‘Nobel Son’ – Loud, ugly and mean, but you can’t look away

‘Nobel Son’ – Loud, ugly and mean, but you can’t look away

Alan Rickman plays a pompous professor in Nobel Son

Quentin Tarantino had a profound impact on his fellow filmmakers during the 1990s – a profoundly bad one.

Every other director tried to mimic Tarantino’s style, and most did it poorly.

Could today’s directors do the same with Guy Ritchie?

If so, the first official example is Randall Miller’s “Nobel Son,” a dark indie comedy that looks, sounds … and smells like something out of Ritchie’s Lock-Stock-RocknRolla imagination.

Alan Rickman stars as Professor Eli Michaelson, an arrogant science professor who just found out he’s won the Nobel Prize. But before he can accept the award, he learns his ne’er do well son, Barkley (Bryan Greenberg), has been kidnapped and the family must pony up $2 million to get him back alive.

Professor Michaelson seems more put off by his celebration being short-lived than the chance he may never see his son again.

The kidnapping is just part of a much bigger plot which includes multiple perfect crimes, some nasty business involving severed thumbs and a few unresolved daddy issues.

“Nobel Son” defies being taken at face value. Little of the story makes sense on the surface, and the bleakly comic aspects only intensify the film’s surreal side.

And boy, is it loud. Punishing music kicks in every other scene, as the camera bobs and weaves around its colorful cast.

It’s boorish and illogical, but never call it dull. The gifted cast, including Mary Steenburgen, Bill Pullman, Danny De Vito and Ted Danson, keeps the action at the highest professional level. A story so full of holes needs all hands on deck to keep this sinking ship afloat.

“Nobel Son” is the polar opposite to Miller’s recent film, “Bottle Shock.” That indie told a sweet little story about a tiny winery that bested the big boys. There’s nothing remotely sweet about “Nobel Son.”

(Photo: Alan Rickman takes a fateful phone call in the cinematic mess known as “Nobel Son.”)

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

KNo Gravatar December 6, 2008 at 6:35 pm

Wouldn’t it be nice, just for once, to see Alan Rickman in a role where he’s the good guy?

cftotoNo Gravatar December 6, 2008 at 7:29 pm

Good point. He’s terrific doing smarmy, or arrogant, or wicked … but let’s cast him as a simple man, or a fellow who’s been beaten down but refuses to buckle.

James FrazierNo Gravatar December 6, 2008 at 9:29 pm

I really liked Rickman in “Love Actually.” He wasn’t a good guy, so to speak, but he certainly wasn’t a villain.

I saw “Nobel Son” today because I thought “Punisher” sounded far too morbid. Imagine my surprise as I was treated to the graphic severing of a thumb during the opening!

And what was Ernie Hudson doing there? Did he have like three lines?

cftotoNo Gravatar December 6, 2008 at 9:33 pm

Poor Ernie … from fourth Ghostbuster to cameo appearances.

I took Mrs. WWTW to see “Nobel Son” and she was squirming like crazy during the early thumb-removal scenes. Actually, so was I.

Tink in CaliNo Gravatar December 6, 2008 at 10:23 pm

The best “good buy” role I have seen Alan Rickman in was in “Sense and Sensibility.” It was nice to see him as the noble second choice for Kate Winslet (just saw this again recently, man, does she look young).

Doesn’t he also play a good guy (although he is a ghost) in Anthony Minghella’s “Truly, Madly, Deeply?” I never saw it, but I think I read that somewhere.

SevvyNo Gravatar October 7, 2009 at 12:06 pm

As a big, big Alan Rickman fan, I could list off all his 43-to-date films straight out (I know, sad isn’t it?!) However, Nobel Son isn’t one I like to include (having only just seen it as a free ‘giveaway’ in a newspaper this very week end!) Up until now, I’ve been avoiding it (& now I see why!) It is a dreadful, crass (& dare I go as far as to say revolting) movie! Quite what Mr. Rickman thought he was doing to be involved in it defies belief!

I’m actually rather concerned that this film has been knocking around on the internet for some while (both as clips & in its entirity) & also now being given away in a ‘family’ newspaper where anyone can view it. Apart from the opening thumb severing scene hitting you unexpectedly (as someone has already said) there then follows a rather graphic scene of Mr. Rickman (playing an obnoxious professor of course) shagging a student on his desk! Those who sat down with the kids & Granny after Sunday lunch this week to watch ‘Snape’ (Alan plays Professor Severus Snape of course in the Harry Potter movies – & deliciously too I might add!) were in for rather a shock I suspect!

I must just add here that, in my humble opinion, Alan plays the good guy beautifully (he can actually do anything) but is great in the ambiguous, slightly menacing role (take Severus Snape of course and even Hans Gruber from Die Hard in which he was, again, brilliant!) Those who’ve never seen him as Rasputin should really check that DVD out (available only on Amazon it seems – it was a made for TV only film back in the early 1990’s) and he’s also great in An Awfully Big Adventure (though, again the film is perhaps an ‘aquired taste’), Mesmer (ditto!), Something The Lord Made, Michael Collins, Galaxy Quest … I could go on, and on … !

LesleyNo Gravatar January 2, 2010 at 12:45 am

My two favourite Alan Rickman films are Galaxy Quest and Blow Dry.

Nobel Son is awful. I watched it once and gave the DVD away to the charity shop. There were some scenes I couldn’t even bear to watch while I WAS watching it.

Sometimes I wonder why actors like Alan Rickman (and Jason Isaacs does the same) seem to take every job they’re offered regardless of quality. Surely neither of them need the money that badly?

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