Thursday, January 12, 2017

Live by Night: A Critical Reception


Poor Ben Affleck. His newest directorial outing, the adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s Live by Night —in which he also stars as a mobster—has earned a 38% on Rotten Tomatoes tomatometer.  The critics kind of hate it! Such a shame as Affleck’s reputation as a director has been solid up to now. Plus many of us—especially we book2movie types—were psyched to see it.

The critics call it

Owen Gleiberman in Variety called it a ghost of a terrific movie:  “All the pieces are in place, yet as you're watching it (or thinking back on it afterwards), there doesn't seem to be quite enough there there.’’

When critics hate your movie!

Manohla Dargis in the New York Times was cutting—“Mr. Affleck handles the busy narrative without finding its hook, but his biggest problem is that he's fallen for his leading man.’’ Ouch.

The LA Times reviewer Mark Olsen labelled it “Neither elegantly concise nor an epic sprawl, but rather something just awkwardly misshapen.’’

Brian Truitt in USA Today called it “A haphazard, albeit mostly entertaining tale of tommy gunners and rum runners.’’

There are plenty more where those came from. On the other hand, a few critics found some good. 

Peter Travers in Rolling Stone took a more positive view: “The feeling persists that the material would have cut deeper as a miniseries. Still, Affleck shines as a director of actors and action. The man knows how to create a haunting gangster noir worth getting lost in.’’

Still, according to Rotten Tomatoes 94% of its users want to see it. I know I wanted to, and may still. Dennis Lehane and Ben Affleck are compelling on the surface. Add a cast that includes Brendan Gleeson, Sienna Miller, Elle Fanning, Zoe Saldana and Chris Cooper and it all sounds like a must see. Except for all the must see movies playing right now: La La Land, Hidden Figures, Rogue One, Silence, A Monster Calls. All doing well at the box office. 

The really bad news for Affleck is that Live by Night cost $65 million to make and after its initial early release and its big opening weekend around the county has cleared about $10 million and is being called “a dud’’ and “dead on arrival.’’

While many of us wanted to see it, we didn’t get out there for that opening weekend. The question now is will we? Unless word of mouth from the public contradicts the critics, probably not.

Is Live by Night in your movie going plans this weekend?

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