Sunday, October 9, 2011

Emilio Estevez: Journeyman (The Way)

Martin Sheen, The Way, Arc Entertainment, 2011.

Brat packer turned overlooked helmer Emilio Estevez procures an apt filmization of self-discovery in his basic yet sporadically profound tale The Way. Affording his gifted father, actor Martin Sheen, his best role in some time, he utilizes the chance to comment on their own father-son relationship, father-son relationships in general, and life en masse.

The Way recalls the set-up for Billy Wilder's forgotten 70s comedy Avanti, but with a downbeat, uplifting tone. Certain points of this workman-like effort truly break through the celluloid surface, touching on common themes which in the wrong hands can be stifling and overdone. Estevez does just about everything right.

First off, the picture is an emotionally engaging, stylistically downplayed portrayal of a regretful, aging American man's transformative trek which attempts, sometimes successfully, to transform its audience. Secondly, it is a showcase for the burrowed, eclipsing talents of Sheen, an old-school actor so good we forget about him and the truth he has brought to many characters in his almost fifty year career. Estevez himself, Deborah Kara Unger and Tcheky Karyo give fine support.

Estevez came onto the scene as a gifted actor in his own right in the1980s, often overshadowed by his equally talented brother, Charlie Sheen. Although we've seen less of him as an actor, his vision behind the camera has produced such variegated and buried pictures as Wisdom, Men at Work, Rated X and Bobby. These films awarded us a glimpse into the gossamer trappings of criminality, labor, business and politics. Yet he never lost sight of the human factor inherent in the process. With his newest work, that element is front and center for a mildly cathartic but unforgettable creation. 

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