Oslo, August 31st ★★½


A bit of a lost cause, which is why I avoided it for over a year. Movies about drug addicts have a monotonous sameness about them, so I was encouraged at the outset that the protagonist was six months clean; given the title, an Aristotelian time frame seemed a safe assumption, hence there was reason to hope that we might not be subjected to the usual relapse. Bzzt. Worse than that, though, the first third or so—scenes between Anders and his writer pal—cross over into another of my least favorite "genres": the therapy movie, which finds the characters talking openly and earnestly about their feelings in a way that's inimical to drama. We've already established that Anders is suicidal, via an opening scene in which he attempts suicide; nothing is less interesting than the reasons why he feels life is no longer worth living, except maybe the other dude's predictably hapless efforts to cheer him up. Still, the film does feature one extraordinary stretch right in the middle. First, the job interview, which beautifully confounds expectation when the potential employer takes Anders' confession in relative stride, reacting not like a stock authority figure but like a real, compassionate human being. And then the magnificent café sequence, which plays like the depressive flipside of In the City of Sylvia, bombarding self-pitying Anders with the banal chatter of people whose troubles are likely no more or less crippling than his own. Thought Trier had made an impressive recovery, but the excitement was short-lived, as I would have realized had I known that Oslo is loosely based on the same novel as Malle's The Fire Within, which I didn't like either. Once he knocked on his dealer's door, check please.