Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
At the beginning of the summer, Chris Evans co-starred as Captain America in “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” a blockbuster sequel and yet another big-budget cog in the behemoth Marvel Cinematic Universe machine. It featured him alongside his fellow comic-book superheroes, throwing his mighty shield in the name of all that is good and righteous and saving the world (again) with the help of some high-tech special effects.
Now that summer is ending, Evans is back again, but this time he’s working both behind and in front of the camera with “Before We Go.” For his directorial debut, he took his considerable clout and fame and made a movie that couldn’t possibly be more different from the spectacles that have been his bread and butter. It’s an indie romance in which he tries to rescue one person from a terrible night rather than the entire planet for all of eternity, and there are no special effects to be found. In fact, very little here is special, despite the individual charms of Evans and co-star Alice Eve.
These photogenic and charismatic actors somehow manage to conjure zero chemistry with each other because they’re stuck playing barely-there characters in a flimsy and contrived script. The fact that its premise of two strangers walking and talking all night calls to mind superior films – mainly, “Before Sunrise” – only makes things worse. Twenty years ago, Richard Linklater created for Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy two rich characters who shared an instant spark, and their thoughtful, analytical conversations left you feeling truly invested in what would happen once the sun came up.
In “Before We Go,” though, the characters are so vapid and there’s so little at stake, it’s impossible to care about what happens to them from one moment to the next, much less the outcome of an entire night in New York. (The script is credited to veteran Ron Bass, as well as Jen Smolka, Chris Shafer and Paul Vicknair.) The city does look lovely, though; Evans knew well enough to learn from people in other departments and let them do what they do best. Cinematographer John Guleserian (“Like Crazy,” “About Time”) makes Manhattan glitter and shimmer in all the most romantic ways, but there isn’t much inside that pretty packaging.