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Capsule reviews: `Drive,' `Restless'

The Associated Press, Wednesday, September 14, 2011, 9:37am (PDT)

Capsule reviews of films opening this week:

"Drive" — Like Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name, Ryan Gosling is simply known as the Driver. He's a stoic loner who does exactly what the title suggests. By day, he's a stunt driver, flipping cop cars for Hollywood productions. By night, he evades the police as a getaway driver for armed robberies, as he does in the film's tense, nearly wordless opening sequence. No identity, no backstory. The Driver simply exists, moving from one job to the next without making any pesky emotional attachments. That he is such a cipher might seem frustrating, but Gosling's masculine, minimalist approach makes him mysteriously compelling. Yes, he's gorgeous. But he also does so much with just a subtle glance, by just holding a moment a beat or two longer than you might expect. He's defined not so much by who he is, but rather by what he does — how he responds in an increasingly dangerous series of confrontations. His demeanor is the perfect fit for the overall approach from Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn ("Bronson"); cool and detached, "Drive" feels like an homage to early Michael Mann. It oozes sleek `80s style. Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Ron Perlman and a scene-stealing Albert Brooks, playing against type, are among the strong supporting cast. R for strong, brutal, bloody violence, language and some nudity. 100 minutes. Three stars out of four.

— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

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"I Don't Know How She Does It" — When you're a wife and working mother, there's this inescapable, self-imposed pressure to do everything right all the time. The idea of having it all — a great job and a loving family, a toned body and a sane mind — is as appealing as it is elusive. Douglas McGrath's comedy, based on the best-selling novel of the same name, gets that dynamic, that incessant juggling act, and the ways in which we self-flagellate in trying to perfect it. This is not exactly a new concept but it's increasingly prevalent, and McGrath finds just the right tone in depicting that. Sometimes. Too often, though, he smothers those nuggets of insight with a jaunty, sitcommy tone, with gags that are telegraphed from a mile away and music that works awfully hard to cue our emotional responses. It doesn't help that Sarah Jessica Parker, as the film's star, chimes in early and often with voiceovers that sound exactly like the kinds of observations she used to make as Carrie on "Sex and the City," the role with which she will be eternally, intrinsically tied. Here, she stars as Kate Reddy, a mother of two with her architect husband (Greg Kinnear). She struggles to balance her home life with her demanding job as an investment manager, which gets more time-consuming when she takes on a big project with the firm's head honcho (Pierce Brosnan). PG-13 for adult situations and language. 91 minutes. Two stars out of four.

— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

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"Restless" — The title must apply to the director. In more than a dozen films over 25 years, Gus Van Sant has often turned to stories of adolescence, young death and melancholy. In "Restless," he returns to these themes, but the material isn't up to his talents, and the effect is of a filmmaker searching for a vessel. Teenager Enoch Brae (Henry Hopper, the son of Dennis) is adrift after the deaths of his parents. While crashing a funeral, he meets Annabel Cotton (Mia Wasikowska), a bright, unusually undaunted girl who knows cancer will kill her in three months. The two become fast companions and lovers, bound together by a refusal to acknowledge death's power. They make a plaything out of death, sneaking into a morgue and rehearsing Annabel's "death scene." At its worst, the film is sentimental and cloying, a pretty picture of young, pretty death, outfitted handsomely in autumn scarfs and cloche hats. Van Sant still creates poignancy out of the screenplay by Jason Lew, but "Harold and Maude" this is not. PG-13 for thematic elements and brief sensuality. 95 minutes. Two stars out of four.

— Jake Coyle, AP Entertainment Writer.

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