All right, Paul Dano, I’m coming around on you. If I may be so pretentious as to quote myself, this is an actor who whom I once wrote, “he's doing another of his sensitive, whiny mopes, a schtick that is growing more tiresome with every passing picture.” And that’s a criticism I stand by, while also acknowledging that he showed himself—in films like Little Miss Sunshine and There Will Be Blood—to be an actor not without talent. But he’s been doing interesting work lately, shedding the repetitive persona and going some new and interesting places in films like Meek’s Cutoff, Being Flynn, and Ruby Sparks. Which brings us to So Yong Kim’s For Ellen, in which there is no shortage of Mr. Dano; he’s in every scene, front and center, often alone. It’s a very good performance, in a modest but admirable film.
"You have managed to keep alive," Henry's butler Harold tells him, "in your lifetime, traditions that were dead before you were born," and he's not kidding. Henry (Walter Matthau) is a snooty aristocrat, spoiled and materialistic; a great opening gag finds him at the bedside of what we presume to be a dying relative, only to discover that it is cherry red Ferrari. Henry speaks in a light upper-crust accent and spends his days driving, riding, and drinking with the very dull, very rich of Manhattan. The trouble is, his money is about to run out--the trust he lives off has been running on fumes for years. Faithful Henry (George Rose) has been helping Henry into his smoking jackets long enough to know that going to work isn't an option, so he advises either suicide or a rich bride. After much gnashing of teeth, he chooses the latter, and that's the juicy premise of Elaine May's A New Leaf.