Judging from other reviews and comments, missing Guy Pearce's performance in 'Memento' helps appreciate 'First Snow'. Here he impressively fleshes out the script's thin characterization of Jimmy Stark, a traveling salesman and life-long huckster who becomes convinced his impending death was foretold by a roadside psychic. The chance encounter sets into motion events he torments himself and those around him to control, thrashing from one catastrophe to another uncertain of their significance. Ultimately everything matters, major and minor, past and present cleverly interlocking for a final resolution. It's a solid and memorable portrayal of a man simultaneously forced to face both his past and his fate. As good as it is though it's trumped by J.K. Simmons' terrific and too-short portrayal of Vacaro, the middle-aged nomad living out a solitary existence with an old pickup and camper to show for his unique 'gift'. Here the film wonderfully avoids the usual dead Hollywood clichés (humourously contrasted and lampooned at one point) for a resigned true psychic who wants little more than to go fishing. Without histrionics or gesture Simmons is utterly convincing and engrossing throughout. If only the same can be said of the sum. With two such strong performances focused on the universal question of fate vs. self-determination it's hard to put a finger on why the film never gels. The plot offers up enough clever and well though-out twists, events unfold naturally without reliance on astronomical coincidences to guide them, supporting characters are serviceable and the cinematography fine, yet the viewer is held at a disinterested distance. Part of the blame rests on the rushed and unsatisfying ending, some of it on where the film does rely on clichés to carry sub-plots - the usual romantic candle-lit tub scene for example to develop Jimmy's relationship with his live-in girlfriend. Only when Pearce and Simmons are on screen together did I care about the characters and those scenes were short. Pearce and Simmons tack points on an otherwise promising but mid-pack film. 7/10.
Drama / Thriller
Drama / Thriller
A psychic's ominous reading sends a man into a tailspin.
January 29, 2021