A baffling exercise in taking real issues and genuine emotional experiences and (seemingly due to some misplaced anxiety) deploying them in service of pure vanity.
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John F. Donovan may revisit a lot of familiar territory for Dolan but on this form it is good to welcome him home.
None of it rings remotely true and his insistence on playing out so many scenes at such a high level can make it an excruciating watch.
A shocking misfire that nevertheless demonstrates the sheer confidence in his storytelling that Dolan has cultivated over a decade of movies. It’s the only possible explanation for this baffling ensemble piece, a campy (if at times inspired) burst of melodrama and ludicrous scenarios caving into each other in a spectacular mash of half-baked ideas.
Every time Dolan generates a head of steam, he’s betrayed by his script, by the self-conscious formality of the dialogue, or the clunkiness of the structure.
Perhaps explanations for all these improbable scenarios were lost on the cutting-room floor during Dolan’s notoriously prolonged editing process.
What could have been a powerful ode to the impact that movies have in shaping our identities — and by extension, the reason broken people are drawn to the profession, through which they hope to reach others like themselves — becomes an over-the-top celebration of Dolan himself.
Dolan has labored hard to yoke together these tricksy, time-jumping, intertwined plots, reportedly editing down a mountain of material over two years. In the process, a whole character played by Jessica Chastain was surgically removed. But however long he tinkered, Dolan has not quite salvaged a story whose default setting seems to be mirthless, ponderous navel-gazing.