James White Review: Beautifully Performed, Though Oppressive

Photo Credit:http://www.comingsoon.net/movies/features/631371-interview-exploring-josh-monds-james-white-with-cynthia-nixon-christopher-abbott

You’ll be glad this thing clocks in at under 90 minutes. James White is aggressively depressing throughout just about each one of those minutes, which proves to be as great a strength as it is a fault.

The film follows its titular lead James White (Christopher Abbott), a struggling young twenty something, through the aftermath of his father’s death and his mother’s ensuing battle with cancer. Unable to maintain a job, James tells his mother (Cynthia Nixon) in an early scene that only after a trip to Mexico paid for by her will he be able to get his life together. While on vacation, he tries and fails to write, meets a girl, and drops acid. But only after James gets a call from his panicked mother does he start to put himself back together.

Abbott and Nixon are at the top of their game here, which is the only way a film like this could work. So much of it relies on these two selling every moment and they succeed with flying colors.

Still, for all their incredible work, James White eventually starts to crumble under its own tone. Even with its short length, it feels like there are one too many scenes of James about to reach his breaking point. By the end, it gets a little too heavy handed, bordering on soapy melodrama. It’s also a shame that right when the film gets a chance to prove how much its lead character has grown, it shies away and ends far too soon. This lack of narrative movement dampens the effect of the rest of the film. It ends up just being oppressively sad without a sign of a future for James. That’s not to say every depressing film has to have an uplifting ending, but the abruptness of it damages the character arc.

But the performances can’t be ignored, allowing James White to have a respectable value to its viewer. Emotion counts for a lot in this case, but not as much as the film needs it to. Grade: B

By Matt Dougherty

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