NPR: David Edelstein

David Edelstein is a film critic for New York magazine and for NPR's Fresh Air, and an occasional commentator on film for CBS Sunday Morning. He has also written film criticism for the Village Voice, The New York Post, and Rolling Stone, and is a frequent contributor to the New York Times' Arts & Leisure section.

A member of the National Society of Film Critics, he is the author of the play Blaming Mom, and the co-author of Shooting to Kill (with producer Christine Vachon).



Fri November 11, 2011
Movie Reviews

As The World Ends, A Certain 'Melancholia' Sets In

Kirsten Dunst's well-planned wedding takes place as a planet called Melancholia heads directly towards Earth.
Magnolia Pictures

Metaphors don't come balder than the one at the center of Lars von Trier's Melancholia. It's both the emotional state of the protagonist Justine, played by Kirsten Dunst, and also the name of a small planet on what might be a collision course with Earth. Actually, it does strike Earth in a lyrical, eight-minute, slow-motion prelude, but there's no way to know if that's real or a dream. Of course, the whole film can be taken as a dream, a bad but gorgeous one scored to the same few bars of Wagner's Tristan and Isolde.

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Fri November 4, 2011
Movie Reviews

'Crazy' In Love, And Feeling Every Moment Of It

In Drake Doremus's drama Like Crazy, the lovestruck Jacob (Anton Yelchin) and Anna (Felicity Jones) are forced to separate when Anna violates the terms of her student visa.
Fred Hayes Paramount Vantage

Movies are often about falling in love and sometimes falling out of love, but the best for my money are about falling in and out of love in a way you'd need a higher order of physics to graph. That higher physicist could start with Drake Doremus's drama Like Crazy, which evokes as well as any film I've seen the now loopy, now jagged flow from infatuation to intoxication to addiction to withdrawal to re-addiction. It's not an especially deep or psychological movie. It's just crazy painful.

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Fri October 28, 2011
Movie Reviews

Shakespeare, Thompson: Stick To The Print Versions

Rhys Ifans plays the Elizabethan aristocrat Edward de Vere in Roland Emmerich's Anonymous. The movie speculates that de Vere, not Shakespeare, was the real author of the bard's works.

Reiner Bajo Columbia Pictures

Two new films show how tough it is to do justice to good writers on-screen. Johnny Depp certainly means to do right by his pal Hunter S. Thompson in The Rum Diary. He played Thompson in Terry Gilliam's rollicking but not especially watchable Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and narrated a documentary about him.

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Thu October 20, 2011
Movie Reviews

'Margin Call': A Movie Occupied With Wall Street

Kevin Spacey gives "a major performance, his best in a decade," as a Wall Street executive trying to do the right thing in the middle of a financial panic.

JoJo Whiden Roadside Attractions

The timing is almost too good: a terrific Wall Street melodrama at the moment the Occupy Wall Street protests are building. We haven't seen the like since Three Mile Island had a near-meltdown a couple of days after The China Syndrome exploded into theaters. Now, Margin Call seems anything but marginal.

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Thu October 13, 2011
Movie Reviews

Almodovar Gets Under The 'Skin,' But How Deeply?

Originally published on Fri October 14, 2011 3:54 pm

Vera (Elena Anaya) is both patient and obsession for plastic surgeon Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas), who is bent on creating a synthetic skin that can resist any kind of damage.

Sony Pictures Classics

At festivals and in interviews, Pedro Almodovar is such a furry cuddle bear that it's possible to forget what a perverse filmmaker he can be β€” that is, until you watch something like his nasty new gender-bent Frankenstein picture, The Skin I Live In. It's a self-conscious, madly ambitious work, rife with allusions to countless other films. But does it have a soul? I couldn't detect one amid all its borrowed tropes.

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Fri June 17, 2011
Movie Reviews

'Buck': A Horse Whisperer Wrangles His Dark Past

As a child, Buck Brannaman was badly abused by his father. Cindy Meehl's documentary, Buck, tells the story of how Brannaman overcame his troubled childhood and become the inspiration for the book and movie The Horse Whisperer.
Emily Knight IFC Films

Our therapeutic culture is lousy with stories of people struggling to spin childhood traumas into something positive, something that leaves the world a better place than the one that damaged them; but I've never seen a film in which the link between a trauma and its transmutation is as vivid as in Buck.

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Thu June 9, 2011
Movie Reviews

'Super 8': Close Encounters Of The 'E.T.' Kind

'Super' 4: Gabriel Basso (left), Ryan Lee, Joel Courtney and Riley Griffiths play teenagers shooting a homemade movie when a spectacular crash draws them into a world they weren't supposed to know about.
Francois Duhamel Paramount Pictures

It would be easy to malign J.J. Abrams's Super 8 as a shameless ripoff of Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. and Jurassic Park β€” that is, if Abrams didn't rekindle at least some of the excitement of seeing those films way back when.

We didn't just consume Close Encounters and E.T. like so much disposable pop culture. We were dazzled by a new mode of storytelling, accessible to all and yet personal and pure, the product of one visionary dreamer.

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Thu June 2, 2011
Movie Reviews

'Beginners': A Marvelously Inventive Comedy

MΓ©lanie Laurent plays Ewan McGregor's whimsical partner Anna in Beginners.
Focus Features

There's a genre of romantic comedy perfected by Woody Allen in Annie Hall that, when done right, can make you feel not just happy but liberated. It's philosophical and free-form, jumping around in time, indulging in flights of fantasy like a first-person comic novel.

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Thu May 26, 2011
Movie Reviews

'The Tree Of Life': A Creation Trip Worth Taking

Part creation epic and part family drama, The Tree of Life stars Jessica Chastain and Brad Pitt as the parents of three boys in the '50s. Critic David Edelstein says Terrence Malick's film is self-indulgent β€” but that some selves are better indulged than others.
Merie Wallace Fox Searchlight Pictures

The Tree of Life is Terrence Malick's big one β€” part creation epic, part Oedipal family drama, an answer to Kubrick's 2001 and maybe Paradise Lost. Malick's films all touch on Eden, the natural world into which humans are born, and the Fall, marked by male aggression as well as the soulless aspects of civilization.

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Thu May 19, 2011
Movie Reviews

A 'Paris' Review: Woody Allen, In Fine Form

Owen Wilson, playing the time-traveling hero Gil, wants to write novels instead of movies, much to the horror of his fiancee Inez, played by Rachel McAdams.
Roger Arpajou Sony Picture Classics

Woody Allen isn't religious, but he has a rabbinical side, and over the last decade his films have become more and more like Talmudic parables for atheists. On the surface, these movies are streamlined, even breezy, and they often have voice-over narration to get the pesky exposition out of the way fast. Philosophically, Allen has settled on resignation, a cosmic shrug: There's no God, no justice, people are inconstant, life is meaningless β€” so where do you wanna eat?

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Fri May 13, 2011
Movie Reviews

'Bridesmaids': A Raunchy, Hilarious Chick Flick

From left to right, Melissa McCarthy, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Rose Byrne, Ellie Kemper and Kristen Wiig plays bridesmaids in Maya Rudolph's wedding. David Edelstein says the movie is a "terrific vehicle for Wiig."
Photo Credit: Suzanne Hanover Universal Pictures

Judd Apatow has had his own Hollywood comedy factory for years now, but the charge that comes up again and again is that it's a boy's club β€” or rather a child-man's club, a place for nerds to write movies about nerds who act like juveniles before growing up and marrying thin, pretty women. Where, many of us have asked, is the female perspective?

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Fri May 6, 2011
Movie Reviews

'The Beaver': Redemption For Mel Gibson?

Every single person to whom I've mentioned The Beaver has announced that he or she has no intention of seeing another movie starring Mel Gibson β€” even if he's playing a nut job like they think he is in life.

But I couldn't wait. I think Gibson is a fascinating actor, and he was especially good playing crazy in the 1997 thriller Conspiracy Theory, a welcome change from the usual Make Mel Mad template where he's driven to take vengeance on those who kill or kidnap his wife or lover or child or dog.

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Thu May 5, 2011
Movie Reviews

Three New Action Movies Battle At The Box Office

Andrew Lau's Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen stars Donnie Yen as a fictional martial-arts Chinese hero played at times by both Bruce Lee and Jet Li. But this isn't another disposable B movie. Lau made Infernal Affairs, which was superior in every way to its Americanization, The Departed, and he grounds his action in historical traumas, in a legacy of oppression.

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Fri April 22, 2011
Movie Reviews

A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Horror

In the overture to Incendies, a group of small boys have most of their hair shaved off by soldiers. The boys are bloodied and bruised β€” some sort of attack has plainly just happened. The music underscoring this is Radiohead's sad, slurred, "You And Whose Army?," and one boy, who has three vertical dots tattooed on the back of his foot, stares into the camera with a look of monstrous hate β€” a stare that eats into the mind. It's not until the end of the film that you understand the full implications of that stare β€” what led up to it, and what happened afterward.

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Tue April 12, 2011
Movie Reviews

'The Conspirator': A Trying Trial For Lincoln's Foes

The Conspirator centers on the real-life trial of Mary Surratt, who ran a Washington boarding house that was regularly visited by men involved in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Among them: Surratt's son and the assassin himself, John Wilkes Booth.

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