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Review: Sidney Hall (Sundance) starring Logan Lerman & Elle Fanning

Sidney Hall (Sundance) starring Logan Lerman & Elle Fanning
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PLOT: A young writer (Logan Lerman) drops off the face of the earth after his first two novels become best-sellers. Years later, an investigator (Kyle Chandler) tries to figure out what happened to him.

REVIEW: Watching SIDNEY HALL at Sundance, right after seeing the J.D Salinger bio-pic, REBEL IN THE RYE, was weird. Did Sundance schedule their premieres so close together on purpose? SIDNEY HALL tries hard to make the titular hero a millennial Salinger, although perhaps appropriate for a self-absorbed generation, he seems to be utterly lacking in talent.

Of course, the movie isn’t terribly aware of this. People call Lerman’s Sidney Hall a genius over-and-over, even before he ever puts pen to paper in a meaningful way. The film starts with him, as a high-schooler, reading a cheeky ode to masturbation which sounds like a blog post, but is supposed to be incendiary enough to almost warrant his expulsion. Taking place over three time periods, consisting of Hall’s teenage years, his twenties as a Salinger-like literary sensation, and his thirties as a hobo going from store to store burning his books, Shawn Christensen’s (BEFORE I DISAPPEAR) film tries hard to be a gritty psychological profile of a tortured anti-hero, but it’s an ego trip for selfish, self-absorbed people everywhere.

Logan Lerman is well-on his way to being a top leading man, but even he can’t save SIDNEY HALL. The teen aspect plays like a not-as-smart clone of THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER, and the twenties set years are disastrous, as Hall’s tortured by his own success - shown by having him constantly set things on fire (his manuscripts, his type-writer, his books) while looking moody. Ugh.

The message of the film is especially repugnant, basically being to turn other people’s tragedy into your own art, with Hall’s book being based on the sad life of a school jock (Blake Jenner) with a sadistic judge father. Sure, Hall is tortured by this, but his issues eventually stem more from his clingy mom (Michelle Monaghan) and a frayed relationship with his dream girl neighbor (Elle Fanning in a familiar role) than any sense of moral responsibility.

It all comes together in an unwieldy film, and worst of all, the scenes that depict Lerman and Fanning as adults make it look like they’re kids playing dress-up. Lerman actually fares well once he’s playing older, which is weird as it’s when he’s playing his own age that he seems most ill-at-ease. Fanning tries hard, but her willowy, ethereal love interest never feels like a real person, but only another tragic story for Hall to exploit.

All put together, this lengthy, two-hour would-be epic feels like a major miscalculation for all involved, and tons of stuff could have been cut, such as a quickie relationship Lerman has with his agent’s (Nathan Lane) daughter (Margaret Qualley). It’s a weird mix of teen melodrama and pretentiousness. SIDNEY HALL wound up being one of the few real disasters of the fest, with only the solid score by Darren Morze as a redeeming feature. Its a bad misstep for all involved, and one of those festival vanity projects that are best left in obscurity.

Source: JoBlo.com

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