Little Miss Sunshine,” ”There Will Be Blood”).
A sharply uneven, semi-compelling character study, “For Ellen” centers on Joby Taylor, a failing musician whose hard-rock band is about to disintegrate
When the tale begins, he leavesChicagoon a road trip to sign a divorce settlement with his estranged wife Claire (Margarita Levieva). Joby soon discovers that his lawyer (Jon Heder, miscast), has not secured him parental rights and that he would be forced to forfeit custody of his daughter Ellen (newcomer Shaylena Mandigo), who is living with her mother.
Joby is yet another American dreamer, a flawed character that needs to wake up and face reality. He is a man who wanted to “make it big,” but has only flirted with fame. Now, in the midst of a low and tough period in his career and life, he has to deal with family issues.
The lawyer is good-natured but ineffective–unable to make headway in reversing the decision, and a girlfriend (Jena Malone) that represents an era of his life that he might be ready to leave behind.
The drama builds up to a climactic scene, Joby’s visit with his daughter, aimed to explore whether he is able to walk away from his child, and whether it might be too late for reconciliation.
The film suffers from slow, deliberate pacing and from an underdeveloped scenario, which largely revolves around one main persona.
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