October 18, 2021

Just in case you aren’t seeing enough Oscar Isaac these days, here are a couple more times to view him and his considerable talents before you see him playing Duke Leto Atreides in Dune next week. I have already mentioned in previous reviews the ongoing series Scenes From A Marriage where he is paired with Jessica Chastain. Last Sunday night the final installment of this series took place on Crave/HBO. As mentioned earlier this is a series, with episodes released in consecutive weeks and this was the last one. Episode five of five. Time has passed and our couple, with a young daughter between them, have been living apart. As we begin, Jonathan is getting ready to meet up with Mira. The structure of this series ensures that we don’t really know how much time has passed between the episodes. For the most part we have seen Mira acting in the most manipulative way, with Jonathan reacting to her. He has been hurt. He was surprised earlier in the series and has still be trying to put the pieces back together for himself. In some ways, this series reminds me of the movie Little Children with Kate Winslet and Patrick Wilson. There the adults were running around with no consideration for anything but their own needs. They left behind a trail of shattered lives. In some ways watching someone on screen do things that you are not emotionally engaged with can allow for better clarity. Jonathan’s actions often I felt were not seeing the bigger picture. His love for his wife, even when she was acting solely in her best interest, blinds him. I think that he comes off as an innocent party who has things happen to him, and he is left to try and put together the pieces for himself afterwards. This final episode turns this around somewhat. Jonathan as things unfold is doing things that I can’t imagine him ever doing before the previous episodes take place. He seems to be moving on, and then he does things that run contrary to that thinking. We can see where this journey has taken him. It’s not a positive place, and he will explain at length his justification. Mira meanwhile has been moving forward with her career, and has slowed down her relationships. Ultimately these scenes from a marriage don’t paint a very positive story. That likely is the point, and stories of good communication with people working together towards common goals wouldn’t give us much to talk about. Still. It can be a tough watch, where an actress that I like takes on a persona that is frustratingly annoying. Isaac plays and acts his part well, and they interact well together. This is believable, but not necessarily enjoyable. I wouldn’t want to spend a evening with drinks and conversation with Jonathan and Mira, although I suspect that, like in the first episode, that they can put together a good show, and say much by what they don’t say to one another.

The Card Counter: Oscar Isaac returns in this latest release where he plays a guy with a checkered past, and a rather uneventful present. As we meet him, he is making a living by moving from place to place and playing cards. We learn that he has taught himself to play cards and work the Blackjack tables. He explains how card counting works early on but he is also plays a mean game of Texas Hold ‘Em Poker, where “you play the person and not the house”. He is successful but not to the point of drawing attention to himself. He meets a young man who has a chip on his shoulder and wants to avenge some prior wrong. He knows our card player previously. How he knows him unfolds slowly in pieces and flashbacks. The young man has a beef with a man giving a presentation played by Willem Dafoe. Isaac’s character takes the young man under his wing. He sees a young man with passion but not a lot of sense about planning and executing on a complex plan. I had expected to see this plot travel the path of The Colour of Money, with the veteran showing the ropes to a young man as they work together to make scores. Not the case here. Yes, there is a “money person” who finds promising card talent and bankrolls their efforts (think Molly’s Game) and the veteran (Isaac) only looking to play for a very short period of time. But it takes a left turn. Rather than working together, Isaac wants something different. He reveals more about himself and we see more of his past, and his interest in the Dafoe character. It builds and then changes. I was surprised. It was a human story, and reflected a life that many people cannot relate to. In the end, seeing Isaac plays these very different roles in both look and experience is fun to watch. He is one of the most versatile actors out there today and he is getting plenty of quality roles. I look forward to seeing him next weekend in Dune. This is not action packed. It has its own pace and takes it time to develop the story of the protagonist. If you like Isaac, and want to see more of him. This is worth watching. If you want a greater pace with car chases and action scenes then it isn’t for you.

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