MOVIE BUFF-ET: Shailene Woodley elevates high-seas drama ‘Adrift’

STX Entertainment

“Adrift” is and isn’t the movie that I expected it to be.

Yes, it is a lone-surviver-type movie set on the open seas after a sailboat and its two-person crew run afoul of a monstrous hurricane, and it contains every trial and tribulation you would expect from such a movie.

What I did not expect from the film, directed by Baltasar Kormakur, was such a touching and even engrossing love story between stars Shailene Woodley as Tami and Sam Claflin as Richard, told inventively through flashbacks.

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The film opens after the disaster with Woodley’s Tami desperately attempting to survive adrift at sea while tending to Claflin’s severely injured Richard. As they struggle, we slowly learn of their relationship and at the climax, exactly how the two lovers found themselves in such a dire circumstance.

The choices made by screenwriters Aaron and Jordan Kandell and David Branson Smith as well as by Kormakur are crafty and clever. They totally worked at drawing me into the film. The story unspools a bit like a mystery, making what could have been entirely too familiar into a tantalizing bit of filmmaking. This caught me by surprise.

Woodley has proven herself to be a compelling actress in recent years, offering performances that often exceeded the limitations of her roles, but she literally carries the movie in the stranded portions of the film as she desperately seeks to survive against the unrelenting perils of the open ocean.

As compelling as Woodley’s survival mode performance is, she might be even stronger in the love-story flashbacks because it’s in those scenes that we begin to care for Tami, the care-free wild child from San Diego, who was making her way around the world on her sailing and mechanical skills.

She meets the chivalrous Brit Richard in Tahiti, and their relationship follows all the conventions of a paperback romance novel. However, Woodley and Claflin’s performances along with Kormakur’s direction sold me on the love story. I began to care for the characters, and by intertwining their romance with their dire circumstances on the water, they made me actually enjoy a film that I was dreading to see.

Kudos to Kormakur and the screenwriters for making an interesting movie by weaving two entirely conventional stories together. Woodley’s performance, though, is the reason to see the film. She elevates what could have been a tedious movie.

(PG-13) 1 hr. 36 min.
Grade: B

Classic Corner

The Producers

No one does satire like Mel Brooks.

Whether it’s in masterpieces like “Blazing Saddles” or “Young Frankenstein” or lesser efforts like “History of the World Part 1” or “Spaceballs,” Brooks’ films have tickled our collective funny bone for 50 years with a zany, sassy brand of humor that never grows old.

To celebrate the golden anniversary of Brooks’ directorial debut, the Malco Razorback Theater, in conjunction with Fathom Events, will host two special showings of the 1967 classic “The Producers” at 2 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Brooks had a long career as a humorist, comedian, and TV writer for “Your Show of Shows” and “Get Smart” before taking his act to the big screen with “The Producers.”

The zany film starring Zero Mostel as down-and-out Broadway producer Max Bialystock and Gene Wilder as his manic accountant Leo Bloom depicts the two conspiring to produce a play so bad that it will close down after a single performance allowing them to make off with the proceeds after overselling shares of the show.

However, their odious production “Springtime For Hitler” is hailed as a hilarious satire rather than panned as the apologetic musical stink bomb it was intended to be.

Kenneth Mars plays Franz, the ex-Nazi playwright, who becomes murderously offended when he learns his work is generating laughs instead of empathy for Hitler, while Dick Shawn plays Lorenzo St. DuBois, the acid-head actor who plays der Fuhrer in the play.

The material behind the film was so funny and solid that in 2001 Brooks reworked it into an acclaimed Broadway musical. In 2005, he then adapted the musical to film starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick.

The reboot is funny, but the original is not only hilarious but it also opened the door to a brand of bawdy and self-referential humor and satire that has influenced comedy on the big and small screen for 50 years.

A film like “Deadpool 2” is the spiritual grandson of the type of comedy Brooks pushed to the forefront with films like “The Producers.”