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Nobel Son
3 reviews

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Movie Details

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Directed By
Randall Miller

Written By:
Jody Savin, Randall Miller

Alan Rickman, Bryan Greenberg, Shawn Hatosy, Mary Steenburgen, Bill Pullman, Eliza Dushku, Danny DeVito, Ted Danson, Ernie Hudson, Tracey Walter, Lindy Booth, Kevin West, Kirk Baily, Greg Collins, Lucy DeVito, Mark Famiglietti, Mary Pat Gleason, Larry Hankin, Matthew Kimbrough, Hal B. Klein, Joe Koons, Valerie Long, Matt Winston, Wayne Lopez, Bennett Dunn, Dawn Balkin, Dawn Balkin, Reid Collums, Tiffany Downey, Brendon Graham, Joyce Guy, Juliette Jeffers, Danika Quinn, Dean Rader-Duval, Johanna Torell, Avis Wrentmore

Nobel Son (2007)
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Movie Review by Jarrod
December 8th, 2008

'Nobel Son' is primarily a dark comedy, but it also wants to be a thriller, and occasionally descends into farce, and while it may be confused about its identity, it features a wonderful performance from Alan Rickman, as an insufferably arrogant chemist named Eli Michaelson, who wins the Nobel Prize, and then learns that his son, Barkley (Bryan Greenberg) has been kidnapped; the ransom is the $2 million Eli was awarded in Stockholm. Barkley is a disappointment to Eli; he wants him to follow in his footsteps, but Barkley has chosen to pursue his doctorate in another field, and Eli considers this an act of betrayal, and so he is not all that keen on handing over the money.

Eli is despised by many of his colleagues; he perceives this as jealousy and bitterness, since they can never hope to match his brilliance, and becoming a Nobel laureate only inflates his ego. He is married to Sarah (Mary Steenburgen), a forensic psychologist, who uses her skills and resources to figure out what happened to Barkley, working alongside Max (Bill Pullman), the cop investigating the case. The culprit seems to be the dimwitted Thaddeus (Shawn Hatosy), who claims to be Eli's illegitimate offspring, and it is possible that he and Barkley are collaborating in a scheme to teach their terrible father a lesson.

A severed finger arrives in the mail, presumably belonging to Barkley; Thaddeus calls Eli and tells him about Barkley's abduction, and is shocked to find that Eli does not take him seriously, and refuses the offer without a second thought. The plot contains many twists and turns, some logical, and some absurd, a few of them clever, but the film becomes a little too complicated for its own good. Rickman is the best thing in the movie, and carries it through, along with Steenburgen, an actress of staggering charm, talent, and beauty.

This almost makes you forget that she appeared in Four Christmases, with four other Oscar winners (Sissy Spacek, Reese Witherspoon, Jon Voight, and Robert Duvall). I also liked Danny DeVito, as Gastner, an obsessive-compulsive gardener. Eliza Dushku is intoxicating as City Hall, a writer Barkley meets and falls for at a poetry reading. Much of the dialogue is excellent, these characters speak truthfully and intelligently; Rickman delivers his lines with deliciously acidic nastiness, and can express condescension with a mere glance, just like he does as Severus Snape in the Harry Potter franchise. While it may fall apart in the later scenes due to inconsistent pacing and a hasty attempt to tie up all of the loose ends, while offering a coherent explanation for these events, it is, overall, a wickedly fun, funny, and entertaining picture.

The biggest flaw, to me, was the music by DJ/composer Paul Oakenfold; he specializes in techno-dance stuff, which does not fit the flick at all, and quickly grows tiresome. Eli, as we see early on, has sex with his female students; they do this for better grades, and I wonder if Eli actually gives them better grades, or if he simply uses this as an excuse to seduce them, and does not hold up his end of the bargain. I doubt he would care if they threatened to blackmail him, or if they even filed a harassment or sexual assault suit against him. That is the extent of his self-centeredness.

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