James Franco and Mila Kunis headline the trailer for the biopic Tar
For every mainstream studio film that James Franco stars in he seems to make six indie films. Of those indie films, he is usually directing or writing them with mixed results. In the case of TAR, Franco is content to just act for twelve NYU film students that he likely met during his time at the university.
Those directors (Edna Luise Biesold, Sarah-Violet Bliss, Gabrielle Demeestere, Alexis Gambis, Shruti Ganguly, Brooke Goldfinch, Shripriya Mahesh, Pamela Romanowsky, Bruce Thierry Cheung, Tine Thomasen, Virginia Urreiztieta) directed TAR based on the poems of Pulitzer Prize winner CK Williams, whom Franco portrays alongside three other actors. Joining Franco in the cast are his OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL costars Mila Kunis and Zach Braff along with Jessica Chastain. The resulting trailer looks very much like NYU students who idolize Terrence Malick and Stanley Kubrick trying to deliver a film that hits every tip and trick you would learn on your way to becoming a director.
TAR is based on Pulitzer prize-winning poet CK Williams' collection of the same name. Collectively written and directed by twelve filmmakers, the film blends together adaptations of twelve of the poems to create a poetic road trip through CK Williamís life. The film takes us on a journey through several decades of American life from CK's childhood and adolescence in Detroit in the 1940s and 50s to the early 1980s: CK (James Franco) and his wife Catherine (Mila Kunis) are married with their son Jed (name of actor). CK prepares for a reading of Tar in New York City, and spends his nights struggling to write new poems, haunted by memories of his past. As CK drives to his reading in New York City, he remembers central moments of his life: we come to experience and understand both his relationship to love and loss, and how he found his calling as a poet through the women in his life. The film takes us back and forth between past and present, punctuated by voice-over from CK Williams' poems, recreating the experience of memory and exploring how the fragments of one's man life can be turned into poetic expression: his loving relationship to his mother (Jessica Chastain), his first sexual experiences as a teenager (Henry Hopper), his first love (Nina Ljeti) and the struggle to preserve a form of innocence and wonder, the illness and loss of a close friend (Zach Braff), and finally his life together with Catherine.
Now, just because the trailer looks and feels like a Malick or Kubrick film is not a slight on the finished product. It actually looks well acted and interesting and at least worth a viewing, but would this movie be getting any exposure if it weren't for the names attached to the poster? Basing a film on the poems of a writer to tell his life story is difficult to begin with which is why this is an indie project and not a studio feature. I am intrigued enough to check out the film, but I am cautious that it will disappoint much in the way Franco's directorial efforts have.
TAR premiers at the Rome Film Festival on November 16th with no domestic release announced. Expect to hear a VOD or limited release soon.