Weekend film reviews: ‘The Fall Guy,’ ‘I Saw the TV Glow’

Written by Amy Ta, produced by Bennett Purser

In “The Fall Guy,” Ryan Gosling plays a Hollywood stuntman working on a film directed by his ex-girlfriend (Emily Blunt). Credit: Youtube.

The latest film releases include The Fall Guy, I Saw the TV Glow, Evil Does Not Exist, and Mars Express. Weighing in are William Bibbiani, film critic for the Wrap and co-host of the Critically Acclaimed Network, and Monica Castillo, freelance film critic and senior film programmer at the Jacob Burns Film Center. 

The Fall Guy

Ryan Gosling plays a Hollywood stuntman working on a film directed by his ex-girlfriend (Emily Blunt). Then the lead actor disappears, throwing the production into turmoil. Director David Leitch also got his Hollywood start as a stuntman.

Castillo: “Any attention that we can give [to] … the folks behind the scenes, the more the merrier. However, I felt The Fall Guy fell short of my expectations. … I think Ryan Gosling knocks it out of the park … he's just so charismatic, and he really carries this movie effortlessly. But there's moments in between the explosions and his charming moments that just felt lackluster in comparison. And I wish they would have given Emily Blunt a little bit more after she totally killed it in Oppenheimer.”

Bibbiani: “What I think is interesting, and what I actually liked about The Fall Guy, is that unlike a lot of action movies, where it's all about pumping up the stakes, this is actually mostly a farce about Hollywood. And the gag is that we're just going to force this stunt guy to do all of these things ‘in real life’ that he would normally only have to do for a movie. And I think that this really is just poking fun at the industry.

… There's a line in the movie where someone asked, ‘Hey, do you stunt people get Oscars?’ And Ryan Gosling has to say, ‘No, we don't.’ And stunt people have been asking for an Academy Award for … a couple of decades now at least, and they're not getting the respect that they deserve. And I feel likeThe Fall Guy is specifically stuntpeople trying to make sure the mainstream knows that they risked their lives to give us the movies that we enjoy, and that they deserve more credit and respect. And I think they do so with a certain amount of wit and humor. I guess mileage might vary about whether or not you think it's funny, but I had a blast.”

I Saw the TV Glow

This psychological thriller follows two teenage friends obsessed with a fictional TV series called The Pink Opaque in the late 1990s. But after the show is mysteriously canceled, their reality begins to blur. Jane Schoenbrun, who identifies as non-binary, wrote and directed. 

Bibbiani: “I wouldn't be surprised if this is the best film of 2024. I absolutely was hypnotized. …  About half of the movie feels like a plausible, dramatic tale about the way that people live vicariously through their art when they feel young and oppressed, and they cannot express themselves. And then halfway through the film, there's a time jump, and we catch up with them a few years later, and every single thing we've seen starts to be questioned, and the movie starts becoming a lot more surreal.

This is rather obviously, I think, an allegory for the trans experience. But at the same time, it has a significant number of levels that run everything from metacritique to just any coming-of-age story. I think this movie is relatable to anybody. 

But more than anything else, I feel that we're watching a filmmaker who is especially fascinated with the interests and the preoccupations of a generation whose interests and preoccupations have not necessarily been treated well by other filmmakers. It feels like we just keep getting shoved nostalgia. And this is a movie … about watching TV in the 1990s, and it isn't nostalgic. It is pained and it is observant.”

Castillo: “I am a millennial. … And I love, love, love, love, love this movie. Co-sign everything. … It's just such an incredible world that you're immersed in. I also wanted to give cinematographer Eric Yue some attention because he and Jane really create this fantastic realm. The TV show within the movie looks incredible, and it looks like of that time, the color palette that they're playing with is this beautiful jewel tone that glows and captivates no matter what's going on onscreen. … And gosh, the emotions of this movie — I don't think I've cried as hard yet this year so far as I have in this movie.”

Evil Does Not Exist

A man and his daughter live in a peaceful Japanese village, then real estate developers arrive and announce a plan to build a glamping resort there. The trailer describes the film as a thriller about “the violations of nature.”  Ryusuke Hamaguchi, who won an Oscar for Drive My Car, is the director.

Castillo: “It's just so immersive in that struggle, explaining the different ways that we affect each other as people without even thinking about it. … It is very much of a thriller, even though it is very meditative. … You get to really see this rural area, and you then get invested in this struggle because you don't want to lose that imagery … that nature that's so precious to these people.”

Bibbiani: “I'm getting completely immersed and sucked into the story, much of it is about very, very subtle things. And then by the end of the film … I had to just sit for 20 minutes and think about it. It all added up to something a little unexpected for me.”

Mars Express

In this animation, a detective is investigating the disappearance of his college-aged daughter and her friend in the 23rd century.

Bibbiani: “It definitely has Ghost in the Shell vibes, it definitely has Blade Runner vibes. It's science fiction about robots. …  I was actually really impressed with the way this film found its own personality and created its own world. …  It is about a detective … who is living on Mars in the future, Earth is uninhabitable. And they live side-by-side with robots, but also a different class of robots, which are people who died but downloaded their consciousness into a robot so that they can continue living. And over the course of the film, someone is jailbreaking robots, which is to say giving them free will and the ability to hurt humans if they want to. … The world that they have created is highly detailed and unusual, yet incredibly easy to get into and understand. And it concludes in a way that is both exciting and somewhat transcendent.”

Castillo: “I was so wrapped up in the mystery of it all, the whole world-building of it is really interesting, the fact that they are addressing AI clones and what that means, and using AI to sustain people's memory and presence on Earth, even though their physical form is no longer there, that gets really interesting and emotional. For a short run time, it's very powerful. And I was so entranced by the animation part of it and figuring out the different ways that this world is working, while also solving the mystery alongside the detectives.”