51st Chicago International Film Festival Screening #4: “Why Me?” (Romania)

“Why Me?” (Romania)
Directed by Tudor Giurgiu

why meI’ve had a good run at the Film Fest with Eastern European parables about political or social corruption. In fact, I’ve never been let down by a single such film…most notably, last year’s “The Fool” from Russia…a film tackling the same issues that eventual Oscar nominee, “Leviathan”, did…only better.

Alas, that run has come to an end. “Why Me?”, which revolves around a lawyer who must choose between his rapidly ascending career (by playing the game) or choose to do the right thing at great expense, should have been excellent…and it actually is through most of the first act. But the stakes, which are sky high, never FEEL sky high. And when you choose to get on a soap box, “meh” won’t cut it. As a result, the actions that make up the final moments of the film are wildly incongruous to what comes before…and, as result, seem like a gimmick. And the seventeen paragraphs of text (literally) at the end telling us about the actual events that the movie is based on don’t help. They merely act as a reminder that the movie failed to land as it should have.

As for the specifics, the acting is excellent with the brutal exception of the lead. Emilian Oprea is certainly a very good-looking actor, but there is absolutely no change in his demeanor throughout the film, which only adds to one’s utter disbelief at the film’s conclusion. The script is way too long and there is almost no second act to speak of…or, rather, the second act feels a whole lot like the first. Finally, it’s not a pretty film…the cinematography almost feels like a television show…flat – in both color and depth, although it was nice to see the mountains of Romania in one scene.

To sum up…at first I thought I might be witnessing a Romanian “Serpico” or “Verdict”. Alas, within 30 minutes, those hopes seemed as far away as Romania is from Chicago.

Written on 10/21/2015

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