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Leviathan - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Directing: B-
Acting: B
Writing: C+
Cinematography: B+
Editing: B-

I'm usually on board with critical consensus, especially when the consensus is particularly strong, as it is with Leviathan. But I have to be honest. I got bored. Go ahead and tell me how astounded you are that I missed the point. I dare you! You and the ten other people in America who are seeing this movie. This is the thing, though: not only can I say with confidence that the people who miss this movie aren't missing much; they most certainly would agree with me if they were forced to sit through it.

If a story about how infidelity complicates matters between a homeowner and a corrupt mayor in a coastal Russian town sounds interesting to you, fine. You'll probably enjoy this movie, particularly with its deeply dark humor rooted in Russian culture, history, and love of vodka. There's a lot of vodka in this movie. It seems the majority of characters onscreen are some level of drunk roughly 75% of the time. Are you feeling down? Have some vodka. Want to celebrate? Have some vodka? Going on a shooting/camping trip? One drink if you hit the target, three drinks if you miss!

For a movie this long -- two hours and twenty minutes -- a whole lot of action takes place off screen. This is the kind of movie that, had it been made in the U.S., likely a fair amount of violence would have been depicted. Director Andrey Zvyagintsev instead just focuses on the aftermath and how characters deal with the consequences. More dialogue, just with bruises and cuts on their faces. This is a more than respectable artistic choice, and an interesting editing technique. Too bad what we get instead are far too many scenes with the camera sitting stationery while nothing of consequence is occurring in the story. How long do we have to look at the rain splattering on a Jeep windshield while it drives on a beach through the rain? Long enough for me to start thinking about my grocery list.

I have a bit of an OCD pet peeve about people who "multitask" while watching movies at home. It makes me twitchy. You're going to miss an important detail, I'm sure of it! Not so with Leviathan. You have my blessing with this movie. Not only is there no need to rush to the theatre to see this, but you're welcome to knit or decorate your Christmas Tree or help your children with school craft projects while watching it in a few months at home. Believe me, you're not going to miss anything important.

Leviathan feels intended to be heavy with depth. It gives you plenty of time to consider such a thing, unless you're prone to letting your mind wander. The story is pretty straightforward on the surface: Kolya (Aleksey Serebryakov) is fighting the mayor, Vadim (Roman Madyanov), who wants to raze his house to make way for a construction project. There are court cases and appeals and several overlong scenes with a panel of three female judges. Kolya's wife, Lilya (Elena Lyadova) gets pulled into the middle of things when Kolya brings in his lawyer friend from Moscow (Vladimir Vdovichenkov) to help. I spent a fair amount of time wondering if this movie passes the Bechdel Test, and apparently it does -- albeit barely. If there are two named female characters who talk to each other about something other than a man, it's a single brief moment in one scene. The rest of the time, Lilya and her friend are indeed always talking about a man.

Not that I'm judging this movie based on that. It's just where my mind wandered to. Because this movie provides ample time for the mind to wander.

I'll freely admit that this film very likely has a level of meaning that I didn't get due to my not being a Russian speaker, or intimately familiar with modern Russia. I certainly can't make any grand proclamation about it being a bad movie. Were it edited down significantly, the story would have worked far better. Roger Ebert liked to say that no good movie is too long and no bad movie is too short, but what if it's difficult to decide? Good or not, this movie is too long. It has plenty of moments, both touching and humorous (although the humor is always infused with profound sadness; this is not an uplifting film), and its damp, Russian coastal vistas are certainly well shot. It just overall didn't speak to me.

Vodka practically comes out of the tap in LEVIATHAN.

Overall: B-
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