#venezia73 In dubious Battle the review

Venice Film Festival and James Franco are an inseparable match since years and in the course of time have brought more than a surprise.

Words by Gabriele Niola
Translation by Bianca Baroni
Photography by Alessio Costantino
In collaboration with Badtaste.it

Since 2011, when Franco presented his biographic drama focused on the actor Sal Mineo, he’s never stopped to bring his works to the Festival and he competed for the Golden Lion of 2013 with Child of God. This year, the competition is the showcase for his last work of direction (but he’s also producer and actor): In Dubious Battle, based on John Steinbeck’s book, published in 1936.

After 10 years from his debut as a director, with In Dubious Battle Franco shows to be on the right path to get rid of the weight that rested on his last works, as to say the lumbering presence of the literary source. Even if he followed Steinbeck’s book, focused on the tragic strike of a group of apple pickers in California of 1933, the actor-director gives up on the boring verbosity that buried some interesting works, like the mentioned Child of God (based on Cormac McCarthy’s book) and The Sound and the Fury (from Faulkner’s work).

You can only rapidly look at the names of who joins the cast to realize that In Dubious Battles is the most ambitious project ever faced by Franco as a director, that shoots himself and assemble D’Onofrio, Robert Duvall, Ed Harris, Bryan Cranston, Josh Hutcherson, Zach Braff, John Savage and the fetish actor Scott Haze to put on screen his political drama. Indeed, because from the beginning to the end, In Dubious Battle is the story of men driven by an ideal which is bigger than personal wellness, and the slightest part that is about the domestic events of the plot is the less engaging of the movie (Selena Gomez was a terrible choice, completely out of place in the role of a young day laborer that steals the heart of the protagonist, played by the singer and actor Nat Wolff).
In Dubious Battle (whose title comes from John Milton’s Paradise Lost)is everything but a perfect work, let’s say it. But it represent the highest peak of Franco’s career as a director and is also a crucial point to reach a poetic maturation, characterized by a sincere attention for social matters. If he will manage to get rid of that annoying intellectualism that at times still emerges from the rifts of his works, we can hope well for his future as a film-maker.

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