6.8
Movies  |  Reviews

Nobel Son

December 10, 2008  |  1:00pm
Nobel Son

Release Date: Dec. 5

Director: Randall Miller

Writers: Randall Miller & Jody Savin

Cinematographer: Michael J. Ozier

Starring: Alan Rickman, Bryan Greenberg, Bill Pullman, Eliza Dushku, Danny DeVito

Studio Information: Freestyle Releasing, 110 mins.


Quentin Tarantino and The Coen Brothers worked the past two decades to raise genre pictures to high art. More recently, the far more obscure Randall Miller and Jody Savin have been trying, and generally failing, to create movies with this sensibility while lacking their predecessors’ skill. One difference: instead of making pulp pictures look great, they’ve mostly grafted the more gimmicky B-filmmaking tropes onto other movie types.  Like Bottle Shock and Marilyn Hotchkiss’ Ballroom Dancing & Charm School, Nobel Son is filled with ridiculous plotlines, quirky stock characters and unrealistic dialogue. But while these previous films were weighted down by this, Nobel Son attempts nothing more than being a good yarn, a true-blue work of pulp.

Nobel Son begins as a family dramedy when dysfunctional father Eli Michaelson (Alan Rickman) wins the Nobel Prize simultaneous with his son Barkley Michaelson’s (Bryan Greenberg) kidnapping. In one of its 20 or so absurd plot twists, the kidnapper turns out to be another of Eli’s sons who feels disenfranchised. Bryan hates his father, though, so he teams up with the kidnapper to extort his ransom. Along the way we meet a stereotypical artist-poet girlfriend obsessed with boyfriends telling her the truth, a reformed obsessive compulsive and a hard-nosed detective who may know what’s really going on with the kidnapping.

But following the plot with any degree of accuracy beyond the first 20 minutes would take up the entirety of this review, as well as throwing out half of the reasons why the film’s enjoyable. It’s illogical more often than not, but as with all good genre pictures, it’s just kind of accepted, and by the time you realize things don’t make sense, the film’s already moved through three more twists. The frantic pace is akin to Raising Arizona, and if it’s not nearly as funny as that film, it's because Nobel Son’s mostly a thriller. 

Nobel Son has a lot of flaws. It’s inconsistently stylized and has a tone that’s as all over the place as its story. But it’s easier to look past this here because the film does succeed at what it tries hardest on, which is to be entertaining. Its 110 minutes are a totally disposable piece of fluff, but perhaps more importantly, also a whole lot of fun.

Watch the trailer for Nobel Son:

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